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City of Mt. Juliet settles lawsuit with carafem

The Mt. Juliet city commission voted Monday night to settle a lawsuit with carafem after the business sued the city last year.

Carafem Health Center, a women’s health clinic that provides birth control and abortion services, brought a complaint against the city of Mt. Juliet alleging a zoning ordinance would essentially prohibit the clinic from providing surgical abortion services within the city.

In May, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction barring Mt. Juliet officials from enforcing the ordinance as it placed “undue burden” and a “substantial obstacle” in the way of women seeking abortions in Mt. Juliet. The city commission voted to repeal the ordinance and an amendment to it in June.

The board voted 3-0-1 to settle the lawsuit with carafem for $225,000.

City attorney Gino Marchetti said the ordinance and its amendment were to avoid placing abortions under the stricter restrictions applicable to healthcare facilities that give city officials discretion in allowing or denying a surgical abortion clinic.

“Given the constitutional protection afforded to abortion, the purpose of our zoning ordinance and its amendment was to eliminate this discretion,” he said.

Marchetti also said that the defense counsel for the city misstated the city’s intent. Instead of stating the ordinance was to limit the zoning areas where surgical abortion clinics may be located, the counsel emphasized than an exclusion on the clinics were OK because Nashville offered abortion services.

He said that though distasteful and a bitter pill to swallow, settling the lawsuit for $225,000 was the only viable alternative to the city to “prevent additional protracted and unfruitful litigation and expense to the city,” especially as it continues to recover from the March tornado and ongoing threats posed by the pandemic.

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