In an effort to avoid a lawsuit, Seaford Council recently voted in a special meeting not to enforce its recently enacted fetal remains ordinance, although it could put the law into effect at any time.
That has not prevented a lawsuit.
For those who've been living under a rock lately, the city's new ordinance requires that fetal remains from abortion or certain miscarriages be cremated or buried. That has caused a stir, with advocates for legal abortion arguing that the city is trying to restrict abortion as a new Planned Parenthood clinic sets up shop there, and saying it's a way to stigmatize women for seeking an abortion. Proponents on Seaford Council say they are simply requiring dignified treatment for human remains and that the ordinance does not restrict abortion.
On Tuesday, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced the lawsuit, which seeks to have the ordinance declared invalid and prevent the city from enforcing it.
"It brings me no joy to sue one of our own cities," Jennings said in a statement. But, she said, Seaford's ordinance is not allowed under state law and is part of a national wave of anti-abortion policies.
"At the end of the day, it will amount to little more than an expensive publicity stunt," she said. That echoes opinions expressed by Seaford Councilman James King, who opposed the law.
The city of Seaford, in a statement, said the ordinance has never been about abortion, and that it has done everything possible to avoid litigation.
City attorney Daniel Griffith said in the statement, “We anticipate that the lawsuit will be dismissed as moot (because the Ordinance has been stayed) so that the General Assembly can address this issue. It is disappointing that the AG is using our overcrowded court system and taxpayer money to pit governments against each other.”
Representatives of several Delaware organizations applauded the attorney general's move, including Delaware's National Organization for Women chapter, the ACLU of Delaware, Women's March of Sussex and Planned Parenthood of Delaware.
"We support the AG in standing up for the rule of law which protects abortion as health care for Delawareans and any woman who needs to rely on our state for abortion access," said Melissa Froemming, president of Delaware NOW, in a statement.