Sanctuary City for the Unborn

Mark Lee Dickson, of Right to Life of East Texas, speaks during the public comment portion of a July 2019 Gilmer City Council meeting.

Weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union dropped its lawsuit against seven East Texas cities that passed anti-abortion ordinances, the nonprofit organization Lilith Fund has filed suit against Right to Life East Texas and its director, Mark Lee Dickson.

“Just now, we joined The Afiya Center and (Texas Equal Access) Fund in suing anti-abortion extremist Mark Lee Dickson and Right to Life East Texas for defamation,” Amanda Beatriz Williams, Lilith Fund executive director, said in a statement Thursday.

The Austin-based Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity and Texas Equal Access Fund were originally plaintiffs in the lawsuit that was filed in February by the ACLU. That lawsuit was officially dismissed May 29.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit on behalf of those two abortion rights groups to challenge the ordinances that the cities approved in support of Right to Life East Texas.

The ordinances were drafted by Dickson, who launched the “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” movement. Dickson, of White Oak, is pastor of Sovereign Love Church in Longview.

The plaintiffs filed for voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit in Marshall’s federal court after the cities made amendments to their ordinances, changing language in the laws “decriminalizing” the organizations such as the Lilith Fund.

Defendants in the case were Waskom, Naples, Joaquin, Tenaha, Rusk, Gary and Wells.

Williams, with the Lilith Fund, said Thursday that the new lawsuit was filed against Dickson and his organization to “set the record straight.”

“Despite what Dickson and Right to life East Texas have said about us or abortion rights in Texas, helping people seeking abortion care is not against the law,” she said. “When elected officials failed Texans, abortion funds have served as trusted resources for people seeking abortion care.

“There’s nothing criminal about helping people access essential health care with love and compassion.”

In a statement, Dickson said he received a letter earlier this month from Dallas attorneys for the Lilith Fund and other abortion-aiding organizations. He said the letter advised him to retract statements he’s made about the organizations or face litigation.

“The comments they asked me to retract were comments which treated abortion as murder and the abortion-aiding organizations as involved in the criminal act of abortion,” Dickson said.

“I have no reason to retract anything that I said,” he said. “Abortion is the murder of innocent unborn human beings. The Lilith Fund and other abortion-aiding organizations all take part in the murder of innocent unborn human beings.”

Dickson said he learned Thursday that the lawsuit had been filed.

“The lawsuit they are bringing should be a great case to bring before the courts and a great victory in the fight for life,” he said.

“We have every intention to win this case,” he said.

Williams with the Lilith Fund said the dispute started when the Waskom City Council passed its anti-abortion ordinance a year ago, labeling the three abortion-aiding organizations and others “criminal” for their work in making sure Texans can access abortions.

“Dickson and Right to Life East Texas shopped their ordinance around to other towns by falsely accusing our organizations of committing crimes under Texas law,” Williams said.

Other cities in Texas that have passed anti-abortion ordinances but were not named in the ACLU’s lawsuit include Gilmer, Westbrook, Colorado City and Big Spring.