Tennessee City Abandons Effort to Ban Access to Abortion Following ACLU Lawsuit

September 10, 2020 3:15 pm

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In a victory for reproductive rights, the city of Mount Juliet, Tennessee today abandoned its efforts to ban the provision of procedural abortion care within the city limits following a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, and the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of carafem, a national network of reproductive health care clinics. Carafem originally provided medication abortion care in Mt. Juliet, and intended to expand its practice to include surgical abortion. When the city learned of these plans, municipal officials quickly passed a zoning ordinance to directly obstruct the clinic’s ability to provide the care. After it passed, the law forced carafem to turn many patients away, pushing abortion access further out of reach for Tennesseans.

In May, the ordinance was enjoined by a federal court. In granting the injunction, the court ruled that the plaintiff was likely to succeed on the merits of their claim, finding that both the purpose and the effect of the ordinance were to create an undue burden on the constitutional rights of women seeking pre-viability surgical abortions.

Following the ruling, the city repealed the ordinance. Today, the city settled the lawsuit, agreeing to allow carafem to operate anywhere in the city where medical services are permitted.

“City commissioners in Mt. Juliet have now wasted taxpayers’ money and months in court, in a futile attempt to ban access to abortion,” said Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Let this be a warning to politicians, especially those in the statehouse in Nashville whose ban on abortion from the earliest weeks of pregnancy was blocked in court just last month: If you attack your constituents’ constitutional right to abortion, we will see you in court. And we will win.”

“The bottom line here is that politicians have no business interfering in people’s personal decisions about pregnancy,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU of Tennessee legal director. “City commissioners were very vocal about the fact that they were trying to impose their own political agendas on Tennessee women, without regard for patients’ health or the decisions they had made about the best course for their own lives. Across Tennessee, we will continue to fight back against such unconstitutional attacks on abortion care.

Carafem is represented by Elizabeth Gray and Heather Schneider of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Andrew Beck at the ACLU, and Thomas H. Castelli at the ACLU of Tennessee.

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