Ala. Closes Abortion Clinic after Investigation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An abortion clinic was shut down Thursday after the state suspended its license amid allegations that a worker administered an abortion-inducing drug and performed other medical treatment on the patient without a doctor.

According to state health officials, the woman was told she was only six months pregnant but delivered a nearly full-term stillborn infant.

An order from the State Board of Health called the violations by Summit Medical Center in Birmingham "egregious," and the state health officer, Dr. Donald Williamson, said the clinic might not reopen.

"We feel we need to move toward revoking their license," said Williamson.

Officials from the clinic did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Neither did a lawyer who has represented Summit in past cases.

Williamson said an order issued Wednesday suspending the clinic's license was the result of a six-week investigation into the treatment of a woman who went to Summit seeking an abortion on Feb. 20.

The patient, who was not identified in the suspension order, received an ultrasound examination from a clinic worker rather than a physician, as Williamson said is required by the law.

A staff member then gave the patient RU-486, an abortion-inducing drug, and follow-up medications that are supposed to be administered only by doctors, he said.

While the patient was told during the examination that she was only six weeks pregnant, she went to a hospital emergency room six days later and delivered a stillborn infant that weighed six pounds, four ounces, according to the order.

"It was nearly full term," said Williamson.

Once state health officials were notified, they found that Summit's records indicated that the ultrasound and medications were handled by a doctor, even though the physician was not present at the clinic that day, he said.

The state scheduled a public hearing for June 20 to determine whether Summit's license should be revoked.

State records show 11,370 abortions were performed in Alabama in 2004, the last year for which records are available. The state doesn't release records showing how many abortions are performed by individual women's clinics.

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