MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Anti-abortion advocate Reverend Jim Pinto arrived in Birmingham in 1980.
He arrived with determination and a dream of one day seeing the city go from having six abortion clinics to none at all.
Fast forward 26 years and Pinto is just two clinics shy of his goal after the recent closing of Summit Medical Center on the Birmingham's Southside.
Coupled with last month's appeals court ruling allowing a woman to sue a Birmingham Planned Parenthood clinic over an unsuccessful abortion, Alabama's anti-abortion groups are looking to capitalize on what Pinto says – though tragic – are triumphs for the cause.
Says Pinto: "It's a tremendous victory for us."
He continued: "We've had two doctors lose their license at this clinic (Summit) because of violations of state laws and we're glad that the clinic is not there."
Abortion advocates say Summit's closure, while justified, is a setback for women's health care in the state, which now has nine abortion clinics.
But to Pinto and other anti-abortion advocates, the closing is another notch in the Bible Belt's push to eradicate abortion in the region.
The Reverend James Henderson, president of the Alabama Alliance Against Abortion, says the state should aspire to be like Mississippi. That state has just one abortion clinic and requires the consent of both parents for minors and a 24-hour waiting period and counseling before all abortions.
Henderson says they're far better than we are. We give Mississippi an 'A' for their efforts and we give Alabama an 'F'."
Summit surrendered its operating license on June 14th, avoiding a June 20th hearing where the state health department was planning to request the license be revoked.
According to a health department report, a woman "delivered a stillborn, macerated, foul smelling, six pound, four ounce baby" in February after a Summit nurse gave her the R-U 486 abortion drug even though her blood pressure was too high and the baby was nearly full-term.
About three dozen activists celebrated Summit's closing at a ceremony or remembrance on June 21st and Pinto says they have named the baby in that case "Baby Alabama."
University of Alabama professor William Stewart says the anti-abortion advocates are smart to use recent events to their advantage, but it's nothing new.
"There's no real name for it, it's just being on alert and striking while the iron is hot," Stewart says.
But Stewart cautions that the strategy of pouncing on problematic developments goes both ways, pointing out the anti-abortion fallout following Eric Rudolph's bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic in 1998. A police officer was killed and a nurse was severely injured in the blast.
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