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ACLU sues City of Mt. Juliet over zoning ordinance

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee, in addition to the national organization, recently filed a lawsuit against the City of Mt. Juliet regarding a zoning ordinance limiting surgical abortion services within city limits. The organization announced the lawsuit on Dec. 18, 2019.

According to the ACLU, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of carafem, which opened in Mt. Juliet on March 1, 2019. Carafem is a network of reproductive health centers with locations in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland and Tennessee.

The Mt. Juliet location provides birth control and emergency contraception as well as medication abortions via a pill. When the clinic opened, it did not offer surgical abortion, but did look to add the service at a later date.

The Mt. Juliet City Commission held a special-called meeting on Sunday, March 3, to pass an ordinance that limited the services carafem could provide at its current location. The board voted to rezone surgical centers that provide surgical abortions from commercial to industrial zoning. The clinic is currently located in a building zoned for commercial activities.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The complaint alleges, in part, that the ordinance “does not protect the health, safety, or welfare of Mt. Juliet citizens, and serves no legitimate governmental interest. It simply prohibits carafem from providing surgical abortions, in turn unduly burdening Tennesseans attempting to access abortion.”

Melissa Grant, chief operating officer of carafem, said in a news release that they were filing the lawsuit to not only fight against an “unfair, obstructive” zoning ordinace, but to “stand up for Tennesseans who deserve access to safe, comprehensive abortion care, regardless of their political or social opinion.”

Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty could not speak on the pending litigation, referring all questions to the city attorney.

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