SEAFORD — The state of Delaware has vowed to take legal action against the city of Seaford following City Council’s narrow passage Dec. 14 of a divisive ordinance that will require burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortions performed within city limits.
“To be clear, we plan to sue,” said Department of Justice spokesman Mat Marshall Thursday afternoon.
Wednesday — the morning after city council by 3-2 vote approved the ordinance — Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings issued an official statement on the Attorney General/DOJ Facebook site: “Last night, Seaford City Council narrowly passed an anti-choice ordinance despite written notice that they were in flagrant violation of State law, constitutional precedent, and established fundamental rights. I am left with no choice but to do exactly what the councilmen were warned of: sue one of our own cities on behalf of the people of our state. And in the end, this ordinance’s inevitably short life span will accomplish nothing other than a colossal waste of taxpayer money.”
Council members Matt MacCoy, Orlando Holland and Dan Henderson supported passage of the ordinance, which was spearheaded by Seaford Mayor David Genshaw. Councilmen James King and Jose Santos opposed.
The ordinance had the assurance of city solicitor Daniel Griffith that it “would pass constitutional muster.”
Council’s endorsement came despite a letter received by Mr. Griffith earlier Tuesday from the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, which cited several concerns.
Barring any legal roadblocks, Seaford’s ordinance would go into effect after a 30-day advertisement period.
City code states, “Violation of this ordinance shall be enforced either by way of civil infraction or by way of notice and order, with associated fines for such violation,” but doesn’t provide any specifics.
“We just expect people to abide by the ordinance,” Mayor Genshaw said. “Again, I think the intent is that they are going to abide by the law.”
Seaford’s ordinance is crafted from existing state law in Indiana, which requires abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, according to Mayor Genshaw.
The ordinance proposal has been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union Delaware, National Organization of Women, Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, and Sussex Women’s March as an effort to limit abortion.
Believing the ordinance violates state law and the constitution, ACLU Delaware Executive Director Mike Brickner said after Tuesday’s vote that the ACLU believes “that this ordinance will be subject to legal challenge.”
Those in support of ordinance passage included those with Delaware Family Policy Council, who believe remains from abortions deserve more dignified disposal as opposed to being placed in barrels/containers and picked up by medical waste trucks.
Ms. Jennings reaffirmed the DOJ’s stance in her post.
“This has been an alarming couple of years for the American majority who believe that abortion should be safe and legal, and who see the nationwide wave of medieval — and frankly hateful — anti-choice policies for exactly what they are,” Ms. Jennings stated. “To those people, let me say this: Delaware will not move backwards on my watch. This ordinance is not who we are. And it will not withstand our legal challenge.”