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Anti-Abortion Protest Covers Clarendon Metro Plaza

Anti-abortion protesters took over the Clarendon Metro Plaza for about two hours Thursday morning (May 10), greeting pedestrians with graphic images of aborted fetuses.

“We are raising awareness about the destruction of children in the womb and we are calling the community to support women to help and make a choice for life for their children,” said Jeanne Miller, one of the protesters.

The protest was a part of a day-long event to honor the late George Yourishin, described by the Baltimore-based organization Defend Life as a “pro-life hero.” Miller said there was no real reason for choosing Clarendon to protest besides the fact that demonstrators were planning to visit Yourishin’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery later that day, after mass at nearby St. Charles Catholic Church.

She added that most of the signs were provided by Defend Life to show what an abortion looks like. The practice of protesters displaying gruesome photos of fetuses in public places has been hotly debated in several court cases nationwide; some courts have ruled that the images are too disturbing to be shown in public, while others have defended the practice as one protected by the First Amendment.

Miller said she had a lot of positive interactions with passersby, but had one man who became very upset and shouted epithets at her.

Anti-abortion protesters have demonstrated in Arlington before, gathering outside the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in 2016 and Washington-Lee High School in 2012.

Photos by Anna Merod

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Arlington Public Schools to Consider Lifting Ban on Planned Parenthood Website

Arlington Public School officials are considering unblocking the website of Planned Parenthood on APS computers.

The site for the nonprofit organization that provides reproductive care healthcare is currently blocked on all student computers because it is considered sex education, according to the school system.

After ARLnow contacted the school system about the ban, a school spokesman said the county was considering plans to lift the content filter.

Frank Bellavia, the school system’s communications coordinator, said a decision is expected within the next week. The school system began reconsidering the block after receiving several inquiries, he said.

“Part of the determination is determining if we do unblock across all grade levels,” Bellavia said. “We are still evaluating the site for age appropriateness and for instructional content.”

One parent who contacted ARLnow.com pointed out that Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services, is blocked while the website of anti-abortion group National Right to Life was not blocked.

The block has been in effect “for quite some time,” according to Bellavia. The school system contracts an external provider that filters content on student computers.

Update at 11:40 a.m. — Bellavia says National Right to Life has now been blocked. “Because it was brought to our attention previously, IT staff blocked that site,” he said.

Anna Merod contributed reporting.

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Morning Notes

Board Votes for Housing Conservation District — The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted 4-1 in favor of the creation of Housing Conservations Districts, which will make it more difficult for property owners to convert multifamily buildings into single-family homes. The Board says there is an urgent need to preserve market-rate affordable apartments, though critics charged that the Board rushed a decision that will restrict the rights of private property owners. [Washington Post]

Volunteers Place 245K Wreaths at ANC — “The weather was chilly but that didn’t stop huge crowds from heading to Arlington National Cemetery to help out with the annual wreath laying Saturday. Traffic was jammed and sidewalks were packed with long lines of volunteers.” [WTOP, Twitter]

New Fire Station 8 Moving Forward — The County Board approved a zoning change that will allow the creation of a new Fire Station #8 on Lee Highway to move forward. [InsideNova]

Doctor Charged With Spiking Drink with Abortion Pill — A doctor who had recently moved to Arlington was arrested in May and charged with spiking his pregnant girlfriend’s drink with an abortion pill, which then caused her to lose the baby. He’s currently being held at the Arlington County jail, awaiting trial. [Fox News]

Bridging the Biking Gender Gap in Arlington — “Despite overall growth in the number of people biking to work, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed by cities, organizations, and employers for more women to bike more often.” [BikeArlington]

Children Visit Incarcerated Parents — Children of inmates at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse were able to visit and play with their incarcerated parents during the jail’s annual holiday party. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Phil

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Governor to Attend Pro-Choice Event in Clarendon Tomorrow

Terry McAuliffe campaigns at Washington-Lee High SchoolVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is scheduled to be in Clarendon tomorrow night for the seventh annual NARAL Virginia “Power of Choice” event.

The gala and awards presentation will honor “those who have made an outstanding impact” on NARAL’s “work to protect and advance reproductive freedom in Virginia.”

The event is taking place at Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Boulevard) and is also expected to be attended by Attorney General Mark Herring and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who is currently running for governor.

Tickets for the event range from $40 for students to $150 for general admission. Sponsorships of the gala range from $500-5,000.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Aerial view of Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Wardian Dominating Global Marathon Event — Arlington resident and running superhero Michael Wardian has won the first two races in the World Marathon Challenge. Wardian, 42, posted a time of 2:54:54 in Antarctica, the fastest marathon ever run on the continent, and a time of 2:45:42 this morning in Punta Arenas, the South American leg of the seven day, seven continent and seven marathon event. Wardian is trying to break the event’s record average race time of 3:32:25. [Facebook, Twitter, Washington Post, Runner’s World]

APS Projected to Keep Growing — Arlington Public Schools is bursting at the seams, building new schools to keep up with rising enrollment — and that enrollment is expected to keep growing over the next decade. According to projections presented at a School Board meeting last week, the APS student body is expected to rise from around 27,000 now to 32,500 by the fall of 2026. In terms of per-student costs, the added 5,500 students could add more than $100 million to the school system’s current $600 million annual budget. [InsideNova]

Northern Va. Restaurant Week Coming in March — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce and other regional business organizations are teaming up for the second year in a row to organize Northern Virginia Restaurant Week. The week of dining discounts and discovery is scheduled from March 20-27. [Arlington Chamber]

Extra Metro Trains for Pro-Life March — Metro says it will run extra trains during mid-day Friday in order to accommodate crowds for the 2017 March for Life in the District. In a press release, Metro also said it “will run more 8-car trains (the longest train length possible), all midday track work will be cancelled, and additional staff will be on hand to assist visitors.” [WMATA]

Nearby: Car Stolen With Baby Inside — Two men stole a car that had been left running near a bank ATM, then abandoned it, apparently after discovering a baby inside. The incident happened Monday afternoon at the Bradlee Shopping Center in Alexandria, across from Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood. The child was unharmed. [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Local Elected Officials Praise Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling

Supreme Court building file photoArlington’s elected officials are speaking out in favor of today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion.

Rep. Don Beyer, County Board member Katie Kristol and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — all Democrats — today praised the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to strike down a Texas law that greatly restricted abortion providers there.

Beyer called the decision a victory for “common sense and justice for women” in a statement:

Common sense and justice for women and families prevailed at the Supreme Court today. This decision once again affirms our nation’s longstanding policy that women have the right to an abortion until viability, and that efforts by anti-choice forces to deny that right through lack of access imposes an undue burden. Anti-choice forces in Virginia apply the same tactics, and have also failed.  We will continue every effort to maintain and expand women’s healthcare access in Virginia.

Cristol echoed Beyer’s praise in a tweet:

Warner also released a statement praising the decision:

Today the Supreme Court sent a clear message that all women have the right to make their own reproductive health decisions, no matter where they live. This is a victory for women’s health in Texas, in Virginia, and across the country.

As did Kaine:

I applaud the Supreme Court for seeing the Texas law for what it is – an attempt to effectively ban abortion and undermine a woman’s right to make her own health care choices. This ruling is a major win for women and families across the country, as well as the fight to expand reproductive freedom for all.

The Texas law is quite similar to arbitrary and unnecessary rules that were imposed on Virginia women after I left office as Governor. I’m proud that we were able to successfully fight off such “TRAP” regulations during my time in state office. I have always believed these sort of rules are an unwarranted effort to deprive women of their constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

File photo of Supreme Court

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Anti-Abortion Protesters Target H-B Woodlawn

HB Woodlawn Secondary School (via Arlington Public Schools)A group of anti-abortion protesters conducted an unannounced demonstration outside of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program Thursday afternoon.

The group “had graphic signs, they filmed students, parents and staff members, attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion,” according to the following letter to parents, sent by the school’s principal.

Dear Parents/Guardians,

This afternoon, at dismissal, members of an anti-abortion group appeared in the auditorium parking lot and then on bus loop sidewalk in front of H-B Woodlawn. No advance notice was given to Arlington Public Schools or to H-B Woodlawn and this was not an approved event. HBW administrators and the Arlington police asked the group to move off of school property, but they claimed that they were in the public domain on a public sidewalk.

They had graphic signs, they filmed students, parents and staff members, attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion. It is unfortunate that they chose that type of confrontational method to express their views to students who are mostly ages 11-18. Please be assured it is not anything we would ever approve of or encourage, and we regret that the events took place. We will continue to have conversations here amongst staff and students about our procedures should they return.

Sincerely,

Casey Robinson
Principal

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Peter’s Take: McAuliffe Right on Women’s Health Clinics

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently announced the appointments of five new members to the state Board of Health. He directed the Board to review controversial regulations it adopted to regulate all Virginia women’s health clinics at which first trimester abortions are performed.

Gov. McAuliffe made the right decision.

Background

In 2011, Virginia passed a new law authorizing the Board of Health to adopt stricter regulations for these women’s health clinics. The regulations require the clinics to comply with construction standards used for inpatient hospitals. They force the clinics to have hallways that are of specific widths, provide locker rooms for staff members, new ventilation systems and larger parking lots.

Recognizing that the regulations would cost millions to implement, the Board initially grandfathered existing women’s health clinics from their applicability. The Board’s initial decision was wise when you consider that the new law and regulations do not cover other outpatient facilities, such as those performing oral or plastic surgery, even though the latter facilities engage in medical procedures of comparable risk.

After the Board’s initial decision, the Board came under intense pressure from then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to reverse it. Cuccinelli wrote to Board members, telling them that they had exceeded their authority, and warning them that if they persisted in their decision to grandfather existing clinics, he would not defend them in any subsequent lawsuits. He also warned them that they might be personally liable in any such suits.

Faced with these pressures, the Board reversed itself, and proclaimed that existing clinics would be subject to its new regulations. If the Board sticks to this course, most or all existing clinics are likely to shut down. Five have already closed. When clinics close, women are also denied access to other services, such as testing for sexually transmitted infections and cancer screenings, or they are forced to travel longer distances to get these services.

Cuccinelli’s goal from the beginning was to shut down as many of these clinics as possible.

What’s Next?

The Board could simply vote to re-affirm that no existing clinics are grandfathered. In that case, the clinics and their patients are no worse off than now. The Board could vote to go back to its original decision to grandfather existing clinics. Those who believe the Board lacks power to do that could challenge the Board in court. If such a challenge succeeds, the clinics and their patients again are no worse off than now. But, if such a challenge fails, then the clinics and their patients will be much better off than they are now.

Gov. McAuliffe deserves credit for standing up for women’s health and reproductive choice in Virginia.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Abortion Rights Activists Hold Protest Outside Courthouse

Protesters lined N. Courthouse Road this morning (Wednesday) to speak out against the new state regulations on abortion clinics this year.

Falls Church Healthcare Center filed a lawsuit against the Virginia Board of Health and the Virginia Department of Health in Arlington Circuit Court, and doctors and administrators from the practice spoke before a crowd of several dozen before the case was set to be heard in court for the first time.

“Because of these regulations, two women’s health centers have already been forced to close,” said Margaretha Netherton, a registered nurse with FCHC. “Patients want healthcare performed by doctors and nurses, not lawyers.”

In April, the Virginia Board of Health voted to implement regulations that require centers that perform five or more abortions a month to have building requirements, including construction outlines like width of hallways of hospitals and nursing homes. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a motion to dismiss the FCHC’s lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court. Just after 11:00 a.m., the court dismissed the state’s motion against FCHC’s suit.

Those in attendance chanted “Virginia women deserve more” and held signs with slogans like “Stop the War on Virginia’s Women,” “Keep Abortion Legal,” and “I Oppose Illegal Abortion.” The speakers said if the abortion clinics are forced to close, women will be forced to resort to illegal or self-abortions.

“[Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers] laws do not protect the women of Virginia,” Sara Imershein, an OB/GYN with FCHC, told the crowd. “They put them in danger.”

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Peter’s Take: Cuccinelli and Virginia’s Women

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotRepublican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to be elected Virginia Governor this year. If he succeeds, the values on which he has built his political career ensure that he would exploit every opportunity to set Virginia’s women back 60 years to an era in which they were “stuck in the drudgery of domestic servitude.”

You think I’m exaggerating? Cuccinelli supports a “personhood amendment” to Virginia’s Constitution.

The practical effect of enacting a personhood law in Virginia would be to end or cripple a series of personal rights and private decisions that Virginia’s women have enjoyed for decades, such as:

  • Birth control
  • Fertility treatment
  • Management of a miscarriage
  • Access to safe and legal abortions

Cuccinelli is also the godfather of the effort to drive all abortion clinics in Virginia out of business. In 2011, the Virginia legislature passed a law that classified abortion clinics that perform more than 5 first-trimester abortions per month as hospitals rather than doctor’s offices. The intent of the law, candidly admitted by many of its sponsors, was to drive these clinics out of business entirely because of the expense of compliance.

This 2011 abortion clinic law was patterned after an earlier bill that Cuccinelli had sponsored when he was in the Virginia State Senate. In his current role as Attorney General, Cuccinelli has fought every step of the way to be sure that this abortion clinic law is harshly and mercilessly applied to wipe these clinics out.

Further cementing his role as a champion of setting women’s rights back decades, Cuccinelli recently welcomed a $1.5 million pledge to his campaign for Governor from the Susan B. Anthony List — “a national organization known for its extreme stance on women’s health care.”

A Virginia governed by Ken Cuccinelli would be a 21st century real-life version of Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 science fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Cuccinelli’s views on the proper role of women in our society are central to his values and the way in which he would govern our state.

This is not science fiction — this is all too real. We can’t afford to take a risk like this.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Anti-Abortion Protest Outside W-L High School

An anti-abortion protest was held outside Washington-Lee High School this morning.

A group of anti-abortion protesters held signs and displayed graphic photos of aborted fetuses. This afternoon, W-L principal Gregg Robertson sent an email to parents filling in some details about the protests.

Dear parents/guardians,

This morning, members of the Human Life Alliance appeared on the public sidewalk in front of Washington-Lee. They had signs and attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion. No advance notice was given to Arlington Public Schools or to Washington-Lee and this was not an approved event. W-L administrators and the Arlington police asked the group to move across the street, but the individuals refused, noting that they were in the public domain on a public sidewalk. While that is true, it is unfortunate that they chose that type of confrontation method to express their views to children who are mostly ages 14-17. Please be assured it is not anything we would ever approve or encourage, and we regret that the events took place this morning.

Sincerely,

Gregg Robertson
Principal

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National Right to Life Convention Coming to Arlington

The annual National Right to Life Convention will be coming to Arlington later this month.

The convention is billed as the “42nd annual meeting of pro-life grassroots leaders and experts from across the country.” The three day event starts on Thursday, July 28, and will feature six “major sessions,” more than 100 pro-life speakers and more than 70 workshops.

Speakers will include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

The convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, at 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway. The previous two National Right to Life conventions were held in Jacksonville, Fla. and Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Hyatt Regency has been on a roll in terms of booking notable or unique events with disparate themes. It has recently hosted the 2011 DMV Music Awards, the Anime USA convention and the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, and a trade group meeting about the health of cow udders.

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Abortion Ultrasound Bill Passes Va. Senate

Yesterday the Virginia Senate narrowly passed a controversial bill that requires pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.

The bill passed by the state Senate had been amended to only require an external ultrasound, following a furor over the fact that the original version would have mandated invasive transvaginal ultrasounds for most first trimester pregnancies.

On a bipartisan vote, the bill was also amended to exclude rape and incest victims from the ultrasound requirement. That amendment was proposed by Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents part of Arlington. Other amendments proposed by Howell, including amendments that would have mandated insurance companies to cover the cost of the procedure, were rejected on a party line vote.

Howell criticized the bill, even in its amended form, for requiring a medical procedure that’s not medically necessary.

“Before this bill was amended, there were those who talked about it as ‘state rape.’ And Republicans voted for it,” Howell said. “The amended bill goes from state rape to state assault. And Republicans have now voted for state assault on women.”

Sen. Barbara Favola (D), of Arlington, also weighed in.

“I’m personally offended as a woman that the state of Virginia doesn’t trust my judgment about making intimate personal decisions about my body and my reproductive health,” Favola said in a statement. “This is the height of government intervention stomping on my constitutional rights. What will be next?”

Republicans argued that the ultrasound bill allows women to make a better informed decision before getting an abortion. The amended bill will now head to the House of Delegates, where it’s expected to pass, before landing on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed.

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Del. Brink: Controversial Bills Hurting Business

Could the recent controversy in Richmond over social issues be hurting Virginia businesses? Yes, says Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D) and a group of local business leaders.

This year’s state legislative session has been marked by heated partisan debate over the merits of Republican-sponsored bills concerning abortion, women’s health and gay adoptions. Most of the controversial bills have been either killed or delayed, and the legislature is now starting to focus its attention on the state budget, but Democrats are still decrying the renewed focus on social issues and the media attention it brought to Virginia.

(Update at 3:00 p.m.: a modified version of a bill requiring mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions has passed the Virginia Senate by a vote of 21-19.)

Yesterday Del. Brink took to the floor of the House of Delegates (see video, above) to read a letter from a number of Northern Virginia business leaders, including representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association and Vornado/Charles E. Smith. Addressed to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and the entire state legislature, the letter argued that “extreme proposals governing social issues” are detrimental to Virginia’s ability to attract “the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.”

As business leaders and employers in Virginia we applaud your successful bi-partisan efforts to keep Virginia first in national rankings as the most business-friendly state.

We urge you to maintain this ranking going forward by ensuring Virginia is a magnet for the best and the brightest employees and entrepreneurs.

Specifically, we urge you to reject extreme proposals governing social issues on which Americans are passionately divided. Otherwise it will be difficult for Virginia to attract and retain the entrepreneurs and talent we need to grow Virginia.

Del. Brink minced no words in describing how he felt about the outward image projected by Virginia General Assembly this year.

“All you have to do is turn on your TV, open any national newspaper, or go to YouTube, and it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that we’ve allowed ourselves to be portrayed as a bunch of ignorant, backward-looking buffoons,” Brink said. “It’s not just our image that’s taken a hit: it’s the economy — the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century — that’s in danger.”

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Morning Notes

Fetus Personhood Bill Defeated — A coalition of Democrats and Republicans helped defeat a bill that would have granted legal “personhood” status to unborn children at the moment of conception. The Virginia House of Delegates had approved the bill, but the state Senate voted yesterday to delay consideration of the bill until next year in order to allow further study. Pro-choice advocates argued the bill would have had unintended consequences, like outlawing some forms of contraception and granting expectant mothers use of HOV lanes. [Huffington Post]

Amazon to Pay Sales Tax in Virginia — Get ready to start paying a 5 percent sales tax on your Amazon.com purchases. The online retailer agreed yesterday to start collecting sales taxes in Virginia. Traditional brick and mortar retailers were pushing state legislators to force Amazon to pay sales taxes, saying that the company’s sales tax “loophole” gave them an unfair competitive advantage. [WAMU]

Klingon Casting Call — Arlington’s WSC Avant Bard is seeking some local Klingons for its “Shakespeare in Klingon” show on March 4. The theater company is holding a Klingon casting call in Dupont Circle from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. [Washington Post]

Improv Class This Weekend — An “Introduction to Improv” class is being held on Saturday at Arlington’s Theater on the Run (3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive). The class is being hosted by The Arlington Players and taught by Dunbar Dicks of the legendary Chicago improv troupe Second City. [The Arlington Players]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief

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