Alexandria passes zoning change that will make it easier for abortion clinics to open

As abortion issues take center stage again, one local jurisdiction’s council passed a zoning change to make it easier for clinics to set up.

Before today, if a state-approved provider wanted to open in Alexandria, it may have been subject to additional scrutiny by planning and zoning.     

The change makes abortion facilities the same as medical facilities operating in mixed-use or commercially zoned areas, meaning there won’t need to be a planning board approval.

The city took this on after the Dobbs decision last summer making abortion policy a matter for states and localities.

"The effect of this case, the Supreme Court, the Dobbs decision was to turn this decision back to the state and the local governments. So we’re doing, I think, what those who litigated this case wanted us to do which is to make policy on this at the state and local level, and we’re going to continue to do that," Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told FOX 5.

Wilson tells FOX 5 he isn’t aware of any additional providers wanting to come to Alexandria beyond the two already here.

There was public comment before the unanimous vote.

"You are creating a policy, Mayor Wilson, that is in search of a problem," said Penny Nance, who runs a group called Concerned Women for America, "You are making a judgment call that is not helpful for your city and is disruptive to your city."

Lexi White is a Policy Director at REPRO Rising Virginia, and supports this decision.

"We applaud the Alexandria planning commission and the city council in its efforts to make it clear that abortion clinics and the critical healthcare they provide are not only welcome in the city of Alexandria, but are a critical part of maintaining the health and well-being of our communities," White said.

Mayor Justin Wilson says the council feels abortion is a fundamental right and this is something that *an be done on the local level to facilitate that.

Father Christopher Christensen is at Saint Rita Catholic Church and spoke against the change Saturday.

He later told FOX 5 he doesn’t think abortion clinics should have the same designation as medical care facilities in the eyes of City Zoning laws.

"Abortion isn’t healthcare, it deals in death, right? As opposed to life and healthcare is supposed to be lifesaving and not life-ending. So it’s incongruous for a better word, and ultimately, it’s just wrong," Christensen said.

This Alexandria decision comes against a backdrop of what will be a big political year here in Virginia as the entire legislature is up for re-election this fall and abortion will likely be front and center.