Athens City Council adopts resolution in support of reproductive rights

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – Members of the Athens City Council took an official stance on the criminalization of abortion during Monday night’s meeting when they unanimously adopted a resolution encouraging the mayor to deprioritize the enforcement of state laws regarding abortion. 

A city resident speaks to the Athens City Council. The photo is taken from the back of council chambers and there are residents filling almost every seat.
A city resident speaks to the Athens City Council on Monday, Aug. 1. [Kaitlin Throne | WOUB]
The resolution, which was introduced by Council Member Sarah Grace, states that the council affirms the “commitment to protect the right of City residents to make reproductive health decisions, including abortion care, for themselves.” 

It also encourages the mayor to not use city funds on investigations that could support the prosecution of an abortion or the storage of any reports of abortion or other reproductive health care acts. It also encourages the mayor to not provide information regarding the topic to any government body “unless such information is provided to defend the patient’s right to abortion care or the healthcare provider’s right to provide that care.” 

These suggestions do not apply when records of an abortion or miscarriage could be used as evidence of another crime, such as rape.

The council began working on a resolution after members of the community asked the council to protect reproductive rights within the city limits during a City Council meeting in August. The request was in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent six-week abortion ban in Ohio. 

The resolution adopted by the council was informed by a draft submitted by Athenians for Bodily Autonomy, a community group focusing on abortion and transgender rights. The group modeled its draft on the ordinance passed by the Columbus City Council that deprioritized pursuing criminal investigations into abortions and crimes related to pregnancy. 

Spokesperson for Athenians for Bodily Autonomy Ari Faber expressed appreciation for the resolution during the Committee of the Whole meeting on Nov. 14. 

“It will go far in protecting the citizens of Athens and the students of Ohio University. I know I speak for many when I say how grateful I am to live in a city where elected officials care about our rights to bodily autonomy enough to do something,” Faber said. 

But some community members like Loraine McCosker wondered if more couldn’t be done. 

“I would very much like to see something more substantial where we were absolutely not prosecuting someone who is seeking this medical care. Abortion is medical care, it is a human right, it is a civil right,” McCosker said. 

McCosker asked why the council chose a resolution, as opposed to an ordinance. A resolution is a statement of the views or opinions of the City Council on a specific topic, while an ordinance contains specific action to be taken. 

Council member Sarah Grace explained to McCosker that as abortion after six-weeks can be charged as a felony in Ohio, it is outside of the city’s jurisdiction and therefore an ordinance would essentially be meritless. 

“Though I regret to say so, our city law director is not the person or office that prosecutes felony crimes, that is the city office, they prosecute misdemeanors,” Grace said. “We are limited in the scope of our authority.” 

Grace also pointed out the fact that there are no abortion providers in Athens. 

“City Council only has authority over what happens within the city of Athens,” Grace said. 

Mayor Steve Patterson stated that he would sign the resolution following its adoption by the City Council. WOUB reached out to his office and was unable to confirm that it was signed as of time of publication.