(The Center Square) – The state’s attorney general has filed suit against a lower Delaware town for an ordinance that she says goes against state law.

In a news release, Attorney General Kathy Jennings said she filed suit against the city of Seaford over the city’s ordinance pertaining to abortions and miscarriages. The complaint was filed in the Court of Chancery.

The ordinance, which was passed on Dec. 14, 2021, and is to take effect Jan. 22, requires anyone having a “surgical abortion at an ‘abortion facility’ or a miscarriage at a ‘health care facility’ to pay the costs of interment or cremation. According to the release, the ordinance removes the pre-emption under state law, “despite the hardship on patients.”

Jennings said in the release two warnings were issued to the city as it was debating the measure.

“It brings me no joy to sue one of our own cities,” Jennings said in the release, “but three councilmen backed by dark, outside money have left me with no choice. 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 fifty years into the past. 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.”

According to the release, Planned Parenthood of Delaware said it was opening a clinic in the western Sussex County town, following the September 2011 closure of a Rehoboth Beach location. The clinic would be the second such clinic south of Dover.

City council, the release reads, reviewed a draft of the ordinance on Sept. 28, 2021. An Oct. 12, 2021, vote by the council was stalled following Jennings and the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware raising issue with the measure’s constitutionality.

According to the release, on Dec. 14 the council passed the ordinance “with a promise that an anonymous outside donor would fund the defense against the State’s coming lawsuit.”

The city, on Dec. 30, 2021, according to the release, voted to “stay enforcement” of the ordinance, but not its effectiveness. City council can lift the “stay enforcement,” unlike a judicial stay, and can enforce the ordinance.

Seaford announced in a news release the city was aware of the lawsuit.

Dan Griffith, the city’s solicitor, said that 13 other states require fetal remains to be cremated or buried.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of these laws, saying that the government has a legitimate interest in the disposal of fetal remains,” Griffith said in the release.

The city, according to the release, said it is using “the same language as these laws,” and recognizes the city can’t enact “any ordinance which is contrary to state law and has repeatedly invited the state to participate in the process, with no success.”

According to the release, the city tabled the ordinance at the state’s request, and “stayed enforcement of the ordinance, when the House Majority Leader announced she was working with the AG on legislation which would address this.”

Seaford, the release reads, “desires not to litigate over an ordinance, whose enforcement has been stayed” as the city awaits pending action on the issue by the General Assembly.

“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,” Griffith said. “It is disappointing that the AG is using our overcrowded court system and taxpayer money to pit governments against each other.”

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.