A Southwest Ohio city voted Tuesday night to ban abortion and declare itself a "sanctuary city for the unborn," bringing the nation's divide over abortion to small-town government.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533

The Lebanon City Council voted unanimously – after one member quit in protest – to approve the ordinance. The mayor said the law would take effect immediately in the city of 20,000 north of Cincinnati; abortion rights groups promised immediate lawsuits.

It was a night of drama as dozens of people spoke before council. Some prayed, some sang, some told deeply personal stories about rape or miscarriages. Outside city hall, groups on both sides shouted at each other and urged drivers to honk for their side.  

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"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," mayor Amy Brewer said. "We are elected to make decisions based on what's good for our community today." 

There are no abortion clinics in Lebanon

There are no abortion clinics in Lebanon, and none planned.  

"The residents of Lebanon deserve leaders who listen to the needs of community members rather than playing politics with people’s lives and health," Stephanie Kollmann Baker, the state organizing director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, told the council. 

The ordinance was sponsored by six of the seven members of the city council, including Brewer. The only council member opposing the measure was Krista Wyatt, who resigned in protest before the meeting.

"I am heartbroken to not fulfill my term and I know many people will be disappointed with this. But as a respectable, decent human being, I can no longer allow my name to be associated with the Lebanon City Council,” she wrote in a statement provided to Enquirer media partner Fox19. a person sitting on a bench in front of a building: Pro-life demonstrators sit on a bench outside Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer Pro-life demonstrators sit on a bench outside Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.

What does the ordinance say?

The ordinance makes it illegal to provide an abortion, aid an abortion, provide money or transportation for an abortion, and provide instructions for an abortion within the city limits of Lebanon.

It exempts the pregnant woman who seeks an abortion from prosecution. Violation of the law would be punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

Exemptions in the ordinance include ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, or preserving the health of the unborn child. There is no mention of exemptions in cases of rape or incest.Chuck Bush et al. sitting at a table: Joshua Beckmann, 19, hands Lebanon Vice Mayor Mark Messer a flower as citizens speak before city council on a proposed ordinance, which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio. Lebanon city council voted to outlaw abortions performed within the city limits.© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer Joshua Beckmann, 19, hands Lebanon Vice Mayor Mark Messer a flower as citizens speak before city council on a proposed ordinance, which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio. Lebanon city council voted to outlaw abortions performed within the city limits.

Similar measures have been passed in other cities, states

Councilman Doug Shope, who introduced the abortion ban, said he is a conservative Christian and makes his decisions based on his faith

Shope worked with Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, a Texas-based group that's helped 27 municipalities in Texas and Nebraska write custom ordinances to ban abortions.  

There have been a growing number of Republican-controlled cities and states that have passed measures to restrict abortion with the hope of convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Ohio Right to Life applauded Lebanon's vote Wednesday and said they hope more cities and villages across Ohio pass similar ordinances. The goal is to make abortion "not just illegal but unthinkable across our great state," said Allie Frazier, Ohio Right to Life spokeswoman. 

Slide 1 of 27: Citizens speak before Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.Next SlideFull screen1/27 SLIDES © Kareem Elgazzar/The EnquirerCitizens speak before Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.

What community speakers said during the meeting

Many speakers thanked council for taking the lead in fighting abortion. Some held signs saying "Lebanon loves babies." 

Renee Wisser said she came to the meeting to support the ordinance. "I think it’s an important thing for people to be aware that there are ways to protect the unborn and women still have their right to choose. This is a good thing for Lebanon, Ohio."

On the other side, one woman told council she was concerned that the ordinance would result in every stillbirth and miscarriage being investigated. Others said the ordinance was unnecessary, because there are no abortion providers operating in the city. 

Veronica Strevel, a resident of Lebanon for four years, said she came to the meeting because she thinks it’s an atrocious overreach of city council.

"It worries me because every Lebanon citizen needs a chance to speak and that shouldn't get convoluted by outside influences," she said. "I want people to know that this is not okay. It’s not okay for our rogue city council to take it upon themselves to create an ordinance without consulting its citizens."a man wearing a suit and tie: City of Lebanon council member Doug Shope listens to citizens speak before city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio. Lebanon city council voted to outlaw abortions performed within the city limits.© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer City of Lebanon council member Doug Shope listens to citizens speak before city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio. Lebanon city council voted to outlaw abortions performed within the city limits.

Arguments continued after the meeting

Groups on both side of the issue were still arguing after the meeting.

Outside, demonstrations spilled out onto the opposite side of the street. Every time a car honked, the demonstrators yelled in response. People were in heated, shouting arguments that made it difficult to hear anything else.

As the meeting got underway and before public comments, councilmember Shope said, “I’ve heard people asking how much city money was used to research this or travel. No travel was involved and the city has not spent one penny on this. Video calls have taken care of the whole process.”

As for claims the city was overreaching, at least two councilmembers pointed to what they said was Cincinnati outlawing medical practices – citing a 2015 law that bans conversion therapy for children.a man looking at the camera: Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer listens to a speaker as Lebanon city council considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer listens to a speaker as Lebanon city council considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Citizens stand in prayer before Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer Citizens stand in prayer before Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.Citizens speak before Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer Citizens speak before Lebanon city council as the body considers voting on a proposed ordinance which would declare the city of 20,000 in Warren County, north of Cincinnati, a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Lebanon, Ohio.

Legal challenge expected

Groups including Planned Parenthood spoke out against the measure, calling it "reprehensible."

The ACLU of Ohio and Planned Parenthood call the proposed measure blatantly unconstitutional and the ACLU is prepared to mount a legal challenge.

"This hyper-local strategy is another attempt by anti-abortion extremists to stigmatize and ban abortion in Ohio, by whatever means necessary," said Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio.

Enquirer media partner Fox 19 contributed. 

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: 'Sanctuary city for the unborn': Lebanon is first city in Ohio to ban abortions