August 12, 2013 — An Alabama judge on Thursday issued a permanent injunction to close a Birmingham abortion clinic for violating state law by operating without a license, the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports (Le Coz, Jackson Clarion Ledger, 8/8).
In Alabama, a medical office is considered an abortion clinic if it performs at least 30 abortions during any two months of the year and represents itself as an abortion provider.
Lengthy Fight To Close Clinic
State regulators in April 2012 ordered the closure of the New Woman All Women clinic, citing "multiple and serious violations of State Board of Health rules." Diane Derzis, the clinic's owner, agreed to surrender the clinic's license and closed the facility that May. The Alabama Department of Public Health then allowed Derzis to lease the Birmingham facility to a new operator, Kelley Rain-Water, with the stipulation that Rain-Water would run the facility independently of Derzis. However, the department denied Rain-Water's application for a license on the grounds that Derzis and her company would play an active role by profiting from the arrangement. Rain-Water subsequently submitted a renegotiated lease.
In March, DPH sued entities involved with the facility, claiming that the business was performing abortions illegally despite having agreed to shut down. Companies and individuals named in the suit subsequently filed a series of motions to dismiss it. They denied that the business is illegally operating as an abortion provider or that they are involved with the clinic.
In June, Circuit Judge Joseph Boohaker said entities associated with the New Woman All Women Health Care clinic could file a "serious" motion to dismiss the case at a later date. He added that both sides should be prepared for another hearing on Aug. 5 to decide the outcome of the state's complaint (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/4).
Boohaker on Thursday determined that the New Woman All Women clinic "meets the definition of an abortion or reproductive health center."
In his opinion, Boohaker explained that the clinic "holds itself out" to the public as an abortion provider because its phone number connects callers to an abortion referral service. Based on the testimony of one of the clinic's providers, Bruce Norman, Boohaker calculated that the clinic performs enough abortions to be considered an abortion provider. Norman had stated that he provides no more than 14 abortions "every other week," which the judge said means that the clinic was within the limit for "10 months of the year" but in excess of the limit "for two months every year."
Norman's attorney, Scott Morro, said Norman was "disappointed the judge has inferred that for two months out of a calendar year he does more than 30 abortions. Dr. Norman clearly knows he cannot do that."
DPH attorney Brian Hale said the department is "pleased with the court's ruling," adding, "The import of the order is Dr. Norman will have to close his clinic" (Oliver, "Spot News," Alabama Media Group, 8/9).
Derzis -- who owns another clinic in Mississippi -- declined to comment (Jackson Clarion Ledger, 8/9).