Mason council passes ordinance criminalizing abortions in city limits after tense meeting, close vote
MASON, Ohio – Mason became the second city in Ohio to ban abortion within city limits at a tense meeting Monday night.
Mason City Council passed the ordinance to criminalize abortions by one vote, 4-3. It failed to pass as an emergency, meaning it won't go into effect for 30 days.
There are no abortion clinics in Mason, the largest city in Warren County.
Councilmember T.J. Honerlaw said at Monday's meeting the ordinance "should have been a unifying issue for a bunch of Republicans." Instead, the vote showed a split on the council between Republicans who believe banning abortion is within the city's authority and those who do not.
Honerlaw, Mayor Kathy Grossmann and Councilmembers Tony Bradburn and Gilb voted in favor of the ordinance.
Gilb said protecting life is what he promised to do on council.
"We should be clear that we don’t support the business of death, that all lives matter, from the moment your heart starts beating to the moment it stops beating," he said.
Councilmembers Ashley Chance, Diana Nelson and Josh Styrcula voted against.
Nelson said the ordinance goes against the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that federal law takes precedent over state law. She also expressed doubt that the city will be able to enforce the ordinance.
Anti-abortion and abortion-rights protestors demonstrated outside the Mason Municipal building and filled the council chambers to capacity. Many carried green signs that said "protect the unborn" or purple signs that said "bans off our bodies."
The council voted 4-3 to allow only Mason residents in the council chambers. Officers checked audience members' identification and asked nonresidents to move to the overflow room.
The first round of public comment was limited to 90 minutes. Speakers read quotes from the Bible, quotes from a book about reproduction and a poem about sea turtle eggs destroyed by a gynecologist. Some people in the audience shouted over councilmembers and chanted "vote them out" after the vote to pass the abortion ban.
The Mason ban drew the attention of several U.S. Senate candidates. Republican Josh Mandel and Democrat Morgan Harper made appearances at city hall, with Mandel calling protesters "baby killers." Democratic candidate Tim Ryan said the vote was "proof that the Senate must act to codify Roe v. Wade.'
Other Ohio cities began considering abortion bans in recent weeks. In Celina, a city of 10,400 in Mercer County, the city council considered a "sanctuary city for the unborn" ordinance at its meeting on Monday. London, a city of 10,300 in Madison County, sent a similar ordinance to committee before it will be heard by the city council.
The Mason City Council got the ordinance draft from Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, an initiative by Right to Life of East Texas. Director Mark Lee Dickson attended the Oct. 11 meeting and advocated for passing the ban during public comment.
The council voted to approve amendments to the ordinance that added limiting language to clarify that the council is “only prohibiting the act in the city of Mason," Gilb said.
There are no penalties in the ordinance for a person seeking an abortion.
The ordinance makes it illegal to knowingly "aid or abet" an abortion that occurs in Mason. Violating the ordinance is a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to 180 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000, according to Ohio law.
The ordinance also makes it illegal for people to possess or distribute “abortion-inducing drugs” in the city of Mason, including misoprostol and mifepristone. Misoprostol and mifepristone require a prescription and are administered in some doctor's offices, abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood health centers.
The legislation includes exceptions for "accidental miscarriages," and ectopic pregnancies, in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus where it can't survive. There is also an exception for abortions in response to a life-threatening physical condition caused by pregnancy that could result in "death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function."
Erin Glynn is the watchdog reporter for Butler, Warren and Clermont counties through the Report For America program. The Enquirer needs local donors to help fund her grant-funded position. If you want to support Glynn's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at this website or email her editor Carl Weiser at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help fund her work.
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