Abortion rights advocates argue revised Lebanon ordinance still unconstitutional

Ordinance to be voted on at Monday’s work session due to schedule conflicts

Nearly a dozen women who support abortion rights told Lebanon City Council that its revised anti-abortion ordinance is still unconstitutional.

The revised ordinance was given a first reading Tuesday.

After the U.S. Supreme Court recently reversed the Roe v. Wade decision with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it required a new legal framework to include a “rational basis” in local laws.

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Vice Mayor Adam Mathews said the revised ordinance “is the same policy as before” but clarifies the ordinance’s language. Mathews said the revised ordinance makes it clear that a woman can leave Lebanon to seek out abortion services without penalty because the city cannot control people coming or going.

The Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance makes it unlawful to provide or aid an abortion within city limits, which includes providing money, transportation or instructions for an abortion. Anyone convicted of the misdemeanor offense faces up to to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Lebanon has had no arrests, and the city has no abortion services providers.

Earlier this year, ACLU Ohio filed a lawsuit against the city concerning its Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance. The ACLU litigation remains pending in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

In late May, Lebanon officials signed a stipulation signaling that the city would amend its law that criminalizes those who assist people in accessing abortion care, according to the ACLU of Ohio.

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A message for comment was left at the ACLU’s Columbus office.

At Tuesday’s meeting, abortion rights advocate Alecia Lipton thanked council for the revision, adding “However, it is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit for you to realize that the law borrowed from a Texas pastor would not hold up in court... Your revision remains unconstitutional as your rules cannot override the laws of the State. As we know Ohio has one of the strictest laws on abortion in the U.S.”

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Lipton also objected to the title of the revised ordinance, “An Ordinance to protect unborn and newly born children against abortion and abortion related infanticide.”

“The revision includes new language referring to last term abortion as infanticide,” Lipton said. “Infanticide is not now – nor has it ever been legal. You are using this word to shame and scare those individuals who may be faced with a very real healthcare crisis that could result in a late term abortion.”

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She also indirectly attacked Mathews, the GOP candidate for the 56th Ohio House District seat; and former mayor Amy Brewer, saying their campaigns have used abortion as a running platform for higher office.

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While council did not respond to the comments as they were made, resident Peter St. Jean, thanked council for the action taken.

“You’re the choices we made and I’m proud of Lebanon,” he said. “Council members made a stand and they are representing the vast majority of Lebanon.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Mark Messer told the Dayton Daily News that due to scheduling conflicts among council members, a second reading and final vote will be taken at the Sept. 19 council work session.

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