Virginia’s Abortion Restrictions Force The State’s Busiest Clinic To Close Its Doors

(Credit: RH Reality Check)

Virginia’s busiest abortion clinic has shut down, falling victim to local and state laws that indirectly ban abortions by forcing clinics to comply with complicated rules and regulations.

NOVA Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax City closed its doors last month after it failed to meet the state’s new clinic regulations, which were passed in April. The laws — often referred to as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP — require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient hospital facilities, requiring unnecessary changes that are often too costly for clinics to make.

NOVA had been trying to relocate in order to comply with the new regulations, which require clinics to widen their hallways and doorways and expand their entrance areas and parking facilities. The clinic found a new office in March. But in May, zoning officials denied its permit to renovate the space because they decided that the building’s parking was inadequate.

Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, told the Washington Post that NOVA “was trying to relocate because they couldn’t stay where they were, because of the new regulations… The fact they were forced to move, that’s a testament to the barriers these providers face.”

NOVA is the busiest abortion clinic in Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Health, it performed 3,066 abortions in 2012 and 3,567 in 2011. Pro-choice advocates point out that its shuttering represents a huge loss for reproductive rights.

“NOVA Women’s Healthcare provided medical services to thousands of women,” Yarmosky explained. “It was the largest abortion provider, but thousands of women also relied on them for birth control and other health care, and they went to NOVA because they could not afford care otherwise. Now they are left without their trusted health-care provider, in part due to politicians. It’s definitely a loss.”

In addition to the state’s TRAP laws, the local city council in Fairfax City passed an amendment on Tuesday changing the definition of a clinic to a “medical care facility.” All health providers classified as such require a $4,800 special-use permit, city review, and council approval to operate.

Council members claimed the amendment provides “clarity and predictability when categorizing the various medical uses” of facilities. They also said the amendment benefits citizens because it “allows you the public to have a voice in where medical facilities are located.” But by requiring even more red tape, the ordinance places further limitations on abortion clinics. Opponents of the ordinance say it was politically motivated and likely developed in response to NOVA’s attempted relocation.

Marina Fang is an intern at ThinkProgress.