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Bristol Regional Women’s Center has been providing abortions in Bristol, Tennessee, for years. Now that the procedure will soon be mostly illegal in the state, it had an idea: help open a clinic a mile across town ? and the state line ? in Bristol, Virginia, where abortion remains legal. (Sam Whitehead / KHN)

Elected leaders in Bristol, Virginia are pushing forward a zoning law that would prohibit new abortion clinics within city limits, part of a local backlash against a Tennessee clinic that made the short move across state lines once Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The five-member Bristol Virginia City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of the resolution to ban any facility that “intentionally causes(s) the death or termination of a pre-born human life at any stage of development.”

The resolution, which must go through several additional steps before becoming law, also stops existing clinics from expanding or undergoing renovations.

Bristol’s effort to restrict abortion clinics is among the first by a local government in a state like Virginia, where abortion remains legal, since the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion in June. Two other Virginia cities — Tazewell and Russell — have also enacted resolutions declaring themselves a “sanctuary for the rights of the unborn.” Neither of those cities has an existing abortion clinic.

But these cities’ early efforts to harness land use ordinances or other local laws to bar abortion clinics may not be the last. Abortion bans or severe restrictions in nearly half the states in the nation have prompted clinics in states where the procedure is newly illegal to move to states where it still remains accessible, but not universally supported.

“It feels like this may be the first of many,” said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks public policy for the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Read more

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