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Birmingham abortion clinic closes as part of national trend, leaves 5 clinics in statecomment (0)

September 19, 2013

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

The closing of a Birmingham abortion clinic in August is part of a national trend that has seen more than 40 abortion clinics close in 2013. 

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Joseph Boohaker ruled Aug. 8 that the New Woman All Women clinic, located at 1001 17th St. South in Birmingham, did not meet the criteria of a physician’s office and therefore needed a state license to operate as an abortion clinic. 

Current Alabama law requires licensure for any clinic that performs 30 or more abortion procedures during any two months of a calendar year or for a facility that advertises abortion services through any public means. The clinic’s physician, Dr. Bruce Norman, argued that he performed less than 30 abortion procedures monthly. However the court ruled that by both standards, the New Woman All Women clinic met the definition of an abortion or reproductive health center.

The closing of the Birmingham clinic brings the number of abortion clinics left in the state to five, with facilities in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. However, legislation signed by Gov. Robert Bentley in April could bring the closure of additional clinics in the state, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Alabama lawmakers passed the “Women’s Health and Safety Act” April 2 and Bentley signed the legislation April 9. The bill requires medication disclosures and sets stricter building requirements for abortion clinics, including wider halls and doors and better fire suppression systems. 

The bill also requires abortion clinics in Alabama to employ a doctor with admitting privileges at a local hospital. This provision has been suspended temporarily by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in response to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and a Montgomery clinic. 

According to the Alabama Center for Health Statistics, 9,046 abortions were performed in Alabama in 2012, down from 9,523 abortions 2011. The drop in the number of abortions performed, coupled with the unprecedented rate of clinic closings, is encouraging news for pro-lifers throughout the United States.

This year, 42 clinics that provided surgical abortions have shut their doors, and two that offered chemical abortions by drugs also have closed, according to Operation Rescue, which monitors closings and health and safety violations by clinics nationwide. That number far surpasses the 25 surgical clinics shut down in 2012 and the 30 in 2011, by Operation Rescue’s count. While others estimate a smaller number of closings, the pattern is clear.

Some of the shutdowns have been of major clinics. For example, in July The Washington Post reported that NOVA Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax, Va., shut down after state and local governments enacted regulations the abortion provider appeared unable to meet. The clinic had been Virginia’s leading provider of abortions. 

The reasons given for the upswing in closings are varied even among pro-lifers. They include:

the increasing state regulation and oversight of clinics,

a growth in pro-life opinion and activity and 

a decline in the abortion rate.

In some cases, clinics have shut down when abortion doctors retired or were no longer licensed. State legislatures enacted 69 pro-life laws this year, according to a report released Sept. 5 by Americans United for Life (AUL). In all, 48 states considered about 360 such proposals in 2013, AUL reported.

The legislative action in 2013 continued a recent trend in states: 70 “life-affirming measures” became law in 2011 and 38 in 2012, according to AUL.

Like Alabama, North Carolina and Texas have taken measures to make the procedure and clinics safer for women and have helped escalate the number of clinic shutdowns. In addition, North Dakota and Wisconsin joined Alabama and Texas in mandating abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

While the actions of state legislatures and agencies appear to have contributed to clinic shutdowns, the growing activism of pro-lifers also has been an important ingredient, said David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life.

“I believe the increase in closures is due to record numbers of Christians praying for an end to abortion and getting actively involved in pro-life efforts where they live — recognizing that change is not going to come from politicians in Washington, D.C., anytime soon,” Bereit said.

Since 2007, 40 Days has conducted its semiannual campaigns of peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics in more than 500 cities nationally and internationally. More than 575,000 people have participated, and 40 Days reports 39 clinics have closed permanently after their campaigns.

Bereit believes even more clinic closures are in the offing.

“The momentum is shifting dramatically in the pro-life direction, and as even more people answer the call to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves’ and ‘rescue those being led to the slaughter,’” Bereit said, citing verses in Proverbs 31 and 24, respectively, “I believe we will see many more abortion centers closing in the near future.”

(BP contributed)

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