Lebanon outlaws abortion within city limits: What you need to know

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 after nearly four hours of testimony to approve an emergency ordinance which became effective upon passage just after 11 p.m. Tuesday. 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 citing her stance against the anti-abortion ordinance as one of the reasons.

“We’re being proactive in saying we don’t want a (abortion) facility in Lebanon,” Mayor Amy Brewer said. “It’s about preventing abortion clinics and hospitals from performing the procedure in Lebanon in the future.”

The ACLU of Ohio said Tuesday it would challenge the city’s abortion/Sanctuary City ordinance in court.

Celina Coming, ACLU’s communication director, said the organization did not file a lawsuit on Wednesday against the city as it is reviewing the different avenues it can take to mount a legal challenge. She said the organization does not have a timeline on when a lawsuit would be filed.

The marathon meeting Tuesday lasted nearly four hours as more than 60 people on both sides of the abortion issue shared 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 with residents and members of the media. 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.

Some council members said they received threats over the past few days since it was announced that the ordinance would be on the meeting agenda. The city had large police presence of several officers in and around the council chamber as well as bike patrol officers outside. During the meeting, Brewer maintained firm control and did not permit any outbursts or disruptions. After she allowed those who signed up to speak, Brewer then opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak.

Brewer, a retired art teacher in the Lebanon school district, was criticized and praised by some of her former students with strong views on both sides of the issue. One woman who grew up in Lebanon drove up from her Cincinnati home after watching some of the meeting online.

While they had a warm greeting for each other, the woman said she was “disheartened” that this decision was being made by a majority of men. She said council should think about the message they are sending to women. The woman said she was raped twice while a student at Lebanon High School and was fortunate not to get pregnant. She said that she would probably never live in Lebanon again because she was “too far left to live here” and was speaking up for her family and friends.

Another young woman, who also said she had been raped, questioned why the ordinance is an emergency and that it was not a matter for city council.

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.

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.

Resident Alecia Lipton, the mother of seven children, told council, “what you’re doing is wrong. There are no clinics in Lebanon.” She asked if council will now ban Viagra for men as the ordinance would limit the medications that a woman could have. Lipton asked council what they were doing about the 100 sexual predators that live in Lebanon and another 300 more in Warren County.

Before the vote, Brewer said the past several days had been “brutal” as she received thousands of emails locally and across the nation; received threats, accused of not caring about women’s rights, and have been yelled at by people in passing cars. While she knows that she has disappointed some of her former students on this issue, she made others happy. She also said the discussion was “amazing, eye-opening and helped to better understand everyone’s ideas and thoughts.”

”I won’t apologize for not wanting an abortion clinic in the community,” Brewer said. “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.”

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

What the ordinance says

--- The ordinances makes it illegal within the City of Lebanon to provide an abortion, aid an abortion, coerce a pregnant mother to have an abortion, provide money or transportation for an abortion or provide instructions for an abortion. Women who seek an abortion won’t be prosecuted, but other violators could face a misdemeanor with a sentence up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

--- It makes it illegal for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the city.

--- The ordinance does not apply to ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages or abortions that are necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child. Abortions would be permitted if a doctor proves that it prevented death or risk of “substantial impairment of a major bodily function” to the woman, but cases of rape or incest are not exempt.

--- The ordinance includes language stating it is the city’s position that human life begins at conception; that abortion is a murderous act of violence that purposefully and knowingly terminates an unborn human beings prohibit violence against other human beings. The ordinance states that the (U.S.) Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which invented a constitutional right for pregnant women to kill their unborn children through abortion, is a lawless and unconstitutional act of judicial usurpation, as there is no language in the Constitution about abortions.

---The ordinance also states that Ohio’s Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act has outlawed and criminalized abortion statewide if the unborn child has a detectable heartbeat. The only exception is for abortions needed to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

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