THE LATEST: On January 12, 2023, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Abortion Fund of Ohio (formerly Women Have Options (WHO/O)) defeated the City of Lebanon, Ohio’s attempt to keep an expansive, criminal prohibition on “aiding” and “abetting” people seeking to access legal abortion services.  

Represented by Democracy Forward and the ACLU of Ohio, NASW and Abortion Fund of Ohio challenged Lebanon’s abortion ban in May for violating constitutionally protected rights to due process and freedom of speech as well as the Ohio constitution. The social workers and advocates concluded their lawsuit after the City amended its ordinance by removing its most draconian provisions and further stipulated in court that its amended ordinance has no effect outside Lebanon. 

In response to the lawsuit, the City drastically narrowed the law’s prohibition on “aiding” and “abetting.” The amended ban no longer criminalizes people like advocates and social workers for providing assistance to Lebanon residents accessing lawful abortion care outside of Lebanon. Furthermore, the amended law no longer specifically prohibits a wide range of activity, including providing transportation, instructions, money, and “abortion doula” services, including counseling. Throughout the litigation, the City declined to defend the abortion ban in court and repeatedly chose to retreat, rather than publicly defend its ban. Read our release. 


On May 11, 2022 – in the first challenge to an abortion ban the National Association of Social Workers and Women Have Options – Ohio sued Lebanon, Ohio to overturn its anti-abortion ordinance. Our legal challenge argued that antidemocratic abortion bans, like the City of Lebanon’s, violate other constitutional rights beyond those formerly protected by Roe and Casey.

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. 

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. 

Ordinances like the one in Lebanon 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. 

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: January 13, 2023