Del. Chancery Court Backs State Challenge Of Seaford Ordinance Concerning Disposal Of Fetal Remains

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The City of Seaford’s much-discussed ordinance that attempted to require that remains following the termination of a pregnancy be buried or cremated has been overturned in a Delaware Chancery Court ruling released Wednesday.

City officials who supported the ordinance said the goal was to provide dignified treatment of remains and that it was not an attempt to restrict or block anyone’s access to abortion services. The ordinance was challenged by the Department of Justice and Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

Jennings had warned the city about potential litigation when the ordinance was considered. Seaford officials have said that an anonymous contributor would support the city’s legal costs.

The ordinance was also introduced not long after Planned Parenthood of Delaware had opened a local facility.

The City of Seaford released this statement Wednesday afternoon:

The City received the court’s opinion issued today, June 29, 2022, regarding the fetal remains ordinance litigation, ruling in favor of the State, invalidating the City Ordinance.
The City of Seaford was seeking a dignified way to handle fetal remains and we were advised may be a legal pathway to do so. We did not believe that disposing of fetal remains in a dignified manner would be controversial; we attempted to work with the State to ensure that the Ordinance would be consistent with state law, without success; and we believed this issue should have, and could have, been resolved by legislation as opposed to litigation. Toward that end, the City stayed enforcement of the Ordinance, so
the litigation could be avoided.
While we are disappointed in the Court’s opinion, we will abide by its ruling.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has unleashed a wave of extremist, draconian laws across our country. That wave stops here,” Jennings said. “This ruling firmly rejects a clearly illegal and harmful attempt to nullify State law and to use dark money to return us to the Dark Ages. It protects residents and visitors of Seaford from a cruel and frankly hateful policy. And it makes clear that Delaware remains a safe haven for choice and reproductive freedom exactly when those sanctuaries are needed most. I am grateful to the Court for its wisdom and to our team for their quick response and tireless work on this case.”

“Planned Parenthood of Delaware is pleased with this decision,” Planned Parenthood of Delaware President and CEO Ruth Lytle-Barnaby said. “As we expected, Vice Chancellor Laster recognized state law forbids local regulations of the type the city attempted to pass. We are hopeful that we can now focus on providing care to the Seaford area rather than defending ourselves against unnecessary, harmful, and legally questionable ordinances. Our sincere thanks go to the Department of Justice for their hard work on this case and their commitment to defending reproductive rights. PPDE will continue to offer top-notch care to all and to fight for your ability to receive sexual and reproductive health services.”

“Even after last week’s devastating Dobbs decision, abortion remains a codified right in Delaware,” Delaware ACLU Executive Director Mike Brickner stated. “Yesterday, our General Assembly fortified that right by expanding access to abortion, and today, the Delaware Chancery Court also reinforced that right, making it clear that municipal attacks on our state-guaranteed right to abortion won’t stand. ACLU-DE applauds Attorney General Kathy Jennings, and her team, for their swift and effective legal action against Seaford’s city council to permanently block the city’s illegal fetal remains ordinance.”

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