Judge blocks ordinance aimed at preventing certain abortions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked a Tennessee city’s zoning ordinance that banned certain abortions.

U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson issued an order Friday preliminarily blocking enforcement of the ordinance in Mt. Juliet. The ordinance would have prevented abortion provider carafem from performing surgical abortions at its office in the Tennessee community.

The city’s regulations still allowed for medication abortions, up to about 10 weeks of pregnancy, but not surgical, which carafem was planning to offer, The Tennessean reported.

Not allowing surgical abortions would effectively bar a woman from receiving abortion services in Mt. Juliet if she was 11 or more weeks pregnant, meaning she would have to forego the abortion or travel to Nashville, Knoxville or Memphis to receive one.

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The judge noted that his order isn’t determinative of the issues raised in the lawsuit.

Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, called the ruling a “necessary rebuke to Mt. Juliet officials’ blatant anti-abortion agenda.”

“The ordinance was unconstitutional and medically unnecessary, serving only to obstruct Tennesseans’ right to access abortion care,” Beck said in a statement.

A call to city hall seeking comment Saturday was not immediately returned.

In his ruling, Richardson said statements from members of the Board of Commissioners, which passed the ordinance, showed that the purpose of the zoning regulation was to “place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.”

“The officials played their hand — they made clear their position: that they were going to do whatever they could to prevent abortions within Mt. Juliet because, according to them (and, presumably, many of their constituents), abortion is morally wrong,” the judge wrote.

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