Virginia's Largest Abortion Provider Closes Under City Ordinance

July 16, 2013 —Virginia's highest-volume abortion clinic, NOVA Women's Healthcare, has closed because of a new city ordinance changing its zoning and approval requirements, the Washington Post reports. The facility provided 3,066 abortions in 2012, according to the Post.

After the state approved regulations requiring abortion clinics to have hospital-grade facilities, NOVA needed to upgrade its existing clinic or move to a new one. After finding a possible new location in March, NOVA applied for a nonresidential use permit to retrofit the space.

However, the permit was denied in May because of inadequate parking, according to zoning administrator Michelle Coleman. Coleman said that the clinic has not sought a special exemption to the parking rules from the city council.

Trouble With Landlord

NOVA's ability to remain open was in jeopardy before the new city and state regulations took effect, the Post reports. In mid-June the clinic agreed to move from the facility, according to Fairfax County Court records from one of two lawsuits filed against the clinic.

In the first lawsuit, the building's owner, Eaton Place Associates, sued the clinic in December 2011 because protesters presented an "unreasonable annoyance" to the owner and other building tenants. The suit claimed the clinic's clients would be seen "lying down in corridors...and, in some instances, even vomiting." NOVA and Eaton Place settled the suit.

Eaton Place filed the second suit in Fairfax General District Court for the clinic's failure to pay $95,000 in back rent. In June, NOVA agreed to pay the amount owed and move out of the space, according to court records.

City Council Passes Ordinance

During Eaton Place's legal action against the clinic, Fairfax City officials were working on amending a zoning ordinance to require all clinics -- which would now be referred to as medical care facilities -- to get a special-use permit and approval from the council. In the past, clinics were treated as doctor's offices and not required to seek city council approval.

The Fairfax City Council passed the amendment on Tuesday, likely making it difficult for NOVA to reopen.

Alena Yarmosky, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, stated that NOVA had been "trying to relocate because they couldn't stay where they were" due to the new regulations. She added that while NOVA was the largest abortion provider in the state, "thousands of women also relied on them for birth control and other health care" because they were not able to afford it elsewhere. Yarmosky said those women now are "left without their trusted health-care provider" (Jackman, Washington Post, 7/14).