MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A Tuscaloosa abortion clinic has sued the state over a regulation that could cause the facility to permanently close.
West Alabama Women's Center filed the lawsuit in Montgomery federal court last week against state health officials over a regulation that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital or a contract with a physician who does to handle patients with complications.
The requirement is not new. However, the clinic's previous physician retired and the new doctor has been unable to gain admitting privileges or find a local gynecologist to take the contract. The clinic argued in the lawsuit that the regulation is unnecessary and that closure of the clinic will curtail women's access to abortion in the state.
The clinic is one of five abortion providers in Alabama and one of two that provide abortions in the second trimester. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama is representing the clinic in the lawsuit.
"We're asking the court to either strike the requirement or to make an exception," said Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.
Watson said with other medical procedures, it is standard for patients with complications to go to the emergency room. She said doctors are hesitant to take the contracts with the clinics because of harassment by anti-abortion activists.
A federal judge last year overturned a state law that would have required the doctors who perform the abortions to have the admitting privileges themselves, instead of contracting with a local provider.
Lawyers for the clinic wrote that it is the largest abortion provider in the state and in 2013, performed 39 percent of the abortions in Alabama.
The lawsuit names State Health Officer Don Williamson as a defendant. Williamson could not immediately be reached by telephone for comment.