ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — Pro-lifers are celebrating the closure of one of the largest abortion clinics in Virginia.
Opened in 2006, NOVA Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax City closed its doors in June.
According to The Washington Post, the clinic performed more abortions than any other facility in the state — 3,567 in 2011 and 3,066 in 2012.
The clinic was forced to close after two lawsuits and an out-of-court settlement with its landlord, Eaton Place Associates. In December 2011, Eaton Place sued the clinic for being a nuisance, with court filings citing the number of protesters on the property and incidents of patients seen “vomiting as they exit the building on a daily basis.”
Later, according to the Post, Eaton Place sued the clinic in Fairfax General District Court for failure to pay $95,000 in back rent.
When the clinic applied to relocate to a different building in Fairfax in May, its permit was denied because the parking lot at that location did not have enough spaces. According to Ruby Nicdao, a parishioner of St. Timothy Church in Chantilly and a member of the Capital Area Pro-Life Coalition, the clinic closed June 18. All callers have since been referred to other area abortion clinics.
Nicdao said pro-life demonstrators had a very active presence at the Eaton Place clinic, with large numbers at the clinic during 40 Days for Life vigils, most recently between Feb. 13 and March 24. Since then, demonstrators prayed outside the Eaton Place location every day and Nicdao went three times a week.
“We kept a constant presence out there to the point where I’m sure the whole building was thoroughly annoyed by us,” she told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese.
The fact that those demonstrations had a role in the lawsuit that led to the closure of the clinic is “a miracle,” she added.
“That was definitely by the hand of God that the Eaton Place associates wanted to sue because I’ve never heard of a building suing an abortion clinic and the fact that they were successful at it was part of the miracle,” she said. “That’s why activism is so important. I knew it was important because I knew we were saving lives, but I’ve been doing this for so many years and I’ve never witnessed an abortion clinic closing.”
John Murray, a parishioner of St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax who has been closely watching the developments surrounding the Eaton Place Clinic, also was happy about the news of the clinic’s closure
In the weeks since the clinic has closed, Nicdao said pro-lifers have begun to focus their efforts on praying and demonstrating outside Falls Church Healthcare, which offers first-trimester abortions.
“Just because you shut down NOVA Women’s Healthcare, those abortions are still happening,” Nicdao said. “We’re going to Falls Church because they’re the No. 2 (provider of abortions in Northern Virginia). We think their business is going to pick up.”
News of the clinic’s closure arrived as Fairfax City officials voted on amendments to their zoning ordinance that changed the definition of a clinic from a doctor’s office to a “medical care facility.”
According to the new standards, medical care facilities will require a $4,800 special-use permit, city review and council approval and will have to meet specific parking requirements.
The changes have been criticized by abortion advocates, including 17 people who voiced their opinions on the change at a recent Fairfax City Council meeting. To respond, Murray and Nicdao have encouraged pro-lifers to write to City Council members in support of the new changes.
“I think it’s very reasonable to have standards for any medical clinic that involve the level of surgery involved in abortion to require that they can facilitate emergency response vehicles and that they can meet any city needs or requirements for medical clinics,” Murray said. “I’m definitely supporting the mayor and City Council in these new ordinances and encouraging them to stand fast in these efforts.”
Bahr is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington, Va.