Mason city council passes ban on abortions in city limits

More than 150 people jammed into the Mason City Building's council chamber, overflow room and lobby on Monday to express their opinion about a proposed anti-abortion ordinance being reviewed by a Mason City Council committee that is similar to one adopted in May by Lebanon City Council. The ordinance has been discussed in committee but has not made it to the agenda for council consideration. ED RICHTER/STAFF
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More than 150 people jammed into the Mason City Building's council chamber, overflow room and lobby on Monday to express their opinion about a proposed anti-abortion ordinance being reviewed by a Mason City Council committee that is similar to one adopted in May by Lebanon City Council. The ordinance has been discussed in committee but has not made it to the agenda for council consideration. ED RICHTER/STAFF

MASON, Ohio — After months of pushing off voting on legislation that criminalizes abortions in Mason, city council voted 4-3 to pass the ordinance Monday night.

The ordinance will go into effect in 30 days, because an emergency clause that would have caused it to take immediate effect upon voting failed.

ExplorePREVIOUS COVERAGE: Mason anti-abortion ordinance vote pushed back two weeks

The newly voted-in law cannot stop medical practices from opening in Mason, whether they provide abortions or not. It does, however, make performing or getting an abortion anywhere within the city limits of Mason illegal.

In addition to prohibiting a person from procuring or performing an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy inside the city limits, the ordinance also outlaws any person from providing transportation to or from an abortion provider; giving instructions over the telephone, the internet, or any other medium of communication regarding self-administered abortion; providing money with the knowledge that it will be used to pay for an abortion or the costs associated in obtaining an abortion; providing abortion doula services; or coercing or pressuring a pregnant mother to have an abortion against her will.

It also makes it unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the city. It does not ban the morning-after pill or any other form of birth control or contraceptive.

The law is subject to referendum from voters, meaning voters in Mason can repeal the ordinance under existing state law through a process that involves the state secretary of state and attorney general. Two weeks ago, on Oct. 11, a motion to put the ordinance on the ballot as a referendum for voters to decide on failed to pass city council.

At Mason’s city council meeting, council heard from 30 people — most of which were not residents of Mason — before making a final vote. Of the 13 Mason residents who spoke, 10 were against the ordinance and three spoke in favor of it.

Mason Mayor Kathy Grossman, Vice Mayor Mike Gilb, and council members TJ Honerlaw and Tony Bradburn voted in favor of the ordinance. Ashley Chance, Diana Nelson and Josh Styrcula voted against it. All council members who voted against the ordinance said they are pro-life and against abortion, but raised legal issues as the basis for voting against the measure.

The vote brought heated response from residents and those who came to speak from outside of Mason alike; many have protested against the ordinance for months since it was announced.

“It matters because each city that passes this crap takes one more chip out of our freedom,” said Jeni Keeler, a Mason resident who spoke out against the ordinance. “If we don’t stand up, if we remain silent while our neighbors and daughters have their rights taken away by three or four or seven people, what’s next?”

Mason’s ordinance is similar to the one that was approved in Lebanon; It was prepared by the same Texas-based right-to-life organization that worked with Lebanon officials on its ordinance.

Lebanon and Mason do not currently have abortion clinics within their city limits.

“We love and value our children,” said Karen Borgemenke, a Mason resident who spoke out in favor of the ordinance. “We value life. It only makes sense that in Mason we should also be a sanctuary for the unborn.”

In August, community members and Mason city council members against the ordinance expressed concern for how such a piece of legislature might affect Mason on an economic level after small businesses in Lebanon began to struggle after passing a similar law there.

A survey study conducted and analyzed by University of Cincinnati professor Michael Cook found small business revenue was down in Lebanon in June 2021 compared to the same spending period in 2020 and 2019.

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