On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion. Read here for the statement of Democracy Forward CEO & President, Skye Perryman. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the City of Lebanon’s policy remains unlawful and our legal challenge is proceeding. 

Antidemocratic abortion bans, like the City of Lebanon’s, violate other constitutional rights beyond those formerly protected by Roe and Casey. For now, the members of NASW and the abortion care advocates at WHO/O – and others who work with them – can continue to do their important work without fear of being criminalized by the ban.

THE LATEST: The City of Lebanon, which was supposed to file their answer to the lawsuit or a motion to dismiss on or before August 4, 2022, requested another extension on their deadline. The judge granted the extension until September 6. It remains to be seen whether or not they will be able to amend the ordinance by that time. On May 26, the City of Lebanon declined to defend in federal court its ordinance banning abortion, signing a stipulation not to enforce the ordinance against those challenging the ban, and indicating they will seek to amend the vague and potentially sweeping law that criminalizes those who provide assistance to people accessing abortion care. 

The statement released by the National Association of Social Workers, Women Have Options – Ohio, the ACLU of Ohio and Democracy Forward is available here. No one should have to worry about running afoul of this vague and potentially sweeping law. In this case, the ban violates the due process and free speech rights of Lebanon’s residents, social workers, abortion care advocates, and many others across the state. 


BACKGROUND

What’s Democracy Forward doing? 

On  May 11, 2022 the National Association of Social Workers and Women Have Options – Ohio sued Lebanon, Ohio to overturn its anti-abortion ordinance. Democracy Forward and the ACLU of Ohio are representing NASW and WHO/O.

We are asking the court to declare the ban unlawful in whole or in part, and to prevent the city of Lebanon and its agents from enforcing it.

What’s the problem with the Lebanon, Ohio ordinance? 

Lebanon’s abortion ban is unlawfully vague, it is confusing, and it requires ordinary citizens to interpret and apply complex, nuanced legal concepts to determine if they are breaking the law. 

Consider that:

  • There are no abortion clinics within Lebanon city limits. The ordinance is banning something that cannot even take place in the city. 
  • It purports to ban any prohibited abortions even if the abortion doesn’t take place in Lebanon. 
  • It forbids people from “knowingly aiding or abetting” a prohibited abortion, but fails to define what “aiding” or “abetting” means. 

How did we get here? 

Beginning in 2019 and continuing today, anti-abortion activists have engaged in a national campaign to encourage local cities and counties to adopt sweeping bans on abortion care and to penalize people who seek to assist those in need of care. 

Today, more than 40 cities and towns across the country have passed these ordinances. The language in these ordinances, which by their terms designate so-called “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn,” and the people behind them, are closely linked to SB-8 in Texas—an extreme abortion ban.

As part of this campaign, in May, 2021, Lebanon’s city council passed an ordinance that outlaws abortion in the town, and criminalizes providing assistance to anyone seeking an abortion— even if the abortion takes place outside the city limits. 

Why does this case matter? 

These sorts of ordinances also do not exist in a vacuum — they are linked to and reinforce other threats to democratic institutions. It is not a coincidence these abortion bans have taken hold in states that have also introduced and passed restrictions on voting rights. 

It is all part of the chilling glimpse we are being given into the reality extremists want to impose on people and communities across the country. 

What happens next?

At Democracy Forward, we will continue to develop and use innovative legal strategies to safeguard access to abortion care through the courts, as we’ve done with this case.

Last Updated: August 15, 2022