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Some state lawmakers plan to step in on Seaford fetal remains ordinance

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

A new ordinance regulating the disposal of fetal remains in Seaford could have a short life with state intervention looming.

The ordinance passed by the Seaford City Council imposes stricter requirements on the disposal of fetal remains in the city. It’s passage came on the heels of Planned Parenthood opening a new clinic in the city.

Seaford’s attorney argued the city is able to pass the measure because state law doesn’t preempt them from doing so.

But some state lawmakers are already planning a response, including House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst.

“What happened in Seaford should not be happening at the municipality level,” she says. “Them taking that into their own hands and making decisions is not the way that we run our government.”

Longhurst says the ordinance is simply designed to shame women seeking an abortion, and discourage them from doing so.

And she has an ally in the State Attorney General, who is filing a lawsuit against the city over the ordinance.

Longhurst says she’s working with AG Kathy Jennings on a bill to close this loophole and prevent municipalities from passing similar laws.

“As Delaware, as we move forward we’re gonna have people that are gonna challenge women’s rights to choose and any avenues to derail women,” says Longhurst. “So yes, we will be addressing it as we go along.”

She says protecting rights like abortion access require constant care, and hopes to get a bill passed quickly to keep any lawsuits from dragging on in the courts, and set clear boundaries going forward.

Seaford City Council is slated to meet in a special session Thursday at 6 p.m. to consider a proposal to “stay enforcement” of the ordinance that could temporarily head off lawsuits, as well as to discuss funding defense against any suits filed

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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