How they fared: Local anti-abortion ordinances in Ohio

Columbus — Late last night, Celina City Council rejected the proposed anti-abortion ordinance written by anti-abortion extremists from Texas, now the fifth Ohio municipality to consider the idea in some form. None of the municipalities listed below have abortion clinics within city limits.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said “What we’ve seen in towns across Ohio is that people do not support abortion bans. Even in conservative communities, local residents have been coming out to tell their own city council that abortion bans are not welcome there. Towns that have passed these measures are now dealing with the fallout, including a business boycott, ballot referendum, and electoral defeat of the politicians who pushed the ordinance in the first place. Local elected officials should respect the human rights of their constituents and refuse to be used as pawns in the strategy of anti-abortion organizations who are conspiring to outlaw abortion in our country and place bounties on the heads of anyone who helps someone get the care they need.”

Here’s how the anti-abortion ordinances in Ohio communities have fared:

Lebanon: Passed 6-0 on 5/25/21, resulting in boycott and mayor losing public support.
Located in the greater Cincinnati area, Lebanon was the first Ohio municipality to consider the proposal. The city mayor and some members of council held closed door meetings before informing the town and scheduled a poorly announced city meeting for public comment. One member of council resigned because of the ordinance and the town’s failure to move a “human rights commission” forward. Some city residents testifying in the later hours of the meeting said they did not know of the meeting’s existence until after it started. Following the passage of the ordinance, businesses in Lebanon said they were seeing the effects of a town boycott and raised the complaint that they were not consulted about the ordinance before it was considered. Mayor Amy Brewer and ordinance sponsor Doug Shope realized they has lost community support and decided not to run for re-election.

Troy: Rejected by council on 8/9/21, before formal consideration.
The city council was approached by Texas extremists, but also saw the fallout from the experience in Lebanon. In place of formal consideration of the ordinance, council members addressed the idea during a public comment period. They explained that the city does not have legal authority to ban abortion and that they would not be introducing the ordinance for a vote.

Mason: Passed 4-3 on 10/15/21, resulting in potential public referendum and two members lost re-election bids.
The largest wave of public opposition to this ordinance was in Mason, Ohio, which is next door to Lebanon. Again, anti-abortion extremists from Texas and Ohio approached Mayor Kathy Grossmann and Council member TJ Honerlaw. The council process was lengthy, as multiple ordinance revisions exposed rifts among council members who disagreed about the idea. The revisions also made it clear that the Mason council members were in constant communication with people in Texas, both admitting that the ordinance was written in Texas and any changes to the ordinance language would require approval from Texas in order to qualify for promised legal support. Mason city residents were highly organized and presented a majority of the testimony against the ordinance. Following a split vote that approved the ordinance, residents continued to spread the word. The two members of council who voted for the ordinance, including TJ Honerlaw, lost re-election bids in the November 2 general election. Mason residents are currently collecting signatures to qualify a referendum for the May, 2022 ballot.

London: Failed 6-1 on 11/18/21.
The city council in this rural community in Central Ohio was warned by their law director that the ordinance language they received from Texas was designed to attract a lawsuit that the city would be best to avoid. After discussion in multiple city council meetings and in two committees, the city council voted 6-1 to reject the proposal.

Celina: Failed 4-3 on 11/22/21.
A small but vocal group of residents in West Central Ohio led the opposition to this ordinance, which received three readings. In the final council meeting, the author of the ordinance from Texas spoke from the podium for a full hour in an effort to persuade the members. After listening to a local pharmacist who explained the legal problems with demanding to see patient records and many other residents opposed to the proposal, council voted 4-3 to reject the ordinance.