A representative for Women Have Hope, the co-counsel in the lawsuit, noted that Lebanon, Ohio, did not have any abortion clinics prior to its ordinance–and that the law seems to have been passed for purely political purposes.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has announced a lawsuit against the City of Lebanon in Ohio, which recently passed an anti-abortion ordinance.
According to Local12, Lebanon—which enacted the law in May of 2021—now describes itself as a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Its ordinance provides harsh penalties for anyone who facilitates an abortion, with potential sentences of up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The Enquirer notes that Lebanon’s ordinance is far from unique.
An anti-abortion advocacy organization, called “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn,” estimates that at least 45 other cities across Texas, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Iowa have passed similar laws.
While such ordinances have long stood on legal tenuous footing, a leaked draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court indicates that the bench’s conservative majority is likely to overturn the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade and return the right to make abortion-related decisions to individual states and local jurisdictions.
Nonetheless, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Lebanon ordinance, asserting that the local law threatens other constitutional protections related to due process and freedom of speech.
The Enquirer notes that Democracy Forward, a nonprofit that uses the courts to challenge perceived abuses of power, is co-counsel on the complaint.
The ACLU and Democracy Forward-led lawsuit was filed on behalf of the National Association of Social Workers and Women Have Options.
Together, the organizations allege that Lebanon’s ordinance is too vague—and therefore violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process.
They also assert that Lebanon has tried to restrict what information individuals can share amongst themselves.
The city’s law, for instance, makes it illegal to communicate “instructions regarding self-administered abortion,” and to provide “abortion doula” services.
Lebanon representatives appear unphased by the legislation, with City Councilman Adam Mathews recently releasing a statement on the Supreme Court leak.
“We continue to pray for the majority opinion to hold, for courage and safety and the Justices of the Supreme Court, and for our institutions to heal,” Mathews said.
Mathews also said that Lebanon will soon “celebrate a full year of banning abortion services in our city limits,” with the council expected to declare May 25th an official “Pro-Life Day.”
Ironically, Women Have Options representatives observed that Lebanon did not even have any abortion clinics prior to the imposition of its ban—and that the law seems designed to make a simplistic political statement, even if that means violating residents’ constitutional rights.
“There aren’t any actual abortion clinics in Lebanon, Ohio. This is purely political theater at this point,” said Women Have Options-Ohio interim executive director Maggie Scotece. “This is something that is solely meant to scare folks and cause a chilling effect.”
“This ban is so vague that we don’t really know what it covers,” she added. “We don’t know whether the work that we do, our staff, our volunteers, even our donors can be criminalized under this ban.”