Ohio City Reverses Decision to Criminalize Abortion After 2 Council Members Lose Election

An Ohio city that recently criminalized abortion reversed course Monday after two city council members were ousted by voters in November. The restriction prohibited receiving or performing an abortion within Mason city limits, while also barring people from providing money, transportation or medical instructions to help others obtain abortions.

The short-lived measure took effect on Nov. 24 and sparked protests from abortion-rights demonstrators who claimed it was unconstitutional. The council repealed the ordinance with a 6-1 vote on Monday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The passage of the measure was largely symbolic since Mason does not currently house any abortion clinics and has no plans to build any.

There are also no clinics in the nearby city of Lebanon, which in May became the first city in Ohio to ban abortions. Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer said that the measure is meant to send a signal that the city would not be open to hosting such a clinic.

Barbara Spaeth, a former Mason mayor and current city council member, opposed the city's abortion ban.

"That is not an issue that Mason City Council should have ever been dealing with," Spaeth said. "The ordinance was not even enforceable, so why should we even be considering that?"

Mark Haake, another city council member who won election in November, told WCPO that the ban was politically motivated and wasn't likely to be effective.

"This ordinance was not going to change anything for the city. It wasn't going to stop abortions," he said.

Ohio City's Abortion Ban Repealed
An Ohio city's abortion ban that sparked protests from abortion-rights advocates was repealed Monday. A participant holds a sign during the Women's March "Hold the Line for Abortion Justice" at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1 in Washington, D.C. Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

The Mason ordinance saw pushback on multiple fronts.

More than 2,000 residents of the city of about 30,000 located 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Cincinnati signed a petition that would have put the issue to a vote of the people in either May or November, drive organizer Joy Bennett said.

The Mason ordinance prohibited possession of abortion-inducing drugs, including prescription misoprostol and mifepristone, but carried 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 ban included exceptions for "accidental miscarriages," ectopic pregnancies and the life of the mother.

Similar efforts to ban abortion in other small Ohio cities targeted in a national effort emanating from the Right to Life East Texas nonprofit—including Celina in Ohio's Mercer County and London in Madison County—failed.

Abortion faces certain restrictions under Ohio law but remains legal in the state following a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said women have a constitutional right to seek the procedure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Planned Parenthood Clinic
A now-repealed ordinance in Mason, Ohio, prohibited receiving or performing an abortion within city limits, while also barring people from helping others obtain abortions by providing money, transportation or medical instructions. The outside of a Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen in St. Louis, Missouri, May 31, 2019. Saul Loeb/Getty Images