Article  Life  Sanctity of Life

Explainer: Lebanon, Ohio, Becomes Sanctuary City for the Unborn

On May 25, the city council of Lebanon, Ohio, voted to ban abortion in its city limits. By a vote of 6 to 0, the council approved a measure that immediately outlawed abortion and declared the abortion pill to be contraband. One member of the council resigned from her position in protest before the meeting. The city of Lebanon, located north of Cincinnati, has 20,000 residents.

How did it come about? 

The measure came about when Lebanon citizen Joshua Beckmann brought the idea before Councilman Doug Shope. Beckmann wanted to see Lebanon become a sanctuary city for the unborn, joining 27 other cities and towns in Texas and Nebraska that have passed similar ordinances, which move beyond a resolution to more enforceable measures. Shope worked with pro-life organizations Created Equal in Columbus, Ohio, and Right to Life of East Texas, who helped him draft the ordinance. 

Beckmann spoke at the council meeting, sharing his story of being born in India into the lowest caste and subsequently adopted by an American family. He praised his birth mother for giving him life in a country in which he said over 15.6 million babies were aborted in 2017. Lamenting the fact that an unborn child’s chance of being born into poverty can be used to justify abortion, Beckmann testified to the value of all life. He then shared his gratitude with the council members, praising them for passing the measure on behalf of the unborn. 

Currently there are no abortion clinics in Lebanon. The city’s mayor, Amy Brewer, spoke on the measure, saying, “We are clearly saying in our community we do not think it is in our best interest to open a clinic or a hospital that does abortions. We are elected to make decisions based on what’s good for our community today.”

What does it entail? 

Language of the ordinance states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to procure or perform an abortion of any type and at any stage of pregnancy in the city of Lebanon, Ohio,” and, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly aid or abet an abortion that occurs in the city of Lebanon, Ohio.” The measure makes it clear that forms of oral contraceptives and birth control devices are not included in the definition of abortion. Also exempt are acts done with the intent to “save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child,” or, “remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by accidental miscarriage, “ or, “remove an ectopic pregnancy.” There is also a narrow exception for cases in which the mother’s life is at risk.

In addition to outlawing abortion procedures, the ordinance declares abortion-inducing medication to be contraband, including “mifepristone, misoprostol, and any drug or medication that is used to terminate the life of an unborn child.” 

A violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in jail and no more than $1,000 in fines. The pregnant woman who seeks an abortion is exempt from prosecution. 


Allie Frazier, spokeswoman for Ohio Right to Life, issued a statement commending the city council of Lebanon for their efforts and expressing the hope that more cities across Ohio will follow their lead: 

Ohio Right to Life applauds the Lebanon City Council for taking a bold stand to protect the most vulnerable in their community. Through this vote, the people of Lebanon have made their voices abundantly clear: Planned Parenthood isn’t welcome in our city. Lebanon’s commitment to life demonstrates what we already know: Ohio is pro-life. The victimization of women and children through abortion has no place in our communities.

In another statement in response to the ordinance, Kersha Deibel, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Ohio Region, said:

Abortion services are already extremely difficult to access for people in Ohio, but these efforts are part of an aggressive, nationwide anti-abortion agenda to do one thing—ban abortion outright. It’s reprehensible. We will do everything we can to continue providing safe, legal abortion to the people in Ohio who need it—no matter what.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is prepared to mount a legal challenge to the ordinance, according to their legal director, Freda Levenson, who stated, “This hyper-local strategy is another attempt by anti-abortion extremists to stigmatize and ban abortion in Ohio, by whatever means necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative reports that other cities in Ohio are in the process of attempting to pass similar measures. 

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