A Fairfax City abortion clinic — the busiest in Virginia — has shut its doors six days after a controversial vote by the Fairfax City Council.
NOVA Women’s Healthcare, in operation on Eaton Place in Fairfax since 2006, is no more. An unidentified woman answering the phone on Monday said the facility was closed, and would not say whether it would be relocating.
Last year the clinic performed more than 3,000 abortions, the most of any single clinic in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health. There are 18 abortion clinics in Virginia, according to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.
In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly voted to regulate abortion clinics in such a way as to treat them as surgical centers, requiring strict requirements and rigid building codes similar to those required of hospitals. Before this measure, clinics were not held to this standard and instead were regulated as physician’s offices instead of hospitals.
The Virginia Board of Health voted to uphold the measure in April. The board’s vote was then certified by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and given final approval three weeks ago by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).
In addition to the new state requirements, the Fairfax City Council on July 9 voted to amend its zoning law to require all “medical care facilities” — excluding physician and dental offices — within city limits, to obtain a special use permit at a cost of $4,800, along with an approval process requiring a final vote by the council on a case-by-case basis for each applicant.
“The overall goal of the amendment was to create clarity and predictability when categorizing the various medical uses and ensuring that the appropriate level of city review was provided to mitigate impacts on health, welfare and safety,” wrote Fairfax City Zoning Administrator Michelle Coleman in the amendment.
The Fairfax City amendment also creates parking requirements specific to medical care facilities.
In May, the clinic had approached the council aboout moving to a new location on Main Street where it could meet the new state requirements and potentially keep providing its services, according to City of Fairfax records.
“The Fairfax City Council took up this measure after NOVA Women’s Healthcare submitted an application to move to Main Street in May. The clinic’s request was eventually denied on the grounds that its prospective building had one parking space below the minimum required,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, in a statement. “The fact that a single parking space helped dictate the ability of this clinic to continue providing safe and legal care is a testament to the many intricate and intersecting barriers that Virginia’s women’s health centers face every single day.”
In the amendment, Coleman states that the new Fairfax City zoning amendment requirement is not unusual, and is based on a number of objective factors, such as the number of beds and employees at each facility.
“Staff has researched the topic and inquired with other jurisdictions regarding zoning policies on medical uses,” she wrote. “These proposed amendments reflect treatment by other jurisdictions and also staff’s experience with these uses in the city.” The Fairfax City Council voted 4-2 to pass the amendment. Council members Eleanor D. Schmidt and David L. Meyer voted against it.
On Monday, Director Troy Newman of the antiabortion group Operation Rescue, called the Virginia measure of requiring clinics to adhere to stricter medical measures “cutting edge” and said it will inspire other jurisdictions to do the same.
“I have personally led protests at the NOVA facility in Fairfax and I am elated that it has closed,” he said. “I applaud Virginia for requiring abortion clinics to operate like normal surgical centers. It is cutting edge, and any measures that work, like this one, will be duplicated in other areas.”