How anti-abortion advocates are pushing local bans, city by small city

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IIn May of this year, six city council members in Lebanon, Ohio, a city north of Cincinnati, voted on an ordinance that would effectively outlaw abortion for the 21,000 people who call it home.

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As is the case with countless council meetings in small towns across the country where masks are mandatory, teaching about race in schools and access to reproductive health care has become politically charged in America’s current climate, the night Shakespeare’s unfolded in a series of acts.


As the morning meeting was scheduled, Krista Wyatt, a former firefighter elected to the city council in 2018 and the only member expected to vote against the ordinance, formally resigned. In an accompanying statement, Wyatt wrote: “There is a core group of people who have hijacked the council to impose their personal, political and religious views on the entire citizenship of Lebanon. This is not fair to the citizens.” And it is not the role of a city council member to be a moral compass.”

Small US cities to pass anti-abortion rules

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Dozens of people kept their point in the meeting late in the evening. Some sang, many shared deeply personal experiences of rape or abortion, and some even prayed. Just outside the doors of City Hall, choice and anti-abortion groups similarly shouted at each other and urged passersby to sound the horn in support of one side or the other.

Ultimately however, the vote was firmed 6–0, making Lebanon the 29th city in the country and the first in Ohio to pass an enforceable ordinance outlawing abortion within its city limits. As the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion rights, pro-choice advocates and activists across America know firsthand that any upcoming national decision may be nearly irreversible from what has already happened in Ohio and beyond. .

For the past few months, small municipalities – many without permanent abortion clinics – like Lebanon, Mason and maybe soon otherAbortion has been outlawed. Although women in those cities can still travel to get abortions, the restrictions send a frightening message.

Leaving state homes and targeting smaller towns and cities governed by councils has emerged as a successful strategy in recent years for anti-abortion advocates. In July, a report good The Guttmacher Institute revealed that at least 30 cities in six states — Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Texas — have approved municipal abortion restrictions in the past three years. Some of these ordinances also target specific abortion funds and organizations providing other types of practical assistance to abortion patients.

Today pro-poll advocates are preparing to hear arguments in the Supreme Court Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Hearing scheduled for December marks the first time after weed weed That the court will rule on the constitutionality of a pre-viability abortion ban and determine whether all state laws banning abortion are unconstitutional. If the court were to reverse Ross, The consequences will be felt widely and immediately, as many states have “trigger laws” that will automatically take effect and outlaw most or all abortions.

Ohio is on the verge of passing its own trigger ban, Senate Bill 123, and recently introduced house bill 480, the most extreme abortion ban in the country, a copycat of Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8). It would have a complete ban on abortion in the state, without the exception of rape, incest or protection of pregnant people, and would also give the right to prosecute anyone who provides abortion to private citizens or helps anyone access abortion.

The city’s strategy to outlaw abortion began in Texas, largely due to traveling preacher and director of the nonprofit Right to Life of East Texas, Mark Lee Dixon. Since 2019, Dixon has encouraged municipalities to pass ordinances outlawing abortion—including laws that define abortion as premeditated murder and others that allow anyone in a city Help to obtain abortions within the U.S. make it illegal – and declare itself “for sanctuary cities”. Unborn”.

his first story of success Wascom was a city of less than 2,000 residents in eastern Texas as of June 2019. In the year and a half that followed, Dixon did the same in 22 Texas municipalities, despite an enduring, evolving pandemic. Ultimately, SB8, which banned nearly all abortions in Texas and landed before SCOTUS—which did not intervene—heeded the Wascom model in terms of how the law was enforced.

Dixon’s Initiative, Sanctuary City for the Unborn, has now helped 41 cities — 37 in Texas alone — create custom-compliant ordinances that prohibit abortion based on state law and city charters. The first to follow Texas’ suit were Ohio and Nebraska, with the two cities respectively. but how?

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, has called Ohio “the bedrock of the pro-life movement.”

Pro-choice protesters rally in the Supreme Court while hearing arguments on the Texas abortion ban. Photograph: Allison Bailey / nurphoto / REX / Shutterstock

Veronica Strewell, a military veteran, social worker and reproductive justice activist in Lebanon, agrees, adding that Dixon has a pattern when it comes to determining which cities to target for these ordinances.

While Dixon has said in recent interviews that he does not approach the city’s leadership, instead reaching out to them for help, this was not always his story. Strewell points to this kind of interview One In 2019, in which Dixon admitted to having initiated contact with the mayor of Wascom because he felt the city was “vulnerable” to pro-choice advocacy.

“He doesn’t bring these ordinances into a city until he knows it has enough people to support,” explains Strewell, who has been actively against anti-abortion ordinances at city council meetings throughout Ohio. are opposing. “Dickson and advocates like him are not looking for cities that have just one conservative church or one Republican city council. They are looking for one with an extreme Republican city council and one with Trump supporters.

In October, exactly five months after ruling in Lebanon, a second Ohio city Passed same ordinance. Like Lebanon, Mason – which is located just 14 minutes away – is known As a solid conservative city. Mason City Council receives draft ordinance from sanctuary cities for the unborn and Dixon Confirmed He was in talks with officials in Mason before the Lebanon Ordinance was finalised.

“Many people don’t think Ohio is as red or right as Texas, but these anti-abortion groups just copy and paste policy from statehouse to statehouse and city to city,” says Jordan Close, Ohio State Coordinator with Urge. Unite for fertility and gender equality. “In city council meetings, the people who are testifying in favor of these sanctions and unconstitutional bills are not from here. They are representing anti-abortion organizations out there, imposing these things on our communities when they are not always what citizens really want. ,

Strewell, who has lived in Lebanon for the past 10 years, says the impact on the community is clear.

Within two months of the Ordinance coming into force, a Survey was organized by main street lebanon and led by Professor Michael Cook of the University of Cincinnati. It turned out that local businesses were already seeing a drop in sales, leaving their owners, who were already battling a pandemic, questioning whether this was a good thing for the community. Lebanese business owners reported a decrease in sales in June 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019.

“It’s just a natural side effect of banning abortion,” Cooke said NS Cincinnati Enquirer, “I haven’t seen evidence of a formal boycott, but people are boycotting. And socially, Strewell says, the dynamic has become so controversial among locals that residents’ whisper societies of anti-abortion flourishes behind closed doors. and it is not uncommon for strangers to find ways to silently thank them for their outspoken advocacy.

“A friend of mine spoke at last night’s city council meeting and a sitting councilor told her, ‘This is a conservative city and you should have done your research before moving here,'” Strewell said. “I have friends who have come home from council meetings and many of them will not go on record. Not only in Lebanon but also in Mason I have certainly felt targeted.

In addition to Ohio, Nebraska has also complied with Dixon’s ordinances—for the first time ever. Hayes Center in April and then a few weeks later blue hill, two more cities, demands And curtis, are considering outlawing abortion for their collective 1,000 population. But Andy Curry Grubb, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Nebraska, is confident those who identify as pro-choice in the state will win.

“I think people are recognizing the danger of abortion rights in a new way and the urgency of the impact of abortion rights and access is being understood differently,” Grubb said. “When you see it with local municipalities trying to bring forward these kinds of ordinances, it’s a continuation of what we’re seeing across the state, people who are saying, ‘This is not what we want. We are in Nebraska. This is not what we want.'”

As for Ohio, two more city councils in Selina and London will consider similar measures in the coming weeks. While many pro-choice advocates and activists remain as grub-like as Grubb, others, such as Strewell, are resigned to the fate of their own city and are instead focusing on others.

“I didn’t go to last night’s council meeting. I can’t do anything for Lebanon in the next two years. If I’m going to get resistance from an all-white male extremist right-wing council now — because that’s what this city did.” Chosen – I’m not wasting my time on Lebanon. You all…

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