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On Monday, the city of Mason, Ohio (population 34,792) became the second city in Ohio, and the 41st city in the nation, to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within their city limits. The city of Mason follows the city of Lebanon (population 20,841) which outlawed abortion in late May. Other cities in Ohio which have considered passing an ordinance outlawing abortion include the cities of South Lebanon (6,384), London (10,279), Celina (10,935), and Troy (26,305).

Mason, Ohio

The Mason Ordinance Outlawing Abortion required two readings in order to be passed. The first reading of the ordinance resulted in a 4-2 vote with Mayor Kathy Grossmann joining council members Tony Bradburn, Mike Gilb, and T.J. Honerlaw voting in favor of the ordinance and council members Diana Nelson and Josh Styrcula voting against the ordinance. Councilman Ashley Chance was absent for the first reading vote. 

The second reading of the ordinance resulted in a 4-3 vote with Mayor Kathy Grossmann joining council members Tony Bradburn, Mike Gilb, and T.J. Honerlaw voting in favor of the ordinance and council members Ashley Chance, Diana Nelson, and Josh Styrcula voting against the ordinance. The ordinance is set to go into effect on November 24, 2021. 

Before the historic vote, Councilwoman Diana Nelson argued that the council creating local laws which contradict federal laws was illegal and unconstitutional and that those who passed such laws were risking removal from office. Mayor Kathy Grossmann was quick to push back against Councilwoman Nelson’s accusation. Grossmann shared that based on her understanding and based on the understanding of several attorneys who had reviewed the measure, the Mason Ordinance was written to be consistent with the U.S. Constitution, all state and federal laws, and worked within Supreme Court rulings. 

For further clarification, Grossmann asked the Law Director and Vice Mayor Mike Gilb, who is a local attorney, their assessment of the matter. Vice Mayor Gilb shared, “From my review of the ordinance I certainly understand it to be not in conflict with Roe v. Wade and constitutional in the way it is presented.”

The Mason Ohio Ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the city of Mason, Ohio” and “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the city of Mason, Ohio.” Abortion is defined by the ordinance as “the act of using or prescribing any instrument, a drug, a medicine, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.” The ordinance is also clear that the act is not an abortion if the act is done with the intent to “save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child” or “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by accidental miscarriage” or “remove an ectopic pregnancy.” 

There is one other exception listed in the Mason Ordinance and that is a very narrow exception for cases where the mother’s life is at risk. This is listed as an affirmative defense and falls upon the one performing the abortion to provide that defense if necessary. This is outlined by the ordinance as abortions in cases where the abortion is “in response to a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.”  

In addition to outlawing abortion and aiding or abetting an abortion, the Mason Ordinance also prohibits the possession or distribution of abortion-inducing drugs, stating “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or distribute abortion-inducing drugs in the Mason, Ohio, and it shall be unlawful for any person to mail or ship abortion-inducing drugs into the city of Mason, Ohio.” The Mason Ordinance defines “abortion-inducing drugs” as “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.” The Ordinance is clear that “the term also does not include drugs or medication that are possessed or distributed for a purpose that does not include the termination of a pregnancy.” 

Those who are found in violation of the ordinance are guilty of a misdemeanor in the first degree and, under Ohio law, are not to serve more than six months in jail or pay more than $1,000 in fines. This prosecution or penalty contains only one exception: “Under no circumstance may the penalty be imposed on the mother of the unborn child that has been aborted, or the pregnant woman who seeks to abort her unborn child, be subject to prosecution or penalty.” This penalty is not dependent upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade or any other court ruling and is immediately enforceable. 

Mason is located in Warren County, Ohio. During Warren County’s 2020 Presidential Election 64.49% (87,988) voted Republican, 33.76% (46,069) voted Democrat, and 1.75% (2,384) voted for other candidates. All of the members of Mason’s City Council identify as Republican giving the city a 7-0 Republican majority. Prior to the second reading vote on Mason’s Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance, the Warren County Republican Party chose not to endorse Councilmembers Chance, Nelson, and Styrcula – which ended up being the only three Republicans who voted against the ordinance on Monday night. 

Currently, the closest place for women from Mason, Ohio to get an abortion is 19.5 miles away at the Planned Parenthood – Cincinnati Surgical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio which provides the abortion pill through 10 weeks and the abortion procedure through 21 weeks, 6 days. There is one other facility within 50 miles where women from Mason, Ohio can obtain an abortion and a total of five facilities within 100 miles where women from Mason, Ohio can obtain an abortion. Four of those facilities are in Ohio and one of those facilities is in Indiana.

Celina, Ohio

Photo: A crowd gathers inside Celina’s City Hall before the City Council meeting addressing the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance.

Mason was not the only city discussing the outlawing of abortion on Monday night. 112 miles north of Mason the city of Celina, Ohio also considered a similar ordinance.

The first reading of the Celina Ordinance Outlawing Abortion resulted in a 4-2 vote with council members Myron Buxton, Mark Fleck, Eric Lochtefeld, and June Scott voting against the ordinance and council members Eric Baltzell and Eric Clausen voting in favor of the ordinance. Councilman Mike Sovinski was absent for the first reading vote. While they did not get a vote Mayor Jeff Hazel and Council President Jason King were both favorable to the legislation. 

The Celina Ordinance Outlawing Abortion is set to go through two more votes. Whatever the outcome of the third and final vote is will determine if Celina becomes the next city in Ohio to outlaw abortion or the first city in Ohio to officially vote down an ordinance outlawing abortion which has been drafted for their city. 

The legislation was brought before the Celina City Council after a committee-of-the-whole meeting on August 23rd resulted in a 5-2 vote in favor of reviewing legislation that would outlaw abortion in Celina, Ohio. At that meeting council members, Eric Baltzell and Eric Clausen were joined by Myron Buxton, Mark Fleck, and June Scott who all voted in favor of considering the legislation. Councilmember Eric Lochtefeld and Mike Sovinski (who was absent at Monday’s meeting) voted against considering the legislation.  

Celina’s Law Director George Moore, who had previously expressed a desire to “explore the effectiveness of such ordinances,” has been one of the most outspoken voices in opposition to the Celina Ordinance Outlawing Abortion. In several public discussions, Moore has leaned heavily upon a letter from Garry Hunter who serves as the executive director and general counsel of the Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association. Hunter wrote that, in his opinion, “the legislation is unenforceable and could result in lawsuits against the city that would be expensive to defend.” Moore also expressed his concerns that the legislation, if passed, “would almost assuredly result in someone filing a lawsuit.”

Several in the City of Celina’s leadership have questioned how much their law director has “explored the effectiveness of such ordinances.” The Planned Parenthood in Lubbock, Texas, which was performing abortions, is no longer performing abortions as a result of the ordinance which their city passed outlawing abortion within their city limits. The Planned Parenthood in Lubbock, Texas has not performed abortions since June 1st, when they lost their lawsuit in federal court. 

The reasoning argued by those in support of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative is straightforward: If the Lubbock Ordinance Outlawing Abortion stopped abortion in a city where abortions were already taking place, it is reasonable to assume that such an ordinance would prevent abortions from ever taking place in a city which passed such an ordinance. And while the executive director of the Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association believes the ordinances are unenforceable, groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have shared a much different opinion as they have argued the exact opposite. 

So what about Moore’s concerns that the legislation, if passed, would “almost assuredly” result in someone filing a lawsuit? The Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn movement argues that the city of Celina is not the first city to entertain legislation of this type. At the time of this writing 41 cities have passed ordinances that have outlawed abortion within their city limits. At this time no lawsuit has been filed against Lebanon, Ohio, or Mason, Ohio despite many threats from opposition stating that there would be immediate lawsuits. 

In fact, out of the 41 cities which have passed ordinances outlawing abortion only two lawsuits have been filed. One lawsuit lasted 3 months and the other lawsuit lasted a little over two weeks. Not one of the challenges brought by the abortion industry proved to be successful.

If the Celina Ordinance Outlawing Abortion is adopted by the Celina City Council and the city faces a lawsuit as a result of the adoption of this ordinance Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, the former Texas Solicitor General and the legal mind behind the enforcement mechanism in the Texas Heartbeat Act, is willing to represent the city at no cost to the city and taxpayers. 

Celina is the county seat of Mercer County, Ohio. During Mercer County’s 2020 Presidential Election 81.79% (19,452) voted Republican, 16.94% (4,030) voted Democrat, and 1.27% (302) voted for other candidates. The voting members of the Celina City Council give the city a 4-3 Republican majority. Councilmembers Baltzell, Buxton, Clausen, and Sovinski all identify as Republican while councilmembers Fleck, Lochtefeld, and Scott all identify as Democrats. 

Currently, the closest place for women from Celina, Ohio to get an abortion is 63.6 miles away at the Women’s Med Center of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio which provides the abortion pill through 10 weeks and the abortion procedure through 21 weeks, 6 days. There is a total of seven facilities within 100 miles where women from Celina, Ohio can obtain an abortion. Five of those facilities are in Ohio and two of those facilities are in Indiana. 

The news of Mason and Celina considering ordinances outlawing abortion caused Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley to weigh in on the measure. Mayor Whaley shared on Twitter, “These ordinances are nothing more than an extreme attack on abortion rights that goes directly to the core of an individual’s constitutional right to reproductive care. I’m happy to stand with those who are protesting and speaking up for their constitutional rights.” Mayor Whaley, who is running for Governor of Ohio, also made a campaign pitch stating, “Now more than ever we need a pro-choice Gov who will stand up as the last line of defense in protecting abortion rights in Ohio. I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race that has always stood up for repro rights and as Governor, I’ll never waver on my commitment to choice.” In her run for Governor, the Democrat mayor Mayor of Dayton has earned endorsements both from EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. 

London, Ohio

Photo: A crowd gathers in front of the Madison County Courthouse before marching to London’s City Council meeting addressing the Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance.

Earlier in October, the London, Ohio City Council considered a similar ordinance that would outlaw abortion within their city limits. The ordinance survived its first reading after a motion was made by Councilman Anthony Smith and seconded by Councilwoman Carla Blazier. Councilwoman Brenda Russell made a motion to send the ordinance to the Finance and Safety Committees for further review and Councilman Andrew Hitt seconded the motion. The entire council voted in favor of the Finance and Safety Committees reviewing the legislation in a 5-0 vote. 

London is the county seat of Madison County, Ohio. During Madison County’s 2020 Presidential Election 69.57% (13,835) voted Republican, 28.65% (5,698) voted Democrat, and 1.78% (354) voted for other candidates. Councilmembers Blazier, Hayes, Hitt, Peters, Robinson, and Smith identify as Republican while Councilwoman Russell identifies as an Independent. This make-up gives the voting members of the London City Council a strong 6-1 Republican majority. A city having a strong Republican majority is not a guarantee that a Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance will pass. In Mason, a total of three Republicans voted against the Mason Ordinance while in Celina it appears a total of two Republicans are standing against the Celina Ordinance. It is uncertain where London’s six Republicans stand on the issue and if any of the council members are able to be swayed one way or another.

Currently, the closest place for women from London, Ohio to get an abortion is 28.9 miles away at the Planned Parenthood East Columbus Surgical Center in Columbus, Ohio which provides the abortion pill through 10 weeks and the abortion procedure through 17 weeks, 6 days. There are also two other facilities within 50 miles where women from London, Ohio can obtain an abortion. There is a total of four facilities within 100 miles where women from London, Ohio can obtain an abortion. All four of those facilities are in Ohio. 

More Abortion in Ohio 

Currently, Mason, Celina, and London have as little as four and as many as seven abortion centers within 100 miles of their cities. While many would see that as “enough” abortion there is one man who doesn’t see that as “enough.” His name is Joe Biden. 

Earlier this year, on the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Biden Administration stated their commitment to make sure everyone has abortion access in every zip code. In the same statement, the Biden Administration also committed to “codifying Roe v. Wade” and “appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.” If Biden has his way there will not be less abortion in Ohio, America, but more. Since the Biden Administration made this promise of abortion access in every zip code a total of 24 cities have passed ordinances outlawing abortion within their city limits.

Most interpret the Biden Administration’s promise to abortion access in every zip code not to be the expansion of brick-and-mortar abortion facilities but instead recognize his promise as an attempt to deregulate RU-486 (the abortion pill). Currently, and in accordance with Ohio law, RU-486 can only be administered by an abortionist. However, this does not mean that cities without an abortionist are safe from RU-486. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was appointed by Joe Biden and has already been working to fulfill Biden’s promise of abortion access in every zip code. The ordinances which have been passed in Lebanon and Mason, as well as the ordinances which have been proposed in Celina and London, are all carefully written to do everything possible to keep RU-486 from being distributed within their city limits. 

Since RU-486 (the abortion pill) often gets confused with “Plan B, morning after pills, or emergency contraception” it should be made clear that “Plan B, morning after pills, or emergency contraception” was not outlawed in the Lebanon or Mason ordinances and it is not being proposed to be outlawed in the Celina or London ordinances. Although the use of such drugs is discouraged by those in support of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative, none of the Ohio ordinances prohibit “Plan B, morning after pills, or emergency contraception” and such drugs can be legally sold and purchased at any Walmart or CVS Pharmacy in all of the cities featured in this article. 

When one considers all of the facts, outlawing abortion in any city in Ohio which does not already have an abortion facility does not sound like such a crazy idea. Even those who are for abortion should be able to recognize that Ohio already has a lot of abortion access. 

Does the State of Ohio really need more abortion access? Does abortion access have to exist in Celina, Ohio’s 45822 and 45826 zip codes or London, Ohio’s 43140 zip code? While it is uncertain which city in Ohio will be the next city to outlaw abortion and protect their zip code, one thing is certain: Mason, Ohio will not be the last city in Ohio to outlaw abortion.

Note: All Photos have been used with the permission of Mark Lee Dickson, the Director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative. 

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Mark Lee Dickson lives in Texas and serves as a Director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.