Delaware AG sues city of Seaford over abortion ordinance

The complaint asks Chancery Court to make permanent a stay on the ordinance’s enforcement imposed by the city itself in hopes of thwarting a lawsuit.

File photo: Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings (Cris Barrish)

File photo: Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings (Cris Barrish)

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings has made good on her threat to sue the city of Seaford over its recently enacted abortion ordinance, which would require anyone who has an abortion or miscarriage to bury or cremate the fetal tissue.

“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,” Jennings said.

After approving the ordinance on Dec. 14, the Seaford City Council backtracked on Dec. 30, putting an indefinite stay on enforcement of the law in hopes of staving off the litigation Jennings and others, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, had threatened.

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In the complaint filed Tuesday, Jennings asked Delaware’s Chancery Court to make that stay on enforcement permanent.

“The law is clear: Seaford’s ordinance is precluded by state law. This ordinance is part of a national wave of anti-abortion policies funded by extremists who would have our country dragged 50 years into the past,” she said. “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.”

Jennings said the Seaford ordinance overlaps areas already covered by state law, including regulations of the treatment and disposition of pathological waste, including fetal tissue. Her court complaint also points to state laws covering health care facilities and reporting spontaneous fetal death and induced termination.

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Planned Parenthood of Delaware’s Ruth Lytle-Barnaby said the city’s decision to stay enforcement of the ordinance shows it was politically driven.

“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,” Lytle-Barnaby said. “Planned Parenthood of Delaware will not stand by as elected officials try to insert themselves into our patients’ most personal decisions, and we continue to support the Department of Justice in pushing back.”

The Seaford ordinance was introduced just weeks after Planned Parenthood of Delaware confirmed it would open a clinic there, the first such facility in southern Delaware since a clinic in Rehoboth closed its doors in 2011.

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