We could all use a little good news these days, right? Well, we have some fantastic news straight from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee! Last Friday, a federal court issued an order on our lawsuit with the ACLU that preliminarily blocks a zoning ordinance passed by the city of Mt. Juliet that bans the provision of surgical abortion care within the city limits. This order allows us to provide in-office procedures, a form of surgical abortion, in Mt. Juliet, effective immediately.
In case you missed it, we opened our fourth location in Mt. Juliet, TN in early 2019 to address the lack of providers and unmet need in the area. When the city learned of these plans, municipal officials quickly passed a zoning ordinance to directly obstruct our ability to provide the care. This law forced us to turn many patients away and pushed abortion access further out of reach for Tennesseans and those in the surrounding communities. So we took them to court.
Mt. Juliet officials have been explicit that their sole reason for passing this ordinance was to stop people who have decided to have an abortion from being able to get one. In a statement to local news, City Commissioner Brian Abston explained: “I realize they have rights, but my constituents and I don’t want it here.” Another city commissioner, Ray Justice, said “The members of the commission I have talked to are 100 percent behind shutting this abomination down… This is not Mt. Juliet. This is not us.”
It’s clear that this ordinance was yet another attack by hostile politicians on reproductive rights. If this zoning ordinance was allowed to remain in place, Mt. Juliet politicians will have prevented us from providing comprehensive care options to our clients and will have denied our clients the right to choose what is medically best for them. Those seeking a procedure would have been forced to travel elsewhere to access the kind of abortion care they want or need – care that we could otherwise provide.
“Today, the court issued a necessary rebuke to Mt. Juliet officials’ blatant anti-abortion agenda,” said Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The ordinance was unconstitutional and medically unnecessary, serving only to obstruct Tennesseans’ right to access abortion care. We hope that this decision will force other politicians who might be similarly motivated to reconsider attacking abortion services.”
Thank you to the ACLU, ACLU of Tennessee, and the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP for fighting on behalf of carafem. The people of Tennessee deserve access to safe, comprehensive abortion care—rather than having their options limited by a political agenda. Mt. Juliet officials have tried their best to stop us, but we are here and will continue to fight.