Del. Attorney General files suit against City of Seaford over abortion ordinance
SEAFORD, Del. – Delaware’s Attorney General Kathy Jennings has filed a lawsuit against the City of Seaford over a recently enacted ordinance.
The ordinance was passed on December 14th, 2021 and is set to go into effect on January 22nd, 2021. It would require anyone who has an abortion at an “abortion facility” or miscarriage at a “health care facility” to have the fetal remains interred or cremated at their own expense.
The lawsuit alleges that Seaford’s ordinance is pre-empted by state law. Attorney General Jennings says the state has already covered the issue through legislation, and there’s not room for municipal policymaking under Delaware’s Home Rule Act. The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the ordinance is invalid, as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction on enforcement of the ordinance. A Motion for Expedited Proceedings is calling for the court to schedule a hearing on the injunction motion within the next 90 days.
“It brings me no joy to sue one of our own cities, but three councilmen backed by dark, outside money have left me with no choice,” said Attorney General Jennings. “This ordinance is part of a national wave of anti-abortion policies funded by extremists who would have our country dragged fifty years into the past. Left unchecked, it threatens serious, irreparable, and unconstitutional harm. And at the end of the day, it will amount to little more than an expensive publicity stunt.”
Planned Parenthood of Delaware announced it would opening a new clinic in Seaford on August 24th, 2021. It is only the second clinic on the Delmarva Peninsula south of Dover. On September 28th, 2021, Seaford City Council reviewed a draft of the ordinance, and scheduled a vote for October 12th. That vote was delayed after Attorney General Jennings and the ACLU of Delaware raised concerns over its constitutionality.
Attorney General Jennings’ office says they issued several warnings to the City of Seaford about the proposal, saying it was contrary to state law. The Council had promised that an anonymous outside donor would fund any defense against the state’s lawsuit. On December 30th, 2021, the Council voted to “stay enforcement” of the ordinance. City Council can lift any self-imposed “stay” at any time, and enforce the ordinance immediately.
President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Delaware Ruth Lytle-Barnaby says the organization is grateful for Attorney General Jennings’ support. Lytle-Barnaby wrote in a statement, “Though the measure purports to be about dignity, it continues the stigma around abortion and would make it harder for patients to access abortion and miscarriage care. Individuals who choose to undergo abortions need support and understanding, not unlawful statutes that shame them.”