American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led plaintiffs sued several small east Texas municipalities on Tuesday that have passed ordinances that limit access to abortions by criminalizing and restricting the operation and speech of pro-abortion organizations.
The complaint, filed in federal district court, alleges that while the ordinance does not have the power to ban abortion under the current law, it restricts access to abortion in several ways. The ordinance designates the pro-choice organization Plaintiffs as “criminal organizations.” The list of “criminal organizations” is not limited to organizations that provide abortions, but also organizations that educate the public about their rights. The suit alleges that “[t]his means that Plaintiffs have been judged criminal without ever having been charged with a crime, much less afforded a trial.”
Plaintiffs argue that the designation renders them unable to operate in those cities under the ordinances. By restricting the operation of pro-choice organizations, the law prohibits them from clarifying the law with the municipalities or talking to the public about their rights. The Plaintiffs claim that the prohibiting law restricts the public’s knowledge about their legal rights and restricts access to legal abortion services.
Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that the law discriminates against entities with pro-choice viewpoints by prohibiting speech and association, while an organization with “anti-abortion viewpoints, such as the one that promoted the ordinances, may operate and speak freely about their anti-abortion views with these cities.”
Plaintiffs are seeking a finding that “these punishing and discriminatory ordinances” are “unconstitutional.”
Laws that do not ban abortion outright but restrict access to services and education under scrutiny in several locations and throughout the courts. Many eyes are on June Medical v. Gee at the Supreme Court this term, which challenges a Louisiana law that petitioners argue restricts access to abortions in Louisiana by placing burdensome requirements on abortion clinics and providers. Under the Louisiana law, only one clinic would exist in Louisiana.