(Photo: Screen grab via waff.com)
Alabama Women's Center, the sole abortion clinic located in the northern part of the state in Huntsville, will voluntarily shut its doors on Friday after failing to meet requirements of the state's new abortion law, which goes into effect on July 1.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed the Women's Health and Safety Act into law in April 2013. The law stipulates that doctors working at abortion clinics in the state must have hospital admitting privileges in the same city where the do abortions, and clinics must meet the same building safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers. According to an al.com report, these safety standards require a number of things, including making hallways at abortion clinics wide enough to accommodate patient gurneys.
If these safety standards aren't met by abortion clinics the state health department must revoke their license under the law.
According to WAFF, while the Alabama Women's Center was able to meet some requirements of the law, such as requiring that doctors have admitting privileges to area hospitals and instituting a 48-hour waiting period before women can undergo abortions, they were unable to meet the building safety standards in time so decided to voluntarily surrender their license.
"Voluntarily relinquishing the license is a way to avoid the adverse licensure action," Brian Hale, deputy general counsel with the Alabama Department of Public Health told AL.com Tuesday.
Clinic officials had submitted blue prints for a new location to move the clinic for approval by the state Department of Public Health but that approval is still pending, according to WAFF. Hale said they were waiting for a response from the clinic's architect about making minor changes to the interior of the proposed new location but it wasn't clear if they could be made by next Tuesday.
"The clinic is still going through the approval process with the state," clinic administrator Dalton Johnson told WAFF. "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," he added.
Eventhough the Alabama Women's Center has deciced to close it doors, three other active licensed abortion clinics will continue to provide abortions in that state, according to al.com. These clinics include Planned Parenthood in Mobile, West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa and Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery.
James Henderson, executive director of Christian Coalition of Alabama, which has been protesting the clinic for the last 10 years along with other pro-life activists, told al.com that they will have a memorial for all the babies killed at the clinic.
"We're going to have a memorial service and remember the lives that should have been," he said. "By reasonable estimates, there have been over 30,000 unborn babies killed at the various abortion clinics in Huntsville.
"It's wiped out a city larger than Athens and almost as big as Madison."
Pro-choice supporters told WAFF, however, that the closure of the abortion clinic was just another way for the state to restrict women's reproductive rights and called it a "wasted effort."
"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.
"It's a wasted effort," she added. "This facility was fine; this facility served the need. They created the law to try and drive it out of business."