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Lebanon council passes local abortion ban, first Ohio city to approve measure

LEBANON — After a lengthy city council meeting Tuesday, including public comments from over 100 local voters, Lebanon City Council members voted to approve an abortion ban within the city limits, the first city in the state to pass such a measure.

While there are no abortion providers in Warren County, the bill outlaws clinics from coming to Lebanon, our news partners at WCPO-TV report. Doctors who perform the procedure could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail.

“We’re very clear: It does not step on any First Amendment rights,” Adam Mathews, a member of Lebanon City Council said hours before the vote was cast. “There’s no penalty, nothing at all, for the mother or anyone who’s going to go through this crisis.”

After hearing comments from the over 100 people on both sides of the issue, the council approved the measure just before 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“Unless support for women and families including born children are addressed, there will be no sanctuary here,” said Denise Lacy, who spoke at the meeting. “Lebanon will be known as a forced birth zone.”

“Lead the way, lead the charge,” said Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Live East Texas. “Outlaw abortion within the city limits, sending a very strong message about this enforceable ordinance.”

According to WCPO-TV, others at the meeting questioned whether the city council even had the authority to pass the measure and whether city council’s time would be better spent on city issues rather than engaging in a national platform.

“The ordinance in Lebanon is just another example of the extreme and unconstitutional lengths anti-abortion activists will go to to prevent patients from seeking the care they need and deserve,” said Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio.

“Abortion services are already extremely difficult to access for people in Ohio, but these efforts are part of an aggressive, nationwide anti-abortion agenda to do one thing – ban abortion outright. It’s reprehensible. We will do everything we can to continue providing safe, legal abortion to the people in Ohio who need it – no matter what,” Deibel said.

All Lebanon City Council members were in support of the ordinance, except Krista Wyatt, who submitted a letter of resignation hours before the public meeting, the station reported.

“I no longer want to be affiliated with the current Council membership,” Wyatt wrote.

Since the ban passed, Lebanon became the 29th city in the country to make this type of move. A Texas-based group, Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, said they helped draft the ordinance and the group has helped 26 Texas cities and two others in Nebraska do the same.

The question show shifts to the legality of the ordinance and potential court challenges.

Marty Pinales, a Cincinnati defense attorney and legal expert, said the ban’s approval doesn’t actually make it legal. It’s “clearly unconstitutional,” he told WCPO-TV.

The city faced a legal challenge earlier this year stemming from a concealed-carry ordinance that was passed in March 2020, the station reported. The measure passed and allowed for councilmembers and visitors to carry concealed firearms at council meetings.

But Lebanon residents filed a lawsuit, saying the concealed-carry bill violated state law because state disallows concealed carry in all courthouses and buildings containing courtrooms, according to WCPO-TV. Lebanon City Council meets inside a courtroom.

Like the concealed-carry ordinance, the abortion ban will attract challenges, according to Pinales.

“It is not legal today,” Pinales said. “We don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do with Roe v. Wade, but as we look today, Lebanon is still part of the United States of America, and they have to follow the laws and the rules of the Supreme Court and the United States Constitution. So as we sit here now, I think they are – and you can’t take politics out of it.

“I think they’re doing this for politics.”