There are three clinics in Alabama that are open and performing abortions – in Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Huntsville. Planned Parenthood does not operate any of them. Planned Parenthood is determined to jump into the abortion business in Alabama in a big way, despite the new law signed by Governor Kay Ivey.
A new clinic is under construction in Birmingham that will replace an existing Planned Parenthood clinic. Construction began in January 2019, long before the bill came out of the state legislative session and could be completed by November 2019. The new restrictive abortion law (the only exemption allowed is if the life of the mother is in danger) goes into effect in November. This sets up the potential for a collision between pro-abortion and pro-life Alabamans. Pro-life groups vow to oppose the clinic’s opening but Planned Parenthood claims neither the new law or abortion opponents were a factor in the construction project.
It will be a large facility, the largest in Alabama offering the services of Planned Parenthood – abortion, birth control, cancer testing, and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.
Located beside an interstate highway in downtown Birmingham, the 10,000-square-foot structure is now nothing but a steel frame and roof. Workers under the constant watch of security guards appear to be installing electrical wiring, plus heating and cooling units.
Planned Parenthood is one of the groups who sued the state over the new abortion law. No court date has been set. Both pro-life and pro-abortion sides hope the Supreme Court will ultimately have to weigh in on the law. In the meantime, other methods will be used to try and block the clinic’s opening.
Groups including Planned Parenthood have sued to block the law, which supporters hope will become the vehicle that a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court uses to gut the 1972 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
But no court hearing is set, so abortion opponents say they hope the opening will be blocked by some combination of the new law, public pressure, and a state agency.
Regardless of the law, abortion opponents aim to convince the Alabama Department of Public Health to deny a license for the facility, and they’ve tried to convince construction contractors to refuse work on the building through phone calls and emails, said Rev. Terry Gensemer of Metro Birmingham Life Forum.
Barbara Ann Luttrell, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based Planned Parenthood Southeast, said Planned Parenthood has been counted on for decades in Birmingham. The organization’s commitment to continuing to provide their services is strong.
The clinic would replace a current Planned Parenthood clinic in Birmingham. According to opponents, abortions have not been performed regularly at that location since 2017. The nonprofit’s clinic in Mobile is closed for renovation.
Though local religious leaders publicly voice concerns that the construction of the new clinic continues, it really shouldn’t be a surprise to them. It is quite unlikely that the Alabama law will survive the legal challenges due to its restrictive language. It would be the most severely anti-abortion law in the land. Planned Parenthood is counting on the legal challenges going their way. If it went all the way to the Supreme Court, the question for the conservative-leaning majority of the Justices will be if they find the omission of rape and incest as exemptions too severe.
“It was surprising when we found out that they were going to build this,” said Gensemer. “My question is after the bill passage, why are they continuing to be so aggressive when the possibility exists that they won’t be able to be in business?”
But an opponent of the project, the Rev. Harry Reeder of the influential Briarwood Presbyterian Church in suburban Birmingham, said the clinic is “designed to give false counsel” to women that abortion is the best way to handle an unwanted pregnancy.
“We still stand and we will kneel in prayer that this facility will not be built,” Reeder during a news conference across the street from the construction site Thursday
Records show that Planned Parenthood paid $430,600 to purchase the lot where the new construction is taking place. The only slowdown on the project has come from rainy spring weather.