Update: Seaford City Council Approves Ordinance on Dignified Disposition of Fetal Remains


Image courtesy City of Seaford

The Seaford City Council has approved an ordinance for the dignified disposition of fetal remains from pregnant women seeking abortion within the City of Seaford. The Council heard from City Solicitor Dan Griffith who ran through the timeline of events since this ordinance was first brought forward several months ago. He says that while the City has the authority to enact this ordinance, he wants to work with regulations already in place in Delaware. Thirteen states have existing laws on the dignified disposal of fetal remains and Griffith says that much of the language in the city’s ordinance is taken from prior laws which have been upheld when challenged.

The Council Chamber was packed with supporters looking for passage of the ordinance. Most of the chamber was filled with women in green sweatshirts – which read on the back LIFE, Justice, Human Rights Begin with the Woman. When the ordinance was passed there were smiles and applause from the women, who during the discussion on the ordinance sat mainly expressionless in the chamber.

Griffith says that just before the second reading of the ordinance in October, he received a letter from Attorney General Kathy Jennings asking for a delay in the vote. He says since the vote was delayed – there’s been no further contact from the DOJ until last Friday, when the second reading was again placed on the City Council Agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. At 2pm Tuesday Griffith again heard from the Attorney General who pointed out several concerns in the ordinance. Griffith says that all those concerns are already dealt with by the State in one way or another, however the DOJ believes the ordinance is unconstitutional and would create and ‘undue burden on women seeking an abortion.’ Councilman Dan Henderson commented that the DOJ was acting in an unprofessional manner.

Councilman Matthew Mac Coy made the motion to approve the ordinance. The Council voted 3 to 2 to approve the ordinance.
– Matthew Mac Coy – Y
– Orlando Holland – Y
– Dan Henderson – Y
– Jose Santos – N
– James King – N

Planned Parenthood of Delaware Advocacy Fund President and CEO Ruth Lytle-Barnaby released this statement Wednesday:

Seaford City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night in favor of an ordinance that would force patients who have miscarriages or abortions to bury or cremate the fetal remains. The council has effectively forced a funeral ritual on patients unlike that required for any other medical procedure. This proposal, originally set to be voted on in October before it was tabled due to the threat of legal action by the state Department of Justice, is medically unnecessary and burdensome and will further stigmatize patients who have abortions or experience bad pregnancy outcomes. It is part of a broader effort by anti-abortion politicians to end abortion access nationwide.

It’s no coincidence this was passed just weeks after PPDE opened its new Seaford clinic. Despite what supporters may say, this measure does absolutely nothing to improve patient care. On the contrary, it is designed to make it more difficult for health care providers to offer reproductive health services in our community and to shame individuals who seek abortion.

City officials who support this ordinance have sent a powerful message: They do not value a person’s bodily autonomy or a parent’s right to make their own choices after a pregnancy loss. The people of Seaford need local representatives to focus on policies that help their town, not political stunts that shame their neighbors and put necessary health care out of reach.

The measure also has clear legal concerns that have been identified by the Delaware Department of Justice, which, along with entities like the ACLU, has pledged to bring a lawsuit. This plainly impermissible ordinance is a waste of time and resources.

We are hopeful the courts will recognize this for what it is and strike it down. But this ordinance proves yet again how critical our elected champions are to ensuring reproductive freedom for Delaware. Planned Parenthood of Delaware and our supporters will continue holding officials at all levels — from local councils to the state capitol — accountable.