Lebanon to rescind ‘Sanctuary City’ abortion ordinance after Issue 1 passage

City law director says Lebanon’s language is now in conflict with the state constitution

Passage of state Issue 1 that enshrined abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution will force the city of Lebanon to rescind its controversial “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance.

Lebanon City Council will be discussing the ordinance at its work session scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Lebanon City Building. City Attorney Mark Yurick told the Dayton Daily News that council will formally vote on rescinding the ordinance at its Nov. 28 meeting as an emergency ahead of the Dec. 7 date when the constitutional amendment will go into effect statewide.

Yurick said it was pretty clear that the ordinance is in conflict with the constitution.

“I don’t see how the city can maintain an ordinance to make abortion difficult if it’s now constitutional,” he said. “Council can’t support something that’s unconstitutional.”

Lori Viars, vice president of Warren County Right to Life, said the new proposed ordinance to repeal the Sanctuary City ordinance is “sad but it won’t stop their efforts to protect unborn children and spare mothers from a lifetime of regret.”

Lebanon was the first city in Ohio to become a Sanctuary City for the Unborn in May 2021. The ordinance that was adopted divided the city. There are no clinics or providers that perform induced abortions in Lebanon or in Warren County. City officials at the time also said they wanted to prevent the possibility of an abortion clinic being located in Lebanon.

The ordinance, which was adopted before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, initially included language stating it is the city’s position that human life begins at conception and that abortion is a murderous act of violence.

The Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance made it a misdemeanor to provide or aid an abortion within city limits, which includes providing money, transportation or instructions for an abortion.

In May 2022, a day after Lebanon marked the first year of its controversial “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinance that banned abortions, city officials agreed to a stipulation not to enforce a section of the ordinance criminalizing those who assist people in accessing abortion care.

In September 2022, council voted to repeal and replace that ordinance with one that is somewhat less restrictive and was in compliance with the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Council replaced the previous ordinance to include a required new legal framework to include a “rational basis” in local laws. This allowed the ordinance to be in compliance with the Dobbs ruling.

The new ordinance removed previous provisions that criminalized providing money or assistance to anyone seeking an abortion even if the abortion took place outside of the city limits. The prior ordinance also banned providing advice and information to advice to women on how to perform home abortions.

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