An Ohio town has voted to make providing abortion services punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The town of Lebanon passed the new local ordinance banning abortion unanimously at a city council meeting on Tuesday, May 25, following four hours of public debate.
The town is the first in the state to declare itself a ‘sanctuary city for the unborn’ – but is one of a growing number of similar towns and cities that have moved to pass ultra-strict local abortion laws over recent months. Lebanon has a population of roughly 20,000, and there are currently no abortion clinics in the town.
Activists in the state confirmed that they planned to mount legal challenges to overturn the ban, which undermines both federal and state laws on abortion in Ohio. Abortion is currently legal at up to 20 weeks in the state, with a 2019 bill signed by Governor Mike DeWine that would have banned abortion after six weeks blocked in court just days before it was due to come in to force, per CNN.
‘Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn’ is an extreme anti-abortion movement originating in Texas, where 23 small towns passed legislation making abortion punishable by a $2,000 fine, as reported by The Guardian.
Lebanon’s new laws take things a step further, by introducing the threat of jail time for doctors who perform the procedure, as well as anyone who provides access or transportation to, or information about, abortion services.
According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the law includes exemptions for medical reasons, but not in cases of rape or incest. It bears resemblance to state restrictions passed in Texas earlier this month, which allow private citizens to sue anyone they believe has aided an abortion.
Responding to the vote in Lebanon, Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, said:
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,
We will do everything we can to continue to provide safe, legal abortion to the people of Ohio who need it.
While the creation of ‘sanctuary cities’ is an extreme example of anti-abortion action, the activity is part of a wider movement across several states to introduce harsh new restrictions on abortion access in anticipation of a future Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade.
The Supreme Court last week announced that they would hear a Mississippi case that could potentially pave the way for overturning the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe in 1973.