By Miriam Stiefel, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Intern
The Manassas City Council recently debated whether to update its decades-old zoning laws, including those that apply to medical facilities. Some Council members used this opportunity to try to target women’s healthcare facilities. Fortunately, the Council decided against this move and will instead continue with a plan to completely overhaul the city’s zoning laws. But, reproductive freedom advocates are not out of the woods yet.
Zoning laws may regulate how buildings are constructed, used, and located. Unfortunately, many states and localities use zoning laws to place medically unnecessary requirements on women’s health centers that provide abortion. Virginia is not immune from this trend. As we wrote before, Virginia’s Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws force clinics that provide abortions to make burdensome and costly architectural changes. TRAP laws are a clear attempt at restricting a woman’s access to abortion by hurting clinics’ ability to keep their doors open. These onerous restrictions limit more than a woman’s right to abortion, they impact her right to obtain vital healthcare, such as preventative cancer screenings. A woman’s right to legal and medically sound services should not be limited because a politician opposes one aspect of her healthcare.
The regulation of Manassas’ medical facilities, including abortion providers, will be addressed over the next few months in the city’s comprehensive update to the entire zoning law. It is important to monitor the Council’s actions so that a woman’s right to make decisions about her health and her access to healthcare is not obstructed by politicians.