BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Abortion opponent Janet Spear walked up to the door of the defunct Summit Medical Center on Wednesday and taped up the sign she had longed to see for years: 'This death camp stays closed.'
Spear joined about three dozen activists at a ceremony to celebrate the closing of the downtown clinic, which surrendered its license last week rather than fight state charges that a worker was improperly allowed to perform an abortion without a doctor being present.
Sweating under the noontime sun outside the darkened clinic building, Spear and the others prayed for the thousands of women and unborn children who had passed through its doors. And they promised to keep fighting to close Birmingham's two remaining abortion clinics, which draw patients from all over the region.
"We will not stop until our city is abortion free," said the Rev. Jim Pinto, founder of Sanctity of Life Ministries.
Summit, part of a chain of abortion clinics, gave up the operating license for its Birmingham location rather than answer claims linked to an abortion performed in February that led to a medical crisis for a woman who delivered a nearly full-term stillborn baby.
A nurse practitioner, rather than a doctor, gave the woman the abortion-inducing drug RU 486 even though the woman's blood pressure was dangerously high, according to a state complaint. The woman was told she was only six weeks pregnant but later delivered the nearly full-term stillborn infant that was protruding when the woman went to an emergency room, state officials charged.
Abortion rights supporters called the closing an unfortunate blow to women. But to Spear, who has protested abortion in Birmingham since the early 1990s, it was an answered prayer.
"I'd like to see them all in this condition," said Spear. "There are none of them that have a good safety record, but Summit has one of the more egregious."
The Rev. James Henderson, executive director of the Alabama Alliance Against Abortion, was upset that because of Summit's decision to give up without a fight, state health officials canceled a hearing that had been set for this week to air details of what happened during the botched abortion.
State officials don't conduct proper inspections of abortion clinics, he said, and people need to know what is going on.
"A tragic situation like this deserves a public airing," said Henderson, of Huntsville.
The director of the Alabama Department of Public Health, Dr. Donald Williamson, said he would like to conduct annual reviews of abortion clinics but lacks enough inspectors to do the work. The six inspectors who oversee Alabama's nine abortion clinics also review hundreds of hospitals, hospice centers and other facilities, he said.
Williamson said there was no reason to conduct a formal hearing on Summit after the company agreed to close the clinic permanently.
"They surrendered their license and are out of business. There's nothing to hear at this point," said Williamson.
Alabama Attorney General Troy King has said his office would investigate the abortion clinic.
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