Judge Alan Mann today dismissed "with prejudice" a lawsuit filed by anti-choice activists against the City of Huntsville. The suit alleged that the city was violating its own zoning ordinances when it allowed the Alabama Women's Center to open at its new location. The judge saw it differently, and the clinic (which reopened in late October) is now free to continue to provide reproductive health services to the women of Alabama - and soon, possibly women from Tennessee.
It's the second bit of good news pro-choice advocates have had in the past few weeks. One bright spot in a otherwise dismal mid-term election was the defeat of local political opportunist Chris Horn, who tried to turn the clinic's location in a majority-minority neighborhood into an election issue that would get him to the Alabama Legislature. Voters saw through that charade though and elected Anthony Daniels instead. Really: all you had to do was drive by the clinic and see that the "neighborhood" wasn't protesting - only this crew of regular faces of anti-choice Huntsville.
The dismissal of this lawsuit is no small victory for the clinic owner. Remember what he has been through. Not just having to relocate his business due to the TRAP laws, he's had to put up with this sort of clapTRAP:
This has to be galling for head protester & pseudo-preacher James Henderson, who told the judge in this case that he was sure he was "more qualified" to interpret zoning regulations than the city's long-time zoning board administrator, James McGuffey. Henderson was also recorded giving legal advice to a federal judge who called out the Huntsville protesters' bad behavior: "Mind your own business and stay out of ours."
Well, Mr. Henderson... take that advice to heart. Mind your own damn business and let the women who visit the clinic make their own medical decisions.
Kudos again to the brave men and women of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates who volunteer at clinics across Alabama, track legislation, lobby, and advocate for women's reproductive health issues. They're on the front lines in this battle and they're true heroes for justice. Why not join them?
Dang. This Facebook thread is pretty hard to share on a "family blog," but methinks Alabama Democratic Governor hopeful Kevin Bass needs to keep his mouth - or keyboard - or whatever - ZIPPED instead of attempting to discuss women's reproductive choices. After failing to "pump" the vote, Bass decided to "dump" on the people who supported him in the primary.
Unfortunately, this resulted in a rather "sticky" debate with his former supporters.
Members of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates(ARRA) endorsed Bass in the primary & were shocked when he went rouge this week with a strongly anti-choice post on his campaign Facebook page. Not surprisingly, many of his astonished supporters called him out on it. But what's more astonishing is the explanation that Bass pulled out to explain his new favorite position. Was it Bass posting or a 12-year-old demon that temporarily possessed his spirit? You review these comments and decide.
In any case, it pretty much assures us that Bass has little interest in pursuing elected office in Alabama again.
Here's Bass earlier this year:
And here's the candidate "unleased" - or "unzipped" - or simply unaware that he's totally trashed any future political prospects.
Thanks to dismal recruiting efforts by the Alabama Democratic Party, our choice was between turncoat Parker Griffith and Kevin "pump & dump" Bass. And people wonder why Alabama Democrats weren't enthusiastic about voting last week.
Guess who thronged the sidewalks to protest on the first Saturday that the Alabama Women's Center was open at its new location? Not the neighbors. Not the local business owners. Imagine a surreal, twisted remake of "Grumpy Old Men" & you'll get it. It was just the regular, "weaned on a pickle" faces of anti-choice Huntsville. Doesn't this guy look happy to be there?
This was a "big shock" to clinic supporters (snark), because the opponents were vocal and confident when they told the Huntsville Zoning Board that the "neighborhood" didn't want the clinic in the new location. They offered two reasons.
Local politico Chris Horn cited neighborhood concerns at the meeting. He spoke on behalf of "hundreds" who hadn't bothered to show up at the meeting. Later, a priest who lives 100 miles away played the race card. Watch a video clip of the hearing.
And yet, the first Saturday after the clinic opened, here's the crew who showed up:
Do they look remotely like the same group that was protesting in October 2013 & who appear on a weekly basis?
Crikey! Some of them are even wearing the same clothes. Kind of like their "oppress women" uniforms.
Towards the end of the protest, their leader, James Henderson, snatched one of FIVE bullhorns used by the group & made a speech. Yes campers, 14 people came armed with FIVE bullhorns. Isn't that special?
While we have video of Henderson's ranting, I'm not posting it. He can get his 50 seconds of fame somewhere else. But he reported that he had been at Saturday's meeting of the Madison County Republican Men's Club & confidently promised his motley group of acolytes that "Governor Bentley's office" would intervene in the clinic zoning dispute.
"Delusional" barely describes the man. No matter how little authority local governments have under the Alabama Constitution, they can regulate zoning. That's not the purview of the Governor's office.
North Alabama women once again have a convenient location for health screenings, tests, and abortions. The Alabama Women's Center has reopened in its new location. The previous building didn't comply with the state's new TRAP laws, and the clinic's owner fought a long battle with protesters and state & local government agencies to relocate.
This was not an easy process. Opponents fought the clinic at every turn with outrageous arguments and even accusations of racism:
While the clinic has been closed, North Alabama women have had to pay the TRAP tax and travel to Tuscaloosa or go out of state. Not surprisingly, that presented a time and financial challenge for many, but hundreds of donors and volunteers (heroes & heroines, all) stepped up to help pay expenses and ferry patients to more distant locations.
Congratulations to the clinic owners, employees, and dedicated volunteers from the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA). It would have been so easy to give up and walk away, but y'all stood strong in the face of verbal harrassment, legal threats, and delays.
The good guys (and gals) won one for themselves and for the women of North Alabama.
Isn't this just the face women need to see before & after they leave the "Reproductive Health Services" clinic in Montgomery? Ladies, meet David. He cares so much about your health that he spends his valuable personal time picketing and trespassing on private property in order to yell "babykiller" and other epithets through the windows of the clinic.
We're not kidding about trespassing. He was so proud of being arrested for trespassing that he filmed it. He explained to police that he had "no choice" because the sprinkler sprayed the sidewalk. And yet, he had a choice whether or not to be on the sidewalk in the first place. Details, details.
This self-righteous street preacher is a fixture at Montgomery's sole women's clinic. That's nothing unusual: most clinics have a regular gang of protesters. We've reported extensively on the faces of anti-choice Huntsville. But there's always a ringleader who can be counted on to be over-the-top in behavior & rhetoric.
In Huntsville, we have the oozing self-importance of Rev. James Henderson, who offers free legal advice to federal judges. Montgomery has David here. Judging from his stance in this photo taken yesterday, he also appears to be an aspiring Victoria's Secret model - as soon as he, ahem, grows a pair. Eat more Twinkies son, you'll get there....
The clinic escorts in Montgomery invite y'all to participate in a photo caption contest for David. Suggestions include:
Secret Shopper at Frederick's of Hollywood
"Do you carry something in a nice DDD?"
"Why don't the ladies dig me?"
Share your suggestions in the comments! The clinics escorts can have posters made. Maybe the winner can receive an autographed copy!
Seriously though, people like this are the reason we have FACE laws (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) and why some states instituted strict buffer zones around clinics. Protesters want courts to believe that they only want to pray, counsel women, and offer them alternatives to abortion. Some undoubtedly are telling the absolute truth. However, they do nothing to reign in the obstreperous, judgmental majority of protesters who do their best to shame and upset women entering the clinics - potentially causing them physical harm.
The court found the interest in protecting patients in and around the clinics was compelling, especially given physicians' testimony that amplified sound can cause anxiety and high blood pressure, hindering patients' recovery.
Huntsville's only women's clinic is closed temporarily, so what's a bored abortion opponent to do? Why, protest at the previous location of course. The fact that it's occupied by a female OB-GYN who is pro-choice just puts the cherry on top. For months, we've been following the saga of Huntsville's Alabama Women's Center as it struggles to comply with the TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) bill passed by the GOP supermajority. (Part of the bill was struck down by a federal judge. Read coverage of the hearings here.)
As of now, the clinic remains closed, pending final inspection and approval from state & local government. Not surprisingly, the state is taking its time sending someone up here and the city is now embroiled in a lawsuit over the zoning.
That's right campers! The supermajority's TRAP law is costing taxpayers money at the state and local levels. That's quite the twist on their pledge of "fiscal responsibility."
So, with the actual clinic closed, what's a dedicated anti-choice protester to do with his/her time? Maybe they could volunteer to help with the many humanitarian needs in our community: the hungry, the homeless, the kids needing mentors, sick people without medical care, elderly & homebound residents who need a helping hand.....
NOPE. This Huntsville group has decided to go "back to the future" and protest at the old clinic location. You know: the one where abortions are no longer performed and the place where a private physician has set up an OB/GYN practice.
This isn't the first time protesters have tried to disrupt this doctor's private practice. They picketed her old office as well - directly across from a middle school school. Why their intense interest and determination to disrupt a private medical practice?
She used to be a physician at the clinic, but folded under the pressure & threats from the anti-choice zealots. It's understandable: many doctors have to make the same choice to protect themselves, their families, and employees. But here's the thing: the protesters won. They forced her to stop working at the clinic - but they're still harrassing her and her patients.
It seems that these goons just can't stop yelling at pregnant women - even women who are hoping to carry their pregnancies to term.
The word "bully" just doesn't seem to cover it.
The photos accompanying this post were taken yesterday outside the doctor's office. If you're confused by the "White Abortionist" sign, just understand that the doctor's last name is hyphenated and the protesters apparently have problems with proper punctuation.
URGE - Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity - invites young (age 17-25) Alabama activists to attend the "Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute" training in Tuscaloosa next month. The weekend-long retreat will "introduct young activists to the reproductive justice movement and basic organizing skills.
URGE envisions a world where all people have agency over their own bodies and relationships, and the power, knowledge, and tools to exercise that agency. URGE builds this vision by engaging young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization, and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda
At a meeting of the Huntsville Zoning Commission Tuesday night, James Henderson, Executive Director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama decided to take a traditional approach & blame federal judges for his problems. Traditional, that is, for Alabama. We're the state remember, that likes to thumb our nose at Washington with one hand while we pocket federal cash with the other.
Judge Thompson's opinion (PDF) specifically called out Huntsville clinic protestors for creating a hostile, violent atmosphere outside the clinics (noisy too - note the bullhorn), outlined the state's "history of violence & threats againt abortion doctors," and noted that the "protests in Huntsville go beyond run-of-the-mill political protests."
Apparently, being called out on their bad behavior injured the tender feelings of Henderson & his crew because several mentioned the judge during their speeches to the board. But only Henderson offered specific instructions:
"He should mind his own business and stay out of ours."
Except that, Jenderson's "business" is denying women their constitutional right, so who better to get involved than a federal judge?
The "faces of anti-choice Huntsville" swarmed the city zoning board hearing last night in a last ditch attempt to keep North Alabama's lone women's clinic from reopening in a new location. In a breathtaking display of chutzpah, speaker after speaker - some of whom live more than 50 miles from the proposed location - went concern trolling. They cited concerns about "the neighborhood" and "disruptions" caused by protests at the previous clinic location.
Why yes.... block the sidewalks, bus in scores of children, bellow at passersby through a bullhorn, and assault clinic escorts.... and then complain about the "tension & violence" associated with the clinic.
The Huntsville clinic has been closed since the end of June, forcing many women to go out of state. The clinic owner found a new location that complies with the TRAP laws - the same laws that the demonstrators lobbied so hard to pass. But it's still not good enough. While some speakers tried to pretend it was just "concern" about the neighborhood, others were pretty candid. They don't like abortion & don't want a clinic to open anywhere.
One speaker, GOP legislative candidate Chris Horn, even obliquely referred to the events in Ferguson, MO as an example of what can happen when neighborhood residents don't have a voice. Except that residents do have a voice - and a forum where they could have exercised their rights last night. However, of all the opposition speakers, only Horn actually lives in the neighborhood. The next closest speaker is more than a mile from the new clinic location, and the main speaker, Rev. James Henderson, lives in Morgan County.
In spite of repeated requests to stick to the topic at hand - zoning - and avoid wading into the abortion debate or causing a disruption, many speakers just couldn't help themselves. A favorite moment was when a monk from Cullman stressed that neighborhood residents don't want this clinic! The next speaker? A woman who lives .8 miles from the clinic & who spoke in favor of the location. oops....
Another favorite moment: Rev. Henderson railing about "Wiccan witch smoke" being used against his group.
Watch the video clip for a sample of the evening's activities. In spite of all the Sturm und Drang, the zoning board voted against the appeal. Reverend Henderson, unwilling to give up his time in the limelight, promises a court challenge.
Note: I'll also have video up with the remarks of clinic supporters, but have to tend to other matters today. Coming soon!
It was a motley crew: the leader was a guy with a theory of "post-abortion syndrome" & a Home Ec degree. Others included: the plastic surgeon who screwed up Linda Tripp's face lift; a male emergency room doctor who needs to be "told" why a woman has come to the hospital with complications; a sociologist who thinks it's no big deal if poor women have to travel hundreds of miles & spend days in hotels in order to get a legal medical procedure; & a North Carolina obstetrician & professor who travels the country (for money) supporting TRAP laws as "the current standard of care."
Let's start with the ringleader: Vincent Rue, who collected a whopping $82,890 from Alabama during 2013 & 2014.
Rue has a long and sordid history as a professional "anti-abortion expert." He's a psychotherapist (or is that "psycho" therapist?) who coined the term "post-abortion syndrome" to refer to a form of mental illness women experience after getting an abortion. Which would mean, essentially, that he believes one in three American women is mentally ill. He's also a proponent of giving men veto power over their partner's abortion (because of the "damage" abortion does to men, you understand), meaning that he thinks men have a "right" to control women's reproductive choices. Hey girls! They may transfer the sperm to you, but they still own it!
Rue, who holds a doctorate in family relations from the University of North Carolina School of Home Economics, has claimed that "abortion reescalates the battle between the sexes" and "abortion increases bitterness toward men." For decades, he has strived to convince mainstream researchers to recognize "post-abortion syndrome," a supposed mental illness resulting from abortion.
But "after submission for peer review by scientists with the Center for Disease Control, the National Center for Health Statistics and other scientific institutions, [Rue's] study was found to have 'no value' and to be 'based upon a priori beliefs rather than an objective review of the evidence,'" according to Daniel Huyett, a federal judge who disregarded Rue's testimony in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a landmark 1990 abortion case that eventually ended up before the Supreme Court. "His testimony is devoid of…analytical force and scientific rigor," Huyett added. "Moreover, his admitted personal opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, suggests a possible personal bias." Rue "possesses neither the academic qualifications nor the professional experience of plaintiffs' expert witnesses," another federal judge wrote in 1986 after hearing Rue's testimony in another landmark abortion case, Hodgson v. Minnesota.
Rue has testified, written reports, and coached witness during abortion lawsuits since the mid-1980's. In the past two years alone, he's pocketed over $200,000 in taxpayer money from Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Next up, we have emergency room physician Dr. James Anderson, who was paid $16,350 to essentially repeat testimony that Vincent Rue prepared for him. Anderson defended the "admitting privliges" requirement in Alabama's TRAP law because women might be "embarrassed" to admit they'd had an abortion (reckon why?) and he wouldn't know why they were bleeding unless the doctor who performed the procedure was on hand. What a medical marvel he is!
Dr. Anderson has a history of being Rue's mouthpiece (think of the scene in "Chicago" where Roxie sits on lawyer Billy Flynn's lap). From the Mother Jones article:
Rue engaged James C. Anderson, a Virginia emergency room physician, to testify not only in Wisconsin, but also in Alabama, Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas.
Rue often drafts written testimony for his star witnesses. In Alabama, Anderson testified that Rue had written his supplemental report to the court—Anderson had merely signed his name to it. When pressed by the judge, Anderson revealed that Rue had provided most of the research for his main report, too.
According to Anderson, Rue helped coordinate witnesses to defend Alaska's 2010 parental notification law.
A few days earlier, in Alabama, Anderson testified that he didn't know courts had disregarded Rue's testimony.
"You say you don't know his employment or any organizations that he belongs to," the judge asked Anderson. "Why do you trust him?"
Another member of Rue's crew, Dr. John Thorp, is a North Carolina ob/gyn & professor at Chapel Hill. He collected $34,131.25.
Dr. Thorp has allegedly researched the "physical harm" done to women by abortions. His study on that harm was refused by peer-reviewed journals & only saw print when he placed it in a "pay to publish" journal.
Thorp ran into some trouble when he testified in Wisconsin. Turns out he has problems with decimal places:
If you knew the State of Alabama had an extra $142,000 to spend, what might you suggest? What if you knew the state had another $580,000 extra? Chances are, you won't spend it like Attorney General Luther Strange did - defending unconstitutional bills passed by the Alabama Legislature.
It was bad enough that the state got soaked with tons of bad publicity when the Legislature passed Scott Beason's folly - aka... the immigration bill. There's no way to know how many businesses decided to relocate elsewhere - particularly foreign companies who might not want their executives arrested, but one thing we do know: the state spent almost $600,000 to fight (and lost) just two lawsuits: immigration & TRAP. The fight over the Alabama Accountability Act is still in the courts.
When the federal hearings over the state's TRAP Law (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) ended in May, those final bills from "expert" witnesses for the state began to rain down on the Attorney General's office. As of 8/3/2014, Strange has flushed away $142,721.25. And for what? Just this past week, a federal appeals court struck down Mississippi's TRAP law and the opinion specifically cited the spurious explanation from the state that women could "just go out of state" if they wanted an abortion:
In explaining their decision, judges E. Grady Jolly of Mississippi and Stephen A. Higginson of Louisiana wrote, "Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion."
The Mississippi law "effectively extinguishes that right (to a lawful abortion) within Mississippi's borders," they said.
The ruling goes on to explain that if a woman has to go out of state to get an abortion, then that requirement places an "undue burden" on her.
Oops... let's recall coverage of the hearing in Alabama. See if any of this sounds familiar:
The assertion that being required to travel 100+ miles to obtain a legal medical procedure is an "undue burden" infantalizes poor women, the state's "expert" witness testified: That conclusion, he said "suggests women who are poor are incapable of planning and carrying out a trip of more than 100 miles to obtain something important."
Oh, and let's not forget this gem from one of our state lawyers. He wanted to know why women don't just get abortions when they have a few days off work? "Send the kids to grandma's with food! Do it while the kids are in school! Huntsville and Tuscaloosa both have clinics on Saturday so do it when you're off work!" Like women's clinics in Alabama are open 24/7 or that everybody has nights & weekends off.
Take a few minutes to read our coverage of the TRAP lawsuit hearings because most of these so-called "experts" who cost the state $140,000+ made some truly bizarre, entitled, and off-the-wall assumptions about the lives of women in Alabama. For this particular post though, we'll just point out how much each of them got paid. It's all in detail in the Alabama Checkbook, but I put it together in a single Excel spreadsheet here for download.
Dr. James Anderson
Let's even forget the financial aspects of this silliness and consider the long-term consequences. I keep hearing that we need to make our cities and our state more attractive to young professionals. We want to keep our educated young people in this state and attract more good-paying jobs. Is this the way to do it? Ask yourself why young professionals - particularly women - would even consider staying or moving to a state whose legislature proudly flaunts its xenophobia, misogyny, and contempt for public education.
The only way the state will change is if we the voters change the government. We can do that in November & a good place to start is by ditching Big Luther. Joe Hubbard for Attorney General.
The statewide group Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA) has received multiple requests for assistance from North Alabama women this week. Prohibited from receiving medical care in their own community by Alabama's TRAP law, they're faced with traveling to Nashville, Tuscaloosa, or even Columbus, GA.
Several members of the group have helped these women with personal donations, driven hours with them to appointments in other cities/states, and cobbled together groups of volunteers who are willing to offer free lodging and/or transportation. As one frustrated volunteer noted: "It's like we're setting up a $%$# Underground Railroad."
During the federal court hearings this spring on the TRAP law, a witness predicted just this situation, calling the laws, "a tax on women."
ARRA sent us this plea for assistance & asked if our LIA community members can help by donating online here.
"As many of you know, our women's clinic in Huntsville was unable to meet the building requirements of the TRAP law. We are starting to get calls for help from young women needing an abortion. We want to start this fund to help with travel expenses and a partial funding of the abortion when needed. It will also cover pregnancy tests or Plan B (the morning after pill) for those that can't afford it. West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa has agreed to take the Huntsville patients until the clinic is reopened.
Thank you SO much!!
Tuscaloosa is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Huntsville and Alabama has a 48 hour waiting period law (because, you know, pregnant women are flighty, right? We have to stop them from just pulling into an clinic and impulsively getting an abortion). That means women who travel there either have to pay for meals & hotels or make two trips, for a total of 10 hours travel time, 2 days lost from work/school, and added cost for gas. The extra travel cost is not insubstantial: 600 miles total at 30 miles/gallon is 20 gallons of fuel and adds about $70 to the cost - more than a day's pay for a minimum wage worker who's probably already missing work to travel.
No donation is too small - no donation is too large! It all goes to help women facing situations that are already difficult both financially and emotionally. Thanks to the Alabama Legislature, the whole experience is just that much harder.
This is a short post, but an important one. The state & anti-choice protestors will do whatever is necessary to keep the Huntsville women's clinic closed. That's an action that leaves a gaping hole in abortion services in Alabama. It's a hole that stretches from Tuscaloosa to Nashville.
Campers... will we permit this? NOOOOOO!
This is easy. You don't have to show up anywhere to escort (although that would be nice). You don't have to write a letter (although you could do that too).
This is in response to the TRAP bill passed by the legislature this session. Clinics have new requirements to meet - requirements that do NOT apply to most other outpatient facilities, hence the name "Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers."
Clinic officials did submit blue prints for a new location to move the clinic off Sparkman Drive for approval from the state Department of Public Health.
According to Brian Hale, Deputy General Counsel with Alabama Department of Public Health, the blue prints have not been approved yet because they're waiting for response from the clinic's architect on making minor alterations to the interior.
It's not clear if that can be done by Tuesday's deadline.
"The clinic is still going through the approval process with the state," said Clinic Administrator, Dalton Johnson, "We will continue the fight to re-open at the new facility while we continue to follow every letter of the law."
"It will be a sad day for us to close our doors because it means women of North Alabama will no longer have access to the multiple health care services we provide, not just abortions," said Johnson.
The clinic has already jumped other hurdles in the law requiring its physicians to have admitting privileges to area hospitals and adhering to the 48-hour waiting period requirement for women to have the procedure.
While this is a sad event, it's not the end of the story. Without the tireless efforts of pro-choice activists & volunteers, the original clinic might have closed well before the TRAP bill passed. So it's a good time to give a shout out to the dedicated group of volunteer clinic escorts who have showed up no matter what the weather (literally, the last time I was there, it was sleeting and about 20 degress outside, but the experienced escorts weren't fazed a bit), no matter how many antis thronged the sidewalks (adults & kids who sang the delightful "happy birthday dead baby" song), and kept their heads no matter what the provocation.
Here's some of our coverage of these local heroes:
The ACLU of Alabama invites you to its third annual "Roe on the Rocks" happy hour. It's a fun, informal event where you can meet ACLU staff and network with like-minded people. The event itself is free, with a cash bar.
Huntsville anti-choice protesters are worried about the "impact on children" if the city's lone women's clinic moves from its present location to a new building that complies with the state's TRAP law. The problem, they assert, is that the new location is directly across from a middle school and so represents both a safety and moral hazard for the children.
Well, if anyone should recognize a "moral hazard," it's this group of zealots.
Oddly though, they haven't raised this particular concern about the current location, which is 2 blocks from Huntsville Middle School and two buildings away from Huntsville Hospital's child care center. And, as clinic supporters point out, nobody could distinguish either the current or future location from any other medical facility if it weren't for the protesters out front waving signs, passing out fetus dolls, and busing in school children to sing such ditties as "Happy Birthday, Dead Baby" to women entering the building.
In their rather unusual version of logic, bringing their own small children to stand on the sidewalk in front of a busy 5-lane road and busing in children from local Christian shools is fine, but having children attending the school across the 5-lane road, who are inside the building learning most of the day, is a problem. They also weren't worried about it when they picketed this very same building last year because the doctor who occupied it was pro-choice.
Publicity-hungry politico, Chris Horn, joined the group in a protest yesterday outside the new clinic location and complained about the effect on neighborhood property values. Trouble is, the current clinic location is next to the historic Twickenham District, one of the most pricey and exclusive areas of the city. If the clinic and the sign-waving "counselors" out front haven't been an issue for residents there, it's unlikely that the new location will be an issue either.
Now, the problem here is that the building is already zoned for a medical facility, the clinic's owner has completed the purchase, and it complies with the new anti-abortion TRAP laws. That means the anti-choice people had to find a new complaint, so they went with the easy choice: racism.
Abortion advocates are targeting the black community in northwest Huntsville with plans to relocate its downtown clinic to a facility on Sparkman Drive, anti-abortion protestors said Saturday.
Yes campers, locating a reproductive health clinic that provides affordable services to women including pap smears, STD screenings, pregnancy tests, birth control, and abortion in an existing building that's zoned as a medical clinic and happens to be in a low-income, mostly African American neighborhood is now a racist act. The clinic welcomes all women - even if they don't have health insurance, which many do not since our state declined to expand Medicaid. Have you ever tried to call a local OB/GYN and make an appointment? The first question is "What kind of insurance do you have?" See how much farther you get if the answer is "none."
What are these protesters doing to help those women? Nothing.
But don't expect to hear any of that from the Huntsville Times reporter, Paul Gattis, whose article on the protest was rightly condemned as biased. He defended himself in the comments this way:
Yep. All you "pro-abortion" harridans stop yer whinin'! If y'all want to get out and wave picket signs and block the sidewalk in front of legal businesses, we'll be happy to give you the coverage you deserve.
EXCEPT.... remember the Women's Rights rally in Huntsville in April? The one that we covered with these posts that included video and partial transcripts of the speeches:
You saw none of that from the local newspaper, although several TV stations did stop by. So apparently, when hundreds gather to rally for women and statewide candidates for office attend, it gets a "yawn" from Mr. Gattis & his fellow reporters. But when a couple of dozen protesters scream about reproductive choice being some sort of racist plot, they're all over the story.
As the federal court hearing on Alabama's TRAP bill continues, there was some really chilling testimony last week from an former undercover agent who has worked on domestic terrorism cases. It's worth recapping here as part of our coverage because this weekend marks the 5th anniversary of Dr. George Tiller's murder in Wichita, KS - as he was attending church.
Last Wednesday (5/28) Margarent Moore testified about clinic terrorism. This woman isn't only knowledegable and experienced - she's a badass.
Some highlights from her resume:
Undercover narcotics cop for the NYPD.
Joined the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) & worked undercover for them infiltrating the IRA.
Worked on the first World Trade Center bombing.
While at the ATF, she also worked undercover in investigating abortion clinic bombings in the 1980's in NY, WA, and IA.
Named the first female Special Agent in Charge of the ATF. She stayed there for 23 years.
After retiring from the ATF, Moore joined the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) as Director of Law Enforcement Operations.
She is now retired, but shared a wealth of information about her experiences fighting crime and domestic terrorism.
Moore described how clinic violence stops doctors from wanting to get into the field, and how it's hard to find people to work at the clinics. Domestic terrorism means people get shot, maimed, and their right to privacy is always violated because the violent people go to any means necessary to stop abortion. (The state at this point actually had the nerve to object and state that she was not an expert on clinic violence, which Judge Thompson overruled.)
She shared a retrospective of clinic violence through the previous 4 decades:
The first act of arson at a clinic was in 1976, and got worse into the 1980's.
During one year in the 80's, bombings and arsons happened 25 times.
Mass protests and blockades also started in the 80's, with sometimes up to 200 people participating in these activities in places such as Atlanta.
Abortion opponents stepped up their game in the 1990's and began murdering doctors. Dr. Gunn in Pensacola was killed in 1993. Dr. Britton at the same Pensacola clinic was killed by Paul Hill, who also killed the doctor's escort/bodyguard, a retired Lt Col and injured the Lt Col's wife. Several other doctors were killed then the Birmingham clinic was bombed by Eric Rudolph, who also bombed a clinic in Sandy Springs, GA and a gay nightclub, too. Canada had murders as well.
Then Dr. Tiller was killed in 2009, after surviving a previous attempt to kill him by the Army of God. The Army of God is a designated terrorist group by the US Gov't and DOJ.
Roeder (Tiller's killer) stalked the Doctor for two weeks before shooting him in his church.
Moore's job was to stay in touch with clinics nationwide and alert them about any strange activities because the Army of God had threatened almost everyone.
US Marshals were brought in to watch the other doctors that worked with Dr. Tiller.
Death threats came in to other clinics regularly.
Although Roeder says he acted alone, Cheryl Sullinger's (of Operation Rescue) phone number was found in his car.
Moore also described the "wanted posters" and the websites that post people's entire information including family members & social security numbers. She said some of these groups have "manuals" just like Al Qaeda.
For instance, last week, the state tried to refute the notion that the TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) regulations amount to "a tax on women". Plaintiffs asserted this because, if several clinics in Alabama are forced to close, then women will incur extra costs when they have to travel longer distances and pay for overnight stays due to the new 48 hour waiting period. Not to mention losing pay at work, paying for child care during that time, etc.
Majority of women in AL getting abortions are living in extreme poverty - estimates are around 70+%. Her estimates on the additional costs (travel, lost wages, childcare, ect) are as follows: Montgomery to Tuscaloosa: $415, B'ham to Tuscaloosa: $231, and Mobile to Tuscaloosa: $651 (Mobile to Tuscaloosa includes 2 night stay at hotel, average hotel rate of $93).
One of the state's lawyers blew off those concerns as well as the $93/night hotel cost. He asked about those hotels he sees that advertise rooms for $39 or less. Then he tossed out this nugget:
...since 40% of women seeking an abortion have not had a child, childcare isn't an issue for everyone. "Send the kids to grandma's with food! Do it while the kids are in school! Huntsville and Tuscaloosa both have clinics on Saturday so do it when you're off work!"
And furthermore, the state didn't understand why it's such a big deal to travel to another state:
AG representative kept asking the sociologist who is from CA if she knew where Phoenix City, AL is and if she knew if there was a pedestrian bridge that AL women could just waltz on over into GA on to get an abortion. Seriously.
Abruptly, the state changed tactics and asserted that the issue is all about safety and "continuity of care." (Suddenly, the state is worried about women's health.) If the abortion provider doesn't have local hospital admitting privileges, then the woman's life could be at risk or health compromised.
The state's lawyers tried to drive this point home yesterday, when it put Dr. James Anderson on the stand to talk about the terrible consequences of abortion, the need for doctors with admitting privileges, and his relationship with a controversial anti-abortion activist whose chief claim to fame is a Home Ec degree.
"It would always be helpful," Anderson said during a little over two hours of testimony. "When starting off brand new with a patient, you have to be like a detective . . . if I had a call from an abortion provider giving information, I'm not at all starting in the dark."
So, if the ER doctor just needs a phone call to get up to speed on the patient, why does the clinic doctor need admitting privileges?
A courtroom observer noted this little nugget from Anderson's testimony as well:
He stated that he had had one patient die as result of abortion. She waited for a couple of days (because of worry about the expense) to go to emergency room, and was septic when she got there.
Sounds like the problem in that case was lack of access to medical care. hmmm... maybe the poor woman had already blown her savings on travel expenses, hotels, etc. and was afraid of additional hospital costs.
It might come as a surprise to a practicing physician and highly-paid state attorneys that some people don't have a portfolio full of stocks & a wallet full of credit cards.
Alabama spent a third day in federal court yesterday defending its ill-conceived TRAP anti-abortion bill passed in 2013. The day didn't go well for the state, with the Montgomery Advertiser's Brian Lyman reporting that State Solicitor General Andrew Brasher "visibly and loudly bang[ed] his head on a podium in the courtroom."
The plaintiffs (Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Alabama) led off with an impeccable expert witness, Dr. Paul Fine, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast.
He has over 30 years' experience in OB/GYN & abortion care since the 70's and remembers pre-Roe days.
An Air Force veteran, he settled in TX to open an OB/GYN practice in 1977.
He graduated from the Galveston Police Academy and is a reserve police officer.
He taught the Galveston Police Department how to handle rape kits and how to work with victims of sexual assault.
He teaches OB/GYN students and specializes in teaching abortion care at Baylor, a position he still holds today.
He's the Medical Director for Galveston EMS.
Dr. Fine spent the day explaining that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with fewer complications than colonoscopies, childbirth, and other common procedures.
13-15% of pregnancies even end in spontaneous abortion/miscarriages and even those have a higher complication rate than medical or surgical abortion.
6 out of ONE MILLION women will die from abortion or abortion related services compared to 8.8 deaths per 100K for live childbirth.
The state's attorney challenged Dr. Fine about his opposition to requiring admitting privileges for clinic doctors, but Fine wiped the floor with him.
ER doctors are trained to deal with miscarriages, which is the same treatment as an abortion complication.
The ER doctor or OB/GYN on-call is the person who would admit the patient, whether it's an abortion or miscarriage.
The safety of abortion is one reason hospitals won't give admitting privileges to clinic cotors. Hospitals require a certain number of admissions per year for a doctor to get privileges. But abortions aren't that dangerous, so no clinic doctor would qualify.
In Texas, where the TRAP bill (which includes an admitting privilege requirement) has gone into effect, multiple clinics have closed. Women in the Rio Grande Valley are crossing into Mexico and getting potentially dangerous drugs that are on the black market that may not even be what they purport to be. Dr. Fine told Assistant Attorney General Jim Davis that Alabama's TRAP law "will only harm women by making more clinics close and putting women further away from the constitutional care they have every right to."
State lawyers pressed Dr. Fine on "continuity of care," but got nowhere. Fine noted that colonoscopies can go wrong and gastro doctors can't fix common complications like perforations themselves. They have to call in surgeons to fix them. The State even asked him if all doctors had cell phones, he said "I don't know, do all lawyers have cell phones?"
After that, the State called its first witness, George Smith, chairman of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. Smith supported the state's assertion that patients can only receive adequate care if the clinic doctor is the person who admits them to the hospital. But... oops!
Under cross-examination from Randall Marshall of ACLU Alabama, Smith said the board did not require physicians to obtain admitting privileges to provide services, and allowed doctors who lived outside the state to perform the procedures.
In fact, Alabama doesn't require any other doctor who performs in-office surgery to have hospital admitting privileges. The requirement only targets clinic doctors, which is why this law is called "Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers."
As always, many thanks to the dedicated ARRA folks who are attending and reporting so thoroughly on these proceedings. Find them Facebook. Some of this article is directly quoted from their report & some is paraphrased; we apprectiate their hard work & willingness to share their reports.
In keeping with GOP supermajority's jobs plan for lawyers, Alabama was in federal court yesterday defending the state's TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) law that passed during the 2013 session. Clinic operators testified that all but two clinics in Alabama would be forced to close if the law is upheld:
June Ayers, the owner of Montgomery's Reproductive Health Services, and Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast and its clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, are challenging the law and were the first witnesses in a federal trial that began Monday. They said enforcement of the law would make it harder for low-income women to getabortions.
"If I close my doors, their access is dramatically, dramatically reduced," Ayers said.
Mississippi, Wisconsin and Texas have laws similar to Alabama, but Texas is the only state where it is being enforced. Testimony in the non-jury Alabama trial in Montgomery continues through June 5. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson will rule after that.
Reproductive rights advocates attended the hearing but weren't allowed to use any electronic recording equipment. Here are some interesting tidbits, however, from the notes posted on the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates FB page:
Basically the state doesn't give a damn if Mobile and Montgomery have to go out business, Mobile women can go to Pensacola and Montgomery women can go to Columbus, GA. That's all we heard all day long.
Our side is really pushing that this is going to put an undue burden on women by adding costs up to an estimated $651 if women from Mobile travel to Tuscaloosa (bus/taxi or private car costs + childcare + hotel stays due to 48 hour waiting period).
[AG lawyer] said since 40% of women seeking an abortion have not had a child, childcare isn't an issue for everyone. "Send the kids to grandma's with food! Do it while the kids are in school! Huntsville and Tuscaloosa both have clinics on Saturday so do it when you're off work!"
--- Because, of course nobody works on Saturday, right? And with the 48 hour waiting period, you have to take more time off than that - too bad if you don't get paid vacation or sick leave, hon.
Dr. Shelia Katz, a sociologist from CA that studies gender in relation to poverty because up to 70+% of the women in AL that get abortions live below the poverty line.
She (Katz) did a full study and summarized that if the law goes into effect, only Tuscaloosa & Huntsville would be left. AL is the 6th poorest state in the nation, tied with KY. 19.1% overall poverty rate. Mobile has a 19.5% rate, Montgomery is at 20.6%, and B'ham is at 27%. Majority of women in AL getting abortions are living in extreme poverty - estimates are around 70+%. Her estimates on the additional costs (travel, lost wages, childcare, ect) are as follows: Montgomery to Tuscaloosa: $415, B'ham to Tuscaloosa: $231, and Mobile to Tuscaloosa: $651 (Mobile to Tuscaloosa includes 2 night stay at hotel, average hotel rate of $93).
The AG's office kept pushing her on that was pretty high, some cheap hotel they mentioned that I didn't write the name of was like $39 but she told them it had a terrible rating and was described online as nasty, dirty, and "I'd never stay there again".
But that's ok because poor women can just stay in disgusting places that aren't safe, right? She flat out said "this is like a tax on women".
AG representative kept asking the sociologist who is from CA if she knew where Phoenix City, AL is (right on the border with Columbus, GA) and if she knew if there was a pedestrian bridge that AL women could just waltz on over into GA on to get an abortion. Seriously.
Sure, some of that sounds just like the high comedy that comes out of the legislature and is one of the reasons we can't have nice things in Alabama. But the testimony about the harrassment of doctors and clinic staff will make your blood run cold: