WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
- Anti-abortion activists are proposing changes to zoning laws to restrict abortion clinics from operating in border towns and cities.
- This comes after clinics in neighboring states with strict anti-abortion laws have relocated to more liberal states, causing conflict with socially conservative residents.
- With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, such zoning changes are now legal, and similar proposals have been successful in some politically conservative towns in Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nebraska and Ohio.
Residents in Bristol, a border community between Virginia and Tennessee, are fighting over whether clinics limited by strict anti-abortion laws in neighboring states should be allowed to operate there. Anti-abortion activists have proposed changes to zoning laws to restrict the clinics from moving in. The local ordinances have been identified as a tool for officials to control where patients can get an abortion since the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion was overturned.
Similar disputes have emerged in other parts of the country, as clinics have been forced to close in Republican-dominant states with strict abortion bans, causing them to relocate to more liberal states. The politics of border towns and cities don’t always align with those in their state capitals.
They can be more socially conservative, with residents who object to abortion on moral grounds. Anti-abortion activists have tapped into that sentiment and are proposing zoning changes to stop the clinics from moving in.
The trend has spread to politically conservative towns in Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nebraska and Ohio, led by anti-abortion activist Mark Lee Dickson. Before the Supreme Court overturned Roe, zoning restrictions would have been unconstitutional.
Under Roe, the court had ruled that it was unconstitutional for state or local lawmakers to create any “substantial obstacle” to a patient seeking an abortion. That rule no longer exists, and advocates and legal experts say that with the overturning of Roe, such zoning changes are now legal.
Residents who support abortion rights are concerned that they are on their heels all the time. In Virginia, Democrats rolled back restrictions on abortion services in 2020 when they were in full control of state government.
They envisioned the state as a safe haven for access, but with the overturning of Roe, they worry that the state’s permissive abortion laws may be reversed. Meanwhile, some states with severely restricted abortion access are trying to make it harder for residents to end their pregnancies elsewhere.