NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Tennessee city that tried to outlaw surgical abortions has agreed to pay $225,000 in legal fees to attorneys representing an abortion clinic, according to an order entered in federal court in Nashville on Thursday.
As part of the order, the city of Mt. Juliet also has agreed to let the carafem abortion clinic operate anywhere in the city that is zoned for professional medical services or physicians offices.
Carafem opened its Mt. Juliet office on March 1, 2019. Less than 48 hours later, the city commissioners held a specially called Sunday meeting where they introduced an ordinance requiring businesses providing surgical abortions to be located in industrial zones. The ordinance also included a provision that would not allow those businesses to operate within 1000 feet (305 meters) of churches, parks, schools, libraries, child care facilities or residential areas. In practice, it covered the entire city, according to a lawsuit filed in December by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Medication abortions were allowed in regular commercial zones, but those are only offered up to about 10 weeks of pregnancy. The clinic claimed in its suit that the city acted illegally by targeting the constitutional right to an abortion. Commissioners and the mayor openly stated they were motivated by their personal opposition to abortion, according to the lawsuit.
In May, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance after determining carafem was likely to prevail at trial. On Thursday, the two sides issued their agreed order.
"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," ACLU of Tennessee legal director Thomas Castelli said in a news release announcing the settlement.
Andrew Beck, with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, took aim at Tennessee lawmakers in the release, saying, “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.”
A message left for Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty on Thursday afternoon was not immediately returned.