Dayton City Commission says it will deprioritize enforcement of abortion laws

Dayton City Commission on Wednesday approved an informal resolution declaring that the city will not prioritize enforcement of state abortion laws.

This comes less than one week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Ohio’s “heartbeat bill” went into full effect.

ExploreAbortion clinic sorts through, explains impact of ruling to patients

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion that dates back 50 years.

Ohio’s heartbeat bill went into full effect the same day the ruling was handed down, which bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

About 20,605 abortions were performed in Ohio in 2020, and about 38% involved pregnancies of more than nine weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Some Ohio lawmakers also have said they would like to pass additional abortion restrictions in the near future.

“This Supreme Court decision was just awful for our community,” said Dayton City commissioner Chris Shaw. “It victimizes patients. It victimizes poor and underserved communities. And it victimizes women, especially women of color.”

Shaw said his wife almost died during childbirth. He said it’s wrong for women to be forced to give birth, since that can be dangerous to their health.

Dayton city commissioners unanimously passed the nonbinding resolution that condemns the Supreme Court’s ruling and current and potential future state legislation.

The resolution says state laws “may result in fining and jailing women and doctors for the perceived notion of having or even discussing abortion.”

Dayton prosecutors and police investigators may be called upon to enforce state laws criminalizing abortion, but the city is “deprioritizing” enforcement of these laws to ensure its resources are put toward activities that actually improve citizens’ lives, the measure states.

Criminalizing women’s reproductive rights will alienate and harm large segments of the community, particularly low-income women of color, the resolution states.

Dayton City commissioner Matt Joseph said the state’s six-week abortion ban is “severe” government overreach.

“It will put our Dayton residents’ health in jeopardy,” he said. “It’s going to have a disproportionately huge impact on our disadvantaged population.”

Joseph said it would be irresponsible to commit city resources to enforcement of this flawed policy.

Dayton resident Melissa Bertolo said Dayton’s resolution is a “tiny step” toward protecting women’s rights to choose and added the city must do more.

“It’s not enough,” she said. “It’s about deprioritizing and not decriminalizing.”

Leaders in Cincinnati and other cities say they will look into whether they can find ways to decriminalize abortion.

Democratic mayors, city council members and county prosecutors in a variety of conservative-leaning states have vowed not to enforce strict abortion bans, according to Stateline with Pew Charitable Trusts.

“We salute prosecutors, mayors, or city councils who are standing up in opposition to these egregious and cruel laws,” said Celina Coming, the communications director for the ACLU of Ohio, which on Wednesday filed a lawsuit that seeks to block the state’s six-week ban on abortion.

Bethany McCorkle, communications director for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, said the heartbeat bill is now in effect and her office will work client agencies who have a role in enforcement.

The office declined further comment.

Leaders in some other local communities said they have not taken or do not see a need to take an official position on this topic.

“I, as mayor, have not been approached by any citizen or organization that has been concerned about Miamisburg needing to take official stance on this matter,” said Miamisburg Mayor Michelle Collins.

Kettering’s mayor and city council have not discussed the Supreme Court’s decision. The Women’s Med Center, which performs abortions, is located in Kettering.

Kettering Mayor Peggy Lehner said this is a highly divisive issue but she hopes there will be respectful, dignified discussions in the coming months.

“I do not believe cities are free to pick and choose state laws they will enforce,” she said. “We will continue to look at the needs of our residents holistically. Our approach will continue to cater to the health, happiness and wellbeing of our residents.”

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