Pro-lifers seek to shut abortion center using sex offender buffer provisions

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives left its old facilities pictured here for renovated offices of a former hospital clinic located just across the street from the former Ed White Middle School, which is being remodeled to house the Academy for Academics & Arts magnet school.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Christian Examiner) -- Despite strong efforts of Alabama pro-life supporters to shut down North Alabama's only abortion clinic, a court ruling last week has allowed the Women's Center in Huntsville to remain open. Now the group will seek to establish new legislation instead of filing an appeal.

In September, James Henderson, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama and 18 other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Huntsville Board of Zoning Adjustment asking for a preliminary injunction to stop the clinic from operating while the case goes through the court system.

Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann rejected the efforts on the grounds that none of the plaintiffs were directly affected by the location of the clinic. The lawsuit, had argued that the clinic should not be allowed to operate on a previously granted building variance initially intended for a Huntsville Hospital outpatient facility before it closed in 2013.

According to Henderson would not seek to appeal the court ruling, but instead try to establish a new law requiring abortion clinics to establish themselves at a 2,000 foot distance from schools. The 2,000 foot buffer is similar to the minimum distance requirement as is placed on sex offenders and schools.

"If you look in terms of cost effectiveness, new legislation is a better way to go," he said. "There will be a lot of public input and I know it's something Republican legislators will support."

Henderson, a member of the Alabama Republican Party executive committee, claimed that a buffer zone law has been encouraged by Gov. Robert Bentley's office and that Chief Legal Advisor David Byrne Jr. offered assistance with the legislation, though he could not do legal work for a private entity.

Should the law pass, the Alabama Women's Center would have to shut its doors or relocate because its current campus is almost directly across from a middle school which is being remodeled.

The center opened at this location in October after clinic owner Dalton Johnson purchased the facilities from Huntsville Hospital. He previously relocated his abortion service because that plant did not meet the standards of the Alabama Women's Health and Safety Act of 2013.