In a move that appears destined to turn this city into a national battleground over abortion laws, the city council yesterday passed, 7 to 6, a tough ordinance regulating abortions.
"We consider this to be a historic occasion," proclaimed Marvin Weinberger, 23 year-old law student and chairman of Citizens for Informed Consent (CIC), which wrote and promoted the controversial bill.
Among other provisions, the bill mandates that any woman seeking an abortion first be given detailed and, critics say, intimidating description of fetal development. It also require that the parents of an unmarried patient under 18 be n* otified before an abortion, and that the parents of an unmarried patient under 15 give their consent.
Weinberger said the CIC would establish a "clearinghouse in Akron to promote national legislation" based on this city's model.
But the bill's opponents promised a strong legal fight based on their premise, shared by the city's chief trial lawyer, that the ordinance is underconsitutional.
Opponents argue that it intrudes on a woman's "freedom of choice" in seeking an abortion by setting up certain "intimidating" requirements.
Benson Wolman, executive director of the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union , announces shortly after the vote that the ACLU will chalenge the ordinance's constitutionality.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America condemned the ordinance as a "savage threat to the emotional and physical well-being of women who seek an abortion."
Faye Wattleton, the federation's national president, said in a prepared statement: "The clearly unconstitutional character of the ordinance suggests that the intent of its promoter was not really to set new conditions for the performance of abortions, but rather to provide a public relations forum for promotion of their ideological position."
There remains, however, the possibility that Republican mayor John Ballard will veto the ordinance. Aides said he would review it in detail before announcing his decision.
Pro Choice Coalition, which opposes the ordinance, believes Ballard's past statements upholding the private relationship between a woman and her physician are an indication he will veto it.
Nine city council votes would be required to override.
Before yesterday's vote, dissenting council members blasted proponents for ignoring the question of consitutionality. Elsie Reaven, one of 12 Democrats on the council, said the measure was a "flagrant contradiction" of a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that a woman has an absolute right during her first three months of pregnancy to determine whether to bear her child. She accused Weinberger of participating in an "obvious publicity hunt which has brought the media, but no honor, to Akron.
After yesterday's session, Weinberger said he had "no misgivings" about the ordinance's constitutionality.
"If anything," he contended, "it's conservative."