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Large Fairfax Abortion Clinic Now Closed

Was NOVA Women's Healthcare a victim of new Virginia clinic laws and Fairfax zoning rules?

NOVA Women's Healthcare in Fairfax City is closed. (Patch File Photo)
NOVA Women's Healthcare in Fairfax City is closed. (Patch File Photo)
By Jennifer Van Der Kleut

NOVA Women's Healthcare clinic - the Fairfax clinic that provided more abortion services to Virginia women than any location in the state - has closed.

The clinic, which was located at Eaton Place near Rte. 123/Chain Bridge Road and Rte. 66, had been open in Fairfax City since 2006.

Staff at the clinic has denied speaking to the media about its reasons for closing, but many speculate that new Virginia regulations that require clinics that provide abortions to meet new hospital-grade standards was forcing the clinic to seek a new location.

READ: Virginia Assembly Approves Anti-Abortion Amendment
READ: Va. Senate Passes Mandatory Sonogram Before Abortion Bill

Earlier this year in March, it appeared the clinic had found a possible new location within Fairfax City, and records show NOVA had applied for a permit to retrofit the new location to meet standards. But, Fairfax City zoning administrators denied the permit, citing insufficient parking for the clinic's busy patient base.

According to the Washington PostNOVA decided not to challenge the denial of the permit, and to close up shop, in mid-June. 

According to the Washington Post, the clinic performed more abortions than any other provider in Virginia over the past few years - 3,066 in 2012, and 3,567 in 2011.

Last week, at its July 9 meeting, the Fairfax City Council voted 4-2 in favor of changing zoning rules regarding all types of medical facilities within the city. Fairfax City zoning administrator Michelle Coleman said the city's zoning code had not been reviewed in roughly 30 years, since the 1980s, and that City staff felt the current code was confusing and unclear to medical providers who sought to open businesses in Fairfax City.

The zoning amendment that passed on July 9 spelled out new categories for medical facilities. It now has one category, called "medical care facility," that will lump hospitals, surgical centers and other "similar" types of clinics with a certain number of providers and beds in one category, and doctor's/physician's offices and dental providers in a separate category.

READ: Fairfax Zoning Amendment Clashes With Abortion Rights Advocates

Coleman and other officials said one of the biggest reasons for the move was to set clear rules for parking requirements - that larger clinics, hospitals and centers have larger patient loads and therefore should be required to have more parking spaces, to the tune of about one space per 200 square feet of building. The City's staff report on the matter, though, also cites "the health and well-being" of the city's residents as another reason for the amendment.

According to the Washington Postthough, NOVA Women's Healthcare decided to close up shop in mid-June, weeks before the amendment passed on July 9.

At the July 9 meeting, many from all over the region, including residents of Fairfax City, the county area of Fairfax, Centreville, Sterling and elsewhere spoke out, urging the Council to reject the amendment because clinics such as NOVA are so key for the needs of local women.

One such speaker was a college student at George Mason University who said that she and many of her fellow female students had all their health care needs - not abortions, she pointed out - served by NOVA, and would be at a loss without the clinic.

The Council members and Mayor Scott Silverthorne stated emphatically that the passing of the amendment was not politically motivated or related to views on abortion, and that the new regulations were in line with several other municipalities in northern Virginia.

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