Ohio city rewrites abortion ban, advocacy groups end lawsuit

Columbus, Ohio — Groups that advocate for professional social workers and abortion rights said they were able to force a small Ohio town to significantly reduce its ban on performing or recommending abortions, ending their legal challenge.

The lawsuit from the National Association of Social Workers and the Ohio Abortion Fund argued that the law, passed in May 2021, represented an “extraordinarily broad” infringement of constitutional rights to due process and free speech. Lawyers for groups at the ACLU of Ohio and Democracy Forward further argued that the ban violated Ohio’s home rule provisions.

The southwestern Ohio city of Lebanon chose to review the law rather than defend it in court. The app had been suspended while that job was being done.

Opponents said they withdrew their lawsuit on January 12 after provisions making it a crime to aid and abet an abortion were removed, and the law was further clarified to ensure that providing transportation, instructions, money or services of abortion doula, including counseling.

The Lebanon ban was one of four to emerge in Ohio in 2021, part of a national effort to ban abortion “one city at a time” by the Texas-based organization Sanctuary Cities of the Unborn overseen by Mark Lee. Dickson.

It was the first local ban to be challenged nationwide after a leak revealed that the US Supreme Court planned to overturn Roe v. Wade. The court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization galvanized state and local efforts by abortion opponents to ban the procedure.

“This litigation exposes local ordinance bans as dangerous acts of political theater, and our lawsuit demanded accountability for the logistical and legal nightmare created by the Lebanon City Council,” said Maggie Scotece, interim executive director of the abortion fund, formerly Women Have Options-Ohio. in a statement. “This victory is unique in the context of our post-Dobbs legal landscape, establishing a strong and united front against these egregious attacks.”

Dickson, a Southern Baptist minister who also runs Right to Life East Texas, said the revisions to Lebanon’s ban had little consequence for the underlying goal of the law: to ban abortion in the city of about 20,000 as of the conception.

“Abortion is still illegal in Lebanon, so this is a huge victory for Ohio,” Dickson said. “It is worth noting that the opposition claims that we were doing more than we were actually doing. The fact that we clarify our position does not remove the ban on abortion.”

Opposition groups in Ohio argued that despite the fact that Lebanon does not have abortion clinics, the sweeping ban appeared to require social workers not to discuss abortion when counseling pregnant clients, in “conflict with the ethical obligation of social workers to promote client self-determination.

The association of social workers took the position that reproductive freedom is a human right.

According to the Texas anti-abortion group website, 65 US cities and two counties have so far passed similar abortion bans. Dickson said the group will continue its work this year in New Mexico, where the Democratic attorney general has moved to strike down similar local abortion bans, as well as attempt new breakthroughs in Nebraska, Kansas and California.

“There is still a lot to do, even though Roe has been struck down, to promote abortion-free communities,” he said.

A federal judge has suspended Ohio’s state ban on most abortions while a constitutional challenge is heard. Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has appealed to the Republican-controlled Ohio Supreme Court to block the federal judge’s order.