Lebanon council votes to become sanctuary city for the unborn, outlaws abortion in city

Lebanon City Council Tuesday listened to more than 60 people raising concerns about an emergency ordinance outlawing abortion in the city and declaring Lebanon as a sanctuary city for the unborn. Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Lebanon City Council Tuesday listened to more than 60 people raising concerns about an emergency ordinance outlawing abortion in the city and declaring Lebanon as a sanctuary city for the unborn. Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Lebanon became the first city in Ohio and the 29th city in the nation to outlaw abortion and to declare itself a sanctuary city for the unborn.

City Council voted unanimously to approve the emergency ordinance which became effective upon passage just after 11 p.m. Tuesday night. Six of Lebanon’s council members who sponsored the legislation participated in the vote. The seventh council member, Krista Wyatt, was not at the meeting as she submitted her resignation earlier in the day.

Mayor Amy Brewer said she received Wyatt’s resignation letter, but had not read it before the meeting. No other information about Wyatt’s resignation was available late Tuesday night from the city. Brewer said council would discuss filling the vacancy next week.

ExploreLebanon council to outlaw abortion, declare itself a sanctuary city for the unborn

The marathon meeting lasting nearly four hours and hearing from more than 60 people on both sides of the abortion issue sharing their experiences and thoughts about the ordinance which at times were very personal, raw and at times gut wrenching. Some women were courageous as they shared their stories of being raped.

The council chamber was at full capacity as residents and others along with the media to comment and observe the meeting. Hundreds of others were in the halls outside the chamber and outside the Lebanon Municipal Building who could not get a seat inside. Some people who had signed up to speak were notified by a city employee who called their name in the hallway so that they could speak.

As people spoke and left, their seats were filled by those in the hallway. After the meeting ended, people were still outside of the building protesting.

ExploreACLU says it’s prepared to take legal action against Lebanon in proposed abortion ban

Most of the people who spoke were in support of council considering the ordinance and urged passage. Many of the residents praised council for their courage to enact the measure.

Some residents questioned why the rush to approve the emergency ordinance, and one woman said she just found out over the past weekend via social media.

Timothy Allen, a resident and a recently retired pastor of 43 years, said he was one of nine children and that he was “honored to live in a city does not tolerate abortion.”

Some residents questioned council’s sincerity about the ordinance and how it would be enforced.

“What is the real reason?” asked Cathy Crisenbery, adding that perhaps some on council are looking to raise their political profile in the media in search of a higher state or federal office.

Another longtime resident, Marilyn McMurray told council they “were outside their land.” She thought it was interesting that council working to help the unborn but voted down the creation of a city Human Rights Commission a few months ago.

Before the vote was taken, Brewer said, “I won’t apologize for not wanting an abortion clinic in the community. We believe it’s not in the best interests of the community to have an abortion clinic or hospital... We make decisions and we are not elected to get re-elected. We make decisions on what’s best for the community today.”

The ACLU of Ohio and Planned Parenthood said they’re prepared to mount a legal challenge.

“This hyper-local strategy is another attempt by anti-abortion extremists to stigmatize and ban abortion in Ohio, by whatever means necessary. Anti-abortion politicians in Lebanon have no business interfering in people’s lives and health care. We will do everything in our collective power to ensure this effort is dead on arrival,” said Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio.

There are no clinics or providers that perform induced abortions in Lebanon or in Warren County.

“This law directly undermines the value of the individual lives of everyone in Ohio who has had an abortion or may need an abortion in the future, and our strong and diverse coalition will continue to fight to secure access to abortion care in Ohio, especially for young people, people of color, people in poverty, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and people of varying immigration status who will always be the most impacted by this kind of oppressive legislation,” said Kersha E. Deibel, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.