An Alabama judge ruled Thursday that a doctor who has been providing abortions in a closed Birmingham clinic is himself operating without a proper license and must stop immediately.
The court also told a company owned by so-called abortion queen Diane Derzis that it must stop referring women to Dr. Bruce E. Norman for abortions at the clinic location.
The ruling is another blow to Ms. Derzis, who is struggling on another front to keep open a clinic she owns and operates in Jackson, Miss. — the state's only abortion clinic. Dr. Norman provides abortions for the Mississippi clinic.
The Alabama abortion clinic at the heart of the suit attracted national attention when it was bombed by radical anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph in 1998.
Thursday's ruling by Judge Joseph Boohaker in Alabama's Jefferson County Circuit Court pleased pro-life advocates.
"The only question that was really before the court was whether or not this particular facility fell within the definition of an abortion facility under Alabama law," said Allison Aranda, an attorney for Life Legal Defense Foundation, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
"It was clear to us, and to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), that it did fall under that definition, and now it's clear to the judge as well, based on his ruling," she said.
A comment was not immediately available from the ADPH, which brought the case against Ms. Derzis, Dr. Norman, Patrick H. Smith and All Women's Inc. Defense attorney Howard Miles also could not be reached.
The case involved a facility on 17th Street South in Birmingham that was for years the location of the New Woman All Women Health Care, run by Ms. Derzis. Dr. Norman and other doctors once performed about 150 abortions there a month.
In 2012, the ADPH investigated the clinic after receiving complaints that two female patients had overdosed at the clinic and had to be hand-carried down the steps before they could be taken to a hospital in an ambulance.
The ADPH found numerous problems with the clinic, including improper administration of medicines to patients and lack of accessibility to emergency responders.
The agency later revoked the clinic's license as part of a consent agreement with Ms. Derzis. The order mandated that any new owner of the facility must be independent and not affiliated with New Woman All Women Health Care, or its officers and directors, and not employ Ms. Derzis. The clinic closed in 2012.
However, according to court papers, Dr. Norman eventually began offering abortions in the same building, which he leased from a business owned in part by Ms. Derzis.
Brian Hale, an attorney with ADPH, told the court earlier this week that Ms. Derzis, Dr. Norman and the other defendants have been attempting to sidestep the consent agreement in their quest to provide abortions.
'"That's all that is being done there," said Mr. Hale, citing utility and phone records showed that Ms. Derzis is still involved in the facility.
Mr. Miles, the defense attorney, countered that everything was legal and that the facility was Dr. Norman's private office.
In his ruling, Judge Boohaker said that, based on Dr. Norman's own testimony, he was satisfied that the doctor has performed 30 or more abortions for two months during the calendar year, which rendered his office an abortion center under state law.
Moreover, when Ms. Derzis' company, Dipat LLC., referred prospective abortion clients to Dr. Norman through a telephone service, it also meant his office was an abortion provider under law.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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