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Lebanon City Council to vote on abortion ban spearheaded by Texas anti-abortion group

Posted at 7:10 PM, May 24, 2021

LEBANON, Ohio — Lebanon City Council will vote Tuesday on an ordinance declaring the city a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” effectively banning abortion providers from performing abortions within city limits.

The proposed ordinance would make providing an abortion a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine up to $1,000. Only abortion providers and those found assisting them would be charged under the ordinance, not the woman seeking an abortion. If passed, abortions at any stage of pregnancy would be outlawed, with no exceptions for cases involving rape or incest.

There are three outlined exceptions in the ordinance: Removal of a fetus lost due to accidental miscarriage, removal of an ectopic pregnancy and cases where the woman's life is at risk.

The ordinance in Lebanon was drafted with the help of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, an initiative funded by Right to Life of East Texas. So far, Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn has helped 28 cities — 26 in Texas and two in Nebraska — create custom-tailored ordinances that outlaw abortion based on the state’s law and the city’s charter.

Founder of Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Mark Lee Dickson said Lebanon is the first city in Ohio he’s worked with.

“The reason we’re here is because the citizens of Lebanon wanted to see abortion outlawed in their city,” Dickson said. “We have an online petition that people fill out and we were getting quite a bit of interest in this area.”

Six of the seven city leaders in Lebanon are listed on the ordinance as supportive of the measure, with Krista Wyatt as the outlying member. Wyatt did not immediately respond to WCPO’s request for comment. Dickson said council member Doug Shope has stood out as the most supportive.

Although the ordinance is likely to pass, abortion access does not currently exist in the City of Lebanon. Dickson said the ordinance is a proactive measure to keep abortion out of the city.

“The Biden Administration has said they want abortion access in every zip code. Personally, I’m not of the persuasion that people should just wait around until that becomes a reality,” Dickson said. “This is not a symbolic gesture, this is a response to a threat from a radical pro-abortion administration.”

Of the 28 cities that have voted to outlaw abortion within city limits, Lubbock, Texas, was the only city to have an existing abortion provider during the passage of the ordinance. Planned Parenthood filed an ongoing lawsuit against the city in response.

Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said they will not stand for abortion ordinances like the one in Lebanon.

“The ordinance in Lebanon is just another example of the extreme and unconstitutional lengths anti-abortion activists will go to prevent patients from seeking the care they need and deserve. These types of ordinances attempt to criminalize and defame abortion providers and/or prevent health centers that provide abortions from operating within their city limits and we will not stand for it,” Deibel said. “We will do everything we can to continue providing safe, legal abortion to the people in Ohio who need it -- no matter what.”

If the city of Lebanon faces a lawsuit as a result of the adoption of the ordinance, attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, the former Texas Solicitor General, has agreed to represent the city pro bono.

Public comment on the ordinance is welcome before Tuesday's vote at 7:00 p.m. on the second floor of the Lebanon City Building at 50 South Broadway Ave. Meetings are broadcast on Channel 6 on the Cincinnati Bell Cable TV system.