Alexandria’s City Council approves zoning change for abortion clinics

Alexandria City Council during April 15 discussions on abortion access (image via City of Alexandria)

After extensive public comment and a few interruptions, Alexandria’s City Council voted unanimously to approve a zoning change that would bring zoning requirements for abortion centers in line with other medical facilities.

The gist of the change is that abortion would be included with other healthcare-related uses for by-right approval in commercial and mixed-use zones.

But, as has become a trend in Alexandria’s City Council discussions, discussions related to abortion often create significant public comment. Most of the speakers before the agenda item spoke in opposition to the zoning. Multiple times, the City Council discussion was interrupted with shouts of “Abortion is murder.”

Despite the protests, the City Council was unanimous in their support for the zoning change.

“This is about a woman’s right to choose; an individual’s right to choose,” said Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, “and that abortion is women’s healthcare.”

City Council member Kirk McPike said the proposal does not “prioritize abortion providers over other forms of healthcare providers” but instead levels the playing field so abortion providers are treated the same as other medical offices.

“This is appropriate because abortion care is healthcare,” McPike said. The freedom and ability to decide when and whether to have another child, to be able to address a desperately wanted pregnancy that has sadly gone awry and is going to not be viable. These are essential freedoms that are at the heart of this discussion. They are freedoms that the people of Alexandria support and this text amendment helps us ensure for the residents of our city.”

City Council member Sarah Bagley reiterated the prevailing stance on the City Council:

I want to invite those who comment on the marvel of women’s ability to carry a pregnancy and create life to also marvel at their ability to make their own choices. We are more than our wombs. We are also our brains and intentions and choices for ourselves. I would invite you to consider that: for each person, this is a choice that they make and they are best positioned to make. We are more than simply the marvel of our potential life producing abilities, we are also a marvel in our ability to make responsible, sound healthcare decisions for ourselves.

City Council member Alyia Gaskins said abortion should not be considered separately from other issues related to women’s health:

What we are talking about here is: how do we make sure our definitions around healthcare facilities are clear and easy for our staff and land use decision makers to interpret. It’s been said up here and I’ll say it again: abortion is an important component of women’s healthcare. When you look at the facts: it’s included in medical training, it’s included in clinical practices, it’s a part of medical education…

We are talking about medical procedures and licensed professionals. There are many different decisions or factors that influence a woman’s decision as to whether or not to have an abortion, and that decision is her decision.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the zoning change.