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In divided vote, 2nd city in Ohio enacts ban on abortion

A divided city council in Mason approved the ordinance 4-3 Monday, deferring its effective date for 30 days.
Credit: City of Mason, Ohio

MASON, Ohio — A second Ohio city has voted to criminalize abortion within its limits, a largely symbolic move decried by abortion rights backers as unconstitutional at a raucous hourslong meeting.

A divided city council in Mason, a city of about 30,000 located 25 miles northeast of Cincinnati, approved the ordinance 4-3 Monday, deferring its effective date for 30 days. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Republicans on the panel disagreed over whether the move was within the city's authority.

Anti-abortion and abortion-rights protestors demonstrated outside Mason's municipal building and filled the council chambers to capacity.

Neither Mason nor nearby Lebanon, which became the first city in Ohio to ban abortions in May, has any abortion clinics or is planning any. The Mason ordinance forbids possession within city limits of abortion-inducing drugs, including prescription misoprostol and mifepristone, but carries no penalties for someone seeking an abortion.

Misoprostol and mifepristone require a prescription and are administered in some doctor’s offices, abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood health centers.

The legislation included exceptions for “accidental miscarriages,” ectopic pregnancies and the life of the mother.

Mason Councilmember Mike Gilb, who voted yes, said, “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.”

Councilmember Diana Nelson, who opposed the ordinance, said it defies the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that federal law takes precedent over state law.

Abortion remains legal in Ohio and the rest of the country following a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said women have a constitutional right to seek an abortion.

Other small Ohio cities — Celina in Mercer County, and London in Madison County — are considering similar measures, part of a national effort emanating from Right to Life East Texas. Ohio is one of three states targeted so far.

Celina's city council voted 4-2 against an abortion ban there on its first reading Monday. The ordinance will still move forward to second and third readings.

Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, said the Mason ban was not only outside the council's authority, it has “now opened up the city of Mason to public ridicule, promised boycotts and costly litigation.”

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, said Mason is the 41st city nationally to ban abortion. He called the ordinance “a stand against the violence of abortion and for the protection of women and babies.”

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