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Fight for women's health in Fairfax!
Last night, the Fairfax City Council voted (4-2) to approve a new zoning ordinance that will make it disproportionately difficult for women’s health centers to operate within city limits.
The new ordinance places women’s health centers into the same zoning category as hospitals, surgical centers, and urgent care units, and requires clinics to have an expensive "Special Use Permit”. Just to apply for a Special Use Permit costs at least $4,800 and can take as long as 6 months – and the City Council is able to subjectively deny or approve the application. What’s worse, the ordinance allows the Zoning Administrator to decide exactly the amount of parking required of each clinic based on vague and loosely-defined "other factors”. That means that the city could arbitrarily block a women’s health center from offering care due to – you guessed it – PARKING SPACES.
This is a back-door means of blocking access to reproductive health care, plain and simple. While women’s health centers were previously able to comply with zoning codes "by right”, they now have to undergo an expensive, subjective, and vague process in order to provide care within city limits. Even worse? This new ordinance has zero affect on other doctors and dentists offices!
We firmly believe that zoning laws should be objective, fair, and 100% clear. Instead, vague and subjective zoning laws will now make it incredibly difficult for a women’s health facility to open and operate within Fairfax City.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Contact Fairfax City Council Members
If you live in Fairfax city and disagree with last night’s vote, please take the time to call and email your City Council members. Ask members to amend the ordinance so that it is clear, predictable, objective and fair – and doesn’t disproportionally affect women’s health providers, who should be treated like doctor’s offices. You can also thank the two brave members who voted against this measure! Additional talking points are below.
Members who voted for the ordinance:
- Dan Drummond: Dan.Drummond@fairfaxva.gov
- Michael DeMarco: Michael.DeMarco@fairfaxva.gov
- Jeff Greenfield: Jeff.Greenfield@fairfaxva.gov
- Steve Stombres: Steven.Stombres@fairfaxva.govMembers who voted against the ordinance:
- Scott Silverthorne: email@example.com
Write a letter to the editor
Writing a letter to the editor is one of the best ways to make sure your voice is heard on this issue – particularly within your own community. Choose your local paper (or one below) and send a quick letter to help us fight back! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if your letter is going to be published so we can help promote it across the state.
Letter to the Editor Contacts:
- Fairfax Times: email@example.com
- Fairfax Patch: http://fairfaxcity.patch.com/
- Prince William Today/Inside NoVA: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alexandria Times: email@example.com
- Loudoun Times-Mirror: LTMeditor@timespapers.com
- The Loudoun Independent: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Washington Post: email@example.com
- The Richmond Times-Dispatch: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Virginian- Pilot: email@example.com
- The Roanoke Times: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spread the word:
Feel free to refer to these talking points when contacting your city council members or chatting with your neighbors. If you write a letter to the editor, please adapt this language to reflect your own views and voice.
I am deeply concerned about the ordinance you passed last night relating to reclassifying the zoning requirements for medical care facilities. I’m incredibly disappointed that you would vote for a measure that will make it disproportionately difficult for women’s health centers to operate and provide care within our city’s borders. Women’s health centers should be treated like doctor’s offices.
- Currently, abortion providers in the city of Fairfax are zoned as any other medical office building, including dentists and doctor’s offices. However this new ordinance places women’s health centers into the same zoning category as hospitals, surgical centers, and urgent care units (an inappropriate category for the care they provide, since women’s health centers are doctor’s offices) and requires clinics to have an expensive "Special Use Permits” in order to operate.
- By making this change, you are forcing a prospective women’s health center to undergo an expensive and drawn-out process while giving the city arbitrary decision-making power over zoning approval. Similar facilities like doctor's and dentist's offices don't have to go through this process, nor are they subjected to arbitrary decision-making.
Furthermore, the ordinance is vague and does not provide a clear description of what types of medical facilities will now fall under the new zoning rules. Zoning regulation should be clear, objective and predictable – yet this ordinance allows staff to arbitrarily decide which centers fall into either category, and therefore which centers have to jump through zoning hoops. This is a surefire recipe for arbitrary and discriminatory zoning, particularly if any zoning official (now or in the future) has an anti-women’s health agenda.
- I am particularly troubled by the fact that, under this proposed change, the Zoning Administrator has power to decide exactly the amount of parking spaces required of each clinic. This gives him/her the ability to block a clinic’s approval based on subjective and potentially frivolous requirements with limited accountability.
- Zoning laws, more so than other aspects of the code, require consistent and fair application. It is alarming that you would seek to make this process more subjective, and in doing so disproportionately impact the ability of a safe, legal, and beneficial women’s health center to operate within your boundaries.