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New Ala. Law Requires Stricter Building Standards for Abortion Clinics

New Ala. Law Requires Stricter Building Standards for Abortion Clinics

July 2, 2014 — An Alabama law (HB 57) requiring abortion clinics to comply with stricter building standards went into effect on Tuesday, AP/Tuscaloosa News reports (Rawls, AP/Tuscaloosa News, 7/1).

The law, signed by Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in 2013, requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, with doors and hallways wide enough for gurneys, among other requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26).

A provision that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is on hold pending a court challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and others, according to AP/News.

ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson said, "Alabama's Legislature, like many states in the South, believes that it must be involved in a woman's most personal health choice decisions and has its sights set on chipping away at her rights to make her own choices."

3 Clinics Left, 2 Plan To Reopen

Alabama now has only three abortion clinics -- half the number in the state two years ago, according to state health department attorney Brian Hale.

The three remaining clinics are in Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, Hale said. Meanwhile, clinics in Huntsville and Birmingham are currently closed but could reopen soon.

Birmingham's clinic, operated by Planned Parenthood Southeast, closed in January after two staff members were fired for selling abortion medication in the clinic's parking lot. According to Planned Parenthood Southeast Vice President Nikema Williams, the clinic still has its license and meets all the building requirements set by the new law. She said new staff members are being trained, and she anticipates receiving approval from the health department to reopen in a few weeks (AP/Tuscaloosa News, 7/1).

Huntsville's clinic, the Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives, voluntarily surrendered its license and closed because it did not comply with the new building standards. Clinic officials have already provided the health department with blueprints for a new location. The department has not approved them yet because it is waiting for some small changes from the architect, a department spokesperson said. If approved, the clinic will have to apply for new licensing (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26).

According to Christian Coalition of Alabama Executive Director James Henderson, who opposes abortion rights, Huntsville had three abortion clinics 20 years ago, but has none open today (AP/Tuscaloosa News, 7/1).