By Lynn Schofer

The Seaford City Council unanimously voted to stay enforcement of the recently approved ordinance which established a process for the disposition of fetal remains from pregnant women seeking abortion within the city of Seaford. The special meeting was held on Thursday with four of the five councilmen. Absent was Dan Henderson, who was out of the state and was unable to be present for the vote. 

Attorney Daniel Griffith presented an explanation to the Council, “The motion that is going to be under consideration is not a reconsideration of the dignity ordinance. The motion is to stay enforcement of the dignity ordinance.”    

Griffith said the stay is pending action by the General Assembly. The city reserves the right to lift the stay on proper notice. 

Each council member provided an explanation for the vote, beginning with Councilman Matt MacCoy, who voted in support of the ordinance. “It is important that our wording is consistent. Through this entire process we have attempted to work and communicate with the state. We are not voting on the ordinance itself but a pathway forward. This decision, and all decisions, should be made by representation and not in a courtroom via litigation.” 

Councilman Orlando Holland said of his reason to vote for the stay, “This will allow legislation time to come to a conclusion.”

Councilman James King, who opposed the ordinance, read a prepared statement. “This ordinance, in my opinion, is a complete waste of time, energy, and resources. We are having conversations around something that in my opinion is completely illegal. I feel this ordinance is illegal, unconstitutional and is a violation of civil rights. I feel the stay enforcement is just a stall tactic to delay the inevitable. I feel this ordinance is a complete overreach of government, nothing more than grandstanding and posturing. As an elected official, we must uphold our elected duties; the separation of church and state implemented by the first amendment to the constitution is one of them. We cannot sponsor religion, promote religious ideals or require individuals to practice a particular faith. With that being said, like it or not, all women have a right to choose. The due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental right to privacy that protects a woman’s liberty to choose, regardless of our biblical views. I feel that the city of Seaford Ordinance violates that right. Once again, the state of Delaware currently has a law in place that handles fetal remains. If that law is going to change it must happen at the appropriate levels of the General Assembly. Once again, not at a city level. In my opinion we are setting a very bad precedent and dangerous behaviors.” 

King quoted the House Majority Leader in her remarks which support his opinions. In a further statement King said that the stay puts the ordinance on hold and gives the General Assembly time to make a decision of law, “(It) will save the residents a tremendous amount of money in litigation. With that being said, I am not in favor of this ordinance but I am in favor of this to allow more time for the General Assembly to make their decision.”

Councilman Jose Santos said, “I am going to vote to stay this ordinance to avoid litigation and allow legislation at a higher level.”

The motion to stay enforcement of the ordinance passed. Mayor David Genshaw said, “I can’t thank the council enough for the leadership to take on an issue like this where the state was unclear on their standing to do what they believe to be the right thing for our community.”

Genshaw hopes the state will not delay in responding to the stay, “I would like to think the state is going to react pretty quickly to this since we did what we did. This isn’t a difficult issue. No one really seems to be arguing on whether fetal remains should be handled in a ‘dignified’ manner. We should not be discarding human remains as waste.”  

The other item on the agenda, pertaining to funding of the potential litigation, was not addressed. Genshaw stated there is someone willing to financially support legal costs in the event the city is sued, but the person continues to request anonymity.  

 “I am exceptionally proud of our City Council members. This is not the first time I have led them down this road,” said Genshaw, who cited the right to work ordinance, which was passed and later quashed by a state bill that guaranteed the right of private employers to require employees to join or pay fees to a union.  “Council made tough a decision. Right decisions aren’t always the easy decisions.”