“We are ground zero,” said Bristol City Councilman Kevin Wingard. “I’m hoping this council sees how important this really is – it is life or death.”
Those words—and the 200 people who showed up to a rally yesterday hosted by The Family Foundation beforehand—helped embolden the entire five-member City Council to vote unanimously to take the first steps toward approving a zoning ordinance to prohibit further abortion centers within city limits, making Bristol, Virginia a safe zone for life.
“This is by far the largest crowd I’ve seen in this building,” said City Councilman Bill Hartley. In fact, Bristol residents attending the council meeting reached fire marshal capacity as they lined up to share their comments.
At issue was the fact that abortion centers have begun looking at Bristol, VA, to protect their profits after neighboring states (Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia) enacted laws banning most abortions in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson.
- For instance, an abortion center located in Bristol, TN—owned by the same operator whose abortion center was at the heart of the Dobbs case—relocated to the Virginia side of the Twin City—directly across from the casino.
That abortion center was “one too many,” and “the City Council has full authority to stop other abortion clinics from coming here,” said Councilman Wingard. Family Foundation legislative counsel, Josh Hetzler, confirmed that authority: “The Bristol city charter, state law, and the Virginia Supreme Court all support the right of localities to pass such ordinances,” he shared during public comments.
Other comments during the meeting included a statement from Father Chris Hess of the local St. Anne’s Catholic Church, who pointed out that Bristol, VA, was gaining unwelcome, international attention as a destination used by the abortion industry to protect its profits. In fact, the city was now “at the top of the list” on a website displaying places women from other states restricting abortion could go to get an abortion. Without the proposed safe-zone resolution, “we are becoming this multi-state abortion provider,” he warned.
Terri Brewer from Bristol, VA, courageously shared her testimony about being taken to another Virginia city to have an abortion at the age of 16. “I am not over it,” she said, recollecting how she still remembers every smell and face in the abortion clinic that day. “But the doctor never said a word to me. I drove home that day and I was not the same Terri that had arrived earlier.”
Stephanie Adkins also shared how she was directed by her school counselor to an abortion center across state lines, which allowed her to avoid parental consent laws in her home state. The school counselor helped Stephanie access funding for the abortion and even provided passes to get out of class for her and the friend driving her. Young girls “are too easily manipulated to do something they will regret for the rest of their lives,” she said.
As The Family Foundation’s president, I completely agree with Stephanie’s point. As I shared during the Bristol rally, “every abortion is a failure of a community to adequately support a woman who finds herself in an unplanned pregnancy. Bristol residents are simply telling the city council they are a community ready to handle the needs of their own neighbors in these situations. They would rather not be exploited by the abortion industry.”
Last night’s vote means that the City Council is directing the city planning commission to create a zoning plan that would exclude elective abortion facilities from the city plan.
Bristol now joins other localities like Russell and Tazewell to pass or consider a resolution affirming their desire to protect all human life within its borders, which would certainly be consistent with its own city motto – “A Good Place to Live.”
Lastly, we want to extend a special thank you to Joe Kerns of the Pathways Pregnancy Resource Center and the many different clergy and pastors who took time to attend the rally and meeting, and speak up for life.
SOURCE: THE FAMILY FOUNDATION