When we opened a carafem health center in the Nashville suburb of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee in February 2019, we anticipated challenges. Just two days after opening, city leaders convened to discuss an ordinance that would have forced us to close and relocate our office. Within those same two days of opening, our appointment schedule for the entire month filled with local residents seeking abortion care, highlighting the pressing need for this care in the community. This situation revealed two distinct truths: local politicians were determined to impede our work, while the community resolutely demonstrated their need for and reliance on our services.
Despite current legal restrictions on medically supervised abortion care within Tennessee, carafem has persevered. We are pleased to announce a recent victory: six anti-abortion extremists were convicted of felony conspiracy charges last week. This conviction stemmed from their actions of physically blocking the door to our office in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee on March 5, 2021.
Three years ago, this group of anti-abortion extremists unlawfully entered the medical building housing carafem’s Mt. Juliet Health Center and physically blocked our clinic doors. Some clients with appointments were unable to access our office due to the blockade. However, with the safety of our clients and staff always being our top priority, we were able to delay seeing most of our clients until the individuals trespassing and intimidating our clients and staff were removed. That morning, local law enforcement was able to remove an estimated 25-35 protestors from our otherwise quiet medical plaza, resulting in 11 eventual arrests.
The trial against six of these anti-abortion extremists concluded last week with a decisive victory for carafem and all abortion care providers. A federal jury unanimously found all six trespassers guilty of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which safeguards patients’ right to access reproductive health centers. Sentencing is scheduled for July, with the convicted extremists facing up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $260,000.
Melissa Grant, carafem’s Chief Operations Officer, emphasized the organization’s unwavering commitment to the safety and security of clients and staff. Grant provided this statement after our victory:
“The intentional blockade of our carafem health center in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee was a premeditated act of trespass, aimed at obstructing our clients from accessing and our staff from providing essential healthcare services… We are gratified to witness justice being served.”
People who need abortions deserve high-quality, accessible, compassionate, and comprehensive medical care provided in their own communities. Abortion is a common experience for at least 1 in 4 people who can become pregnant. Abortion seekers are the experts in their own reproductive health experiences and should have the support to make the best decision for their lives, their futures, and for their families.
But this legal victory serves as a strong message to those who seek to restrict access to safe and legal abortions. It reaffirms that abortion care providers and patients deserve fair and protected access to vital reproductive healthcare, regardless of the political opinions of those who disagree.
carafem proudly provides high quality abortion care as part of more comprehensive reproductive health care in 17 states. We center the needs of our clients in everything we do. Whether people want to access care online, through video appointments, or in a health center, carafem strives to provide abortion care when and how people want it. We are incredibly grateful for our dedicated staff, excellent legal advocates, and the support of the people in the communities we serve.
While we are grateful for this legal win, we know our work is far from over. carafem remains steadfast in our commitment to continuing to expand access to high quality, compassionate abortion care in communities across our country.
As always, if you or someone you know needs sexual or reproductive health care, give us a call at 1-855-SAY-CARA or access care online.