Lebanon, Ohio’s only ‘sanctuary city’ chooses not to enforce abortion ban

WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) – The city of Lebanon on Thursday elected not to uphold or enforce parts of its so-called “sanctuary city” ordinance that bans abortions within city limits.

Two groups represented by the ACLU of Ohio and Democracy Forward filed a federal lawsuit against the city on May 11, challenging the ordinance on constitutional grounds.

The case, according to the original complaint, “concerns whether a city government can enact a vague and sweeping ordinance that can be construed to criminalize virtually all activity even tangentially related to abortion without giving reasonable notice of the specific conduct which it prohibits”.

The City signed a stipulation agreement on Thursday in which it pledged not to prosecute those who violate certain sections of the ordinance including its most significant prohibitions.

The city has agreed not to enforce sections that prohibit providing transportation, instructions or money for an abortion. The city also agreed not to enforce a section making “abortion doula” services illegal.

Doulas perform loosely defined tasks, including providing emotional, physical, and informational support to those seeking abortions. Possible services, according to the complaint, include referring patients to helplines, holding hands, wiping away tears, offering a blanket, lending a sympathetic ear, or “sitting in supportive silence.”

The City also agreed to vary the order “in response to each of the claims the plaintiffs assert.” He has 60 days to do so. Once the order is changed, in accordance with the agreement, plaintiffs will have the opportunity to renew their lawsuit.

The part of the ordinance specifically banning abortions performed in Lebanon remains intact, though it was largely moot from the start. There are not today, and there were none before the ordinance was passed, facilities in Lebanon where abortions are performed. Lebanon has a center for women, but abortions are not performed there.

Lebanon’s Mayor Mark Messer issued a statement on Thursday evening. It reads in part:

“The news that we are not advocating for this legislation is vastly exaggerated. We will continue to work in the best interest of each of our citizens and will vigorously defend everyone’s right to life.

The ordinance was passed in May last year, making Lebanon the first “sanctuary city for unborn children”. Nearly 50 other cities have passed similar ordinances across the United States, according to the ACLU.

Lebanon remains the only city in Ohio with a municipal abortion ban. Mason passed a ban in October 2021, but he repealed that ban two months later. Bans were introduced and rejected in two other cities.

Lebanon’s city council voted unanimously for the ordinance after the only council member to oppose it resigned, citing what she described as a hyperpartisan political faction that has ‘hijacked’ the agenda Legislative of Lebanon.

The ordinance makes obtaining or assisting in an abortion a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in prison. It also prohibits providing money or assistance to anyone seeking an abortion, even if the abortion takes place outside the city limits.

The language of the ordinance calls Roe vs. Wadethe landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed certain abortions, an “unconstitutional and lawless act of judicial usurpation.”

Leaked draft opinion from US Supreme Court shows it could reverse deer later this summer.

Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, the National Association of Social Workers and Women Have Options, released the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“When we sued the city of Lebanon in early May to end its illegal abortion ban, they had a choice: defend the ban in court or not. Today we heard them loud and clear: they have no defence.

“For now, NASW members and abortion care advocates at WHO/O – and others who work with them – can continue to do their important work without fear of being criminalized by the Yet no one should have to worry about breaking this vague and potentially sweeping law.

“Our legal challenge shows how undemocratic bans on abortion like this extend beyond the rights prescribed by deer and Casey. In this case, the ban violates the due process and free speech rights of Lebanon residents, social workers, abortion care advocates and many others across the state.

We will remain vigilant and watch how Lebanon tries to address how its extreme ban on abortion violates the constitutions of the United States and Ohio. Our pursuit will continue until people’s rights are fully protected. “

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