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Mason becomes second city in Ohio to ban abortion

Amidst a divided crowd, Mason City Council voted 4-3 in support of a controversial abortion ban Monday night, allegedly making it the 41st community in the country to do so. The ban prohibits abortions from being performed in the city. There are currently no abortion providers in Mason.

Over a hundred people protested in front of the Mason Municipal Center Monday night before and during the meeting, holding signs for their side of the issue — protect the unborn or protect safe, legal abortions.

"I believe protecting a life is a fundamental duty of government at all levels," Vice Mayor Mike Gilb said during the meeting.

Council Member Diana Nelson describes herself as a staunch conservative, but says local laws cannot trump federal laws. She says it sets a dangerous precedent, saying a similar ban on Second Amendment rights would be fiercely fought against.

Council members Josh Styrcula and Ashley Chance both said they are anti-abortion, but didn't think city council had the right to make ordinances in contrast with federal laws. 

Mayor Kathy Grossmann, council members T.J. Honerlaw, Tony Bradburn and Gilb all voted in favor of the ordinance. 

It makes abortion a first-degree misdemeanor crime in the city but does not prohibit people from seeking legal abortion elsewhere. The ordinance goes into effect in 30 days, though people opposed are planning a referendum, which requires almost 1,500 signatures.

In May, the City Council in Lebanon, Ohio, unanimously voted for an ordinance that prohibits abortion and abortion providers from setting up shop in the city, becoming the first city in Ohio to institute such a ban.

Cheers and Jeers

For those wo opposed the ordinance, they felt the issue was simple: Mayor Grossmann, they said, was using the abortion issue as a political tool.

Mason resident Sonia Milrod said, "I just think that for Mason City Council to be involved in setting an abortion ban, a sanctuary city, is ridiculous. And they it has nothing to do with a city council should do. They need to pay attention to roads and to public services. This is divisive. It's ripping up our community."

She says Grossman is already using the issue as a point on her 2022 campaign literature for state representative.

Resident Jose Contreras agrees. He said after the vote he kept track of all the speakers during the 90 minutes allowed for public comment. He says 16 non-Mason residents spoke in favor of the ordinance while two non-residents spoke against it. Meanwhile, 14 Mason residents spoke against the ban and 4 spoke in favor of it.

"So, clearly Mason is not where she is, so that's why she wouldn't allow for this to go to the ballot," he said, referencing a motion made by Styrcula earlier in the evening that failed.

But for those who oppose abortion, the ordinance is very much needed in the community because they view abortion as "murder."

For instance, Allie Frazier is from Columbus and represents the statewide organization Ohio Right to Life.

"I believe that the people of Mason are compassionate and principled people and to be able to come down here and support them as they fight, with so much fervor and so much passion to become a sanctuary city for the unborn against all odds, it was important that Ohio Right to Life was down here," she said.

Frazier said abortion medically ends a human life, something ordinance supports agreed upon as they held green signs urging council to "Protect the unborn."

Speakers in support of the ordnance shared prayers and their hope that council would side with their religious preferences.

Vice Mayor Mike Gilb said, on a fundamental level, council should always work in support of protecting people.

"I believe protecting a life is a fundamental duty of government at all levels," Vice Mayor Mike Gilb said.

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Jolene Almendarez