Manassas City Council approves discriminatory zoning ordinance

By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or nicole@naralva.org.

On Monday, April 27th–in front of a packed room of pro-choice activists and advocates–the Manassas City Council voted to approve a new zoning ordinance that would restrict abortion clinics in Manassas.

Prior to the vote, pro-choice advocates delivered over 250 petitions to the Mayor and City Council, urging them to vote against the proposed zoning ordinances and stand up for Manassas women and families.

Unfortunately, their voices were not heard.

After a year of debate, failed recommendations and public comment, the council voted 3-4 in favor of changing the city’s zoning code–with current Mayor and Senate candidate Hal Parrish delivering the tie-breaking vote.

Lone Democrat, Ken Elston, and Republicans Mark Wolfe and Sheryl Bass (the council’s only woman) opposed the zoning measure.

Among other things, the new zoning code would require all medical care facilities, including abortion providers, to obtain a special use permit prior to opening their doors. This permit, however, would only be granted after a period of public comment and City Council approval–a requirement that could disproportionally affect abortion providers when up against an overwhelmingly Republican council.

Not only would these new zoning changes affect abortion clinics from moving into the area, but also they could threaten the survival of Manassas’s sole abortion clinic, Amethyst Health Center for Women.

If Amethyst were to relocate or make significant renovations to its existing location (a very probable situation given the current state of TRAP laws in Virginia), the 25-year-old business would need to apply for and persuade the City Council for a special use permit.

After Mayor Parrish delivered his final, anti-choice vote, dozens of activists politely rose, turned their backs to the council and left the meeting in unison to express their disappointment in the council’s vote. The walkout left the room nearly empty and showed the Mayor and City Council that we won’t stand with their discriminatory decision.

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