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How Ohio’s Pro-abortion Ordinances Fail Moral and Legal Tests
Formerly of Ohio Right to Life
09 November 2022
On October 3, the City Council of Bowling Green, Ohio proposed an amendment to Section 39.1 of their codified ordinances concerning unlawful discrimination. This amendment, known as Ordinance 9031, would expand the definition of illegal discrimination “because of sex” to include discrimination on the basis of “sexual and reproductive health decisions” or in less sanguine terms, choices including elective abortion. As a result, pregnancy centers and other entities of conscience would be forced to hire pro-abortion staff and provide abortions or risk civil and criminal penalties.
Ordinance 9031 comprises a blatant, unconstitutional attempt by abortion activists to force abortion on Ohio communities by any means necessary. Although the amendment presents a variety of legal problems, we will focus on a few of the most pertinent.
As previously mentioned, the amendment seeks to categorize “sexual and reproductive health decisions” as a part of the protected class of sex. The idea of individuals comprising a “protected class” is not a new concept, nor is it a wholly unconstitutional one. Protecting classes of people with indelible characteristics such as race and sex does serve to protect against legitimate discrimination and are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In fact, the City of Bowling Green’s code was modified in 2009 to explicitly ensure that those with indelible characteristics weren’t discriminated against in regard to employment. Ordinance 9031 however, bends that concept beyond what is either right or reasonable. During hearings for Ordinance 9031, this was made abundantly apparent as not a single pro-abortion activist could recall a time when they had faced discrimination this amendment would resolve.
This fact becomes important when considering why exactly Ordinance 9031 is unconstitutional. Under the first amendment, both free speech and freedom of association are protected. Ordinance 9031 would force pro-life entities to refer for abortions and potentially hire pro-abortion employees who would stand in direct opposition to their beliefs, both actions clearly comprising violations of their first amendment rights. In order for a first amendment right to be overpowered, however, an airtight and absolutely compelling case must be presented in its favor. Testimony on Ordinance 9031 provided nothing of the sort. Although Ordinance 9031 attempts to carve out exemptions for religious organizations, this is insufficient to protect entities of conscience who may not all identify as religious, leaving it laid bare to legal attacks.
In fact, there is reason to believe that Bowling Green’s ordinance has little to no chance of being upheld in court. When the city of St. Louis passed an ordinance similar to Ordinance 9031 in 2017, a federal court struck it down, finding that compelling a pregnancy center to hire employees who stood in opposition to their mission was unconstitutional. Bowling Green’s ordinance could easily suffer the same fate, costing countless taxpayer dollars only to be found out for what it is: pro-abortion hubris.
In response to Ordinance 9031, Ohio Right to Life issued a letter to the City of Bowling Green, pointing out the ordinance’s targeting of pregnancy centers to be morally reprehensible and blatantly unconstitutional. Although the city council later brought forth amendments to Ordinance 9031 which carved out further exceptions for organizations, in a clumsy attempt to have it both ways, these additional amendments only succeed in hopelessly contradicting the entire ordinance.
Sadly, on November 7th, 2022, the Bowling Green City Council voted 6-1 to adopt Ordinance 9031, despite repeated warnings on the ordinance’s unconstitutionality and robust local opposition. Ohio Right to Life has clearly stated its intent to pursue legal action and only time will tell if this piece-mail attempt to force abortion on people of conscience in Wood County will hold up to much-deserved legal scrutiny.
It appears this spate of council-lead abortion ordinances by abortion activists is their attempt at replicating the success of highly local advocacy, such as Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn in the aftermath of Roe’s overturn. Strikingly, Ordinance 9031 contains both a public and private right of action, with the latter mimicking the Sanctuary City for the Unborn enforcement mechanisms. Additionally, Bowling Green’s City Council is not the first to attempt clear pro-abortion ordinances. Two other Ohio communities, Cuyahoga County, in which the city of Cleveland is located, and the city of Columbus have both passed similar ordinances. The Columbus City Council additionally passed an ordinance that took direct aim at pregnancy centers and allocated grant money to investigate their legitimacy.
The use of city councils to push abortion on the ground level is emerging as a central strategy of the pro-abortion movement post-Roe. In the ACLU’s Post-Roe Ohio Activist Toolkit: Abortion Advocacy In Your Local Community, released on September 30, 2022, abortion activists outline their plans to promote abortion through city council leadership, which include paying city employees’ travel costs to have abortions out of state, creating grants to funnel taxpayer dollars to pro-abortion groups, and targeting pregnancy centers. Ordinance 9031’s language is clearly inspired by this “toolkit.” Actions like these constitute the abortion industry’s current strategy to promote abortion in communities across Ohio: pass unconstitutional legislation locally and hope no one looks too closely and puts an end to the charade.
With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement has successfully shifted the fight back to our own states, cities, and communities. However, we should not be surprised that upon shifting that fight to the ground, the pro-abortion movement has responded in kind. The pro-life movement must remain vigilant and legally sharp to protect every innocent human’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not just on the national scale, but in our own communities as well.
 City of Bowling Green, Ohio, “Ordinance Amending and Adopting Section 39.01 of the Codified Ordinances…” Fall 2022.
 See 
 “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - United States Department of ...” www.justice.gov, December 5, 2010, accessed November 8, 2022.
 See 
 Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, 647 (2000) accessed October 24, 2022.
 Our Lady’s Inn v. City of St. Louis, 349 F. Supp. 3d 805,823 (E.D. Mo. 2018) accessed October 24, 2022. https://casetext.com/case/our-ladys-inn-v-city-of-st-louis
 Ohio Right to Life, “Re: Proposed Ordinance 9031, amending and adopting Section 39.01 of the codified ordinance of the City of Bowling Green, concerning unlawful discrimination,” October 24, 2022, accessed Novemeber 7, 2022. Ohiolife.org https://assets.nationbuilder.com/ohiolife/pages/5135/attachments/original/1666703179/22.10.24_Letter_to_BG_Council_Final_87_.pdf?1666703179
 “City Council 11-7-22” City of Bowling Green, November 7, 2022. YouTube video, 1:58:50. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceGLEhahLKQ
 Ohio Right to Life, “Ohio Right to Life’s Statement Columbus City Council Targeting Pregnancy Resource Centers,” July 28, 2022, accessed November 7, 2022. ohiolife.org https://www.ohiolife.org/pregnancyresourcecenterstargeted
 ACLU of Ohio, “Post-Roe Ohio Activist Toolkit: Abortion Advocacy in Your Local Community,” Fall 2022, accessed Novemeber 7, 2022. acluohio.org, https://www.acluohio.org/en/publications/post-roe-ohio-activist-toolkit-abortion-advocacy-in-your-local-community