Manassas City Council votes in favor of zoning amendment

"Against all odds, Manassas City Councilman Marc Aveni, Catholic father of six, has waged a two-year struggle to require a special use permit and public hearing for any abortion clinic opening anywhere in the City of Manassas," said John Murray, pro-life coordinator at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.

Murray is part of a large group of pro-life advocates and Manassas locals who have worked for a proposed zoning amendment that would alert the public to the opening of any future abortion clinics in the city.

On May 11, the Manassas City Council voted in favor of the proposed amendment that also would require the same special use permits as outpatient surgeries, hospitals and medical centers such as Patient First. The amendment faced stiff opposition from pro-choice advocates who testified along with pro-life advocates at the public hearings. Joan Duda, a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas, was frustrated with the lack of transparency from opponents, most of whom did not live in Manassas.

"People were coming in from NARAL and other places, and it was for a zoning permit," Duda said. While a few locals opposed the measure, many opponents came from Richmond and Washington to testify at the Manassas public hearings.

"Special use permit doesn't imply approval or rejection," Aveni said. "It becomes part of the public process … it allows the community to exercise their First Amendment right."

The May 11 vote was the second vote on the amendment needed to be made into law.

"This outcome shows how important civic engagement is and how effective it can be." said Jeff Caruso, Executive Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference. Manassas now joins Fairfax City as the second jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to implement restrictions on abortion clinics, according to Murray.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015