Only abortion clinic in North Alabama closing Friday

Published: Jun. 24, 2014 at 8:54 PM CDT
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Alabama Women's Clinic is voluntarily surrendering its license. (Source: WAFF)
Alabama Women's Clinic is voluntarily surrendering its license. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - As of Friday, North Alabama's only abortion clinic in Huntsville will close its doors.

Regardless, Alabama Women's Center risked a state shut down in a week. This comes after the downtown Huntsville facility wasn't able to jump another hurdle in the state's new abortion law.

Officials at the clinic said they would rather close themselves than have the state intervene.

On Friday, the clinic will voluntarily surrender its license to perform procedures.

The July 1 deadline meant the clinic would have to meet one more requirement in the law, a building requirement under the ambulatory health care standards to essentially bring it up to code with a surgical treatment center.

The current facility that's been open on Madison Street since 2001 doesn't allow for that.

Clinic officials did submit blue prints for a new location to move the clinic off Sparkman Drive for approval from the state Department of Public Health.

According to Brian Hale, Deputy General Counsel with Alabama Department of Public Health, the blue prints have not been approved yet because they're waiting for response from the clinic's architect on making minor alterations to the interior.

It's not clear if that can be done by Tuesday's deadline.

"The clinic is still going through the approval process with the state," said Clinic Administrator, Dalton Johnson, "We will continue the fight to re-open at the new facility while we continue to follow every letter of the law."

"It will be a sad day for us to close our doors because it means women of North Alabama will no longer have access to the multiple health care services we provide, not just abortions," said Johnson.

The clinic has already jumped other hurdles in the law requiring its physicians to have admitting privileges to area hospitals and adhering to the 48-hour waiting period requirement for women to have the procedure.

Meanwhile, with the clinic surrendering its license Friday, pro-choice supporters say this is yet another way for the state to restrict women's reproductive rights.

"We have women coming here from Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, middle and South Alabama that don't care about access to local emergency rooms because they don't stay in town for it," said clinic advocate Kathy Zentner. "If the legislators really cared about women and health, they would make facilities available."

Zentner said ultimately, the closure of the clinic won't do away with the need for access to whatever procedure a woman chooses.

"It's a wasted effort. This facility was fine; this facility served the need. They created the law to try and drive it out of business. The owner is complying with the law, and he'll just move his business to where it complies with the law."

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