2 closed Alabama abortion clinics reopen, giving state total of 5

Two closed abortion clinics in Alabama have reopened, giving the state a total of five licensed clinics, but how long most remain open depends on the outcome of a lawsuit.

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The Planned Parenthood Southeast clinic in Birmingham reopened after taking corrective actions and Alabama Women's Center in Huntsville is back in business after moving to a new location, Brian Hale, an attorney for the state Department of Public Health, said Wednesday. The department licenses abortion clinics.

The Birmingham clinic closed in January after firing two employees for selling abortion medication to a person in the clinic parking lot. The clinic replaced its staff and made other changes, according to public records at the health department.

The Huntsville clinic closed in late June because it couldn't comply with a new state law that requires clinics to have wide halls and doors and improved fire safety systems, similar to those of surgical treatment centers. The new location passed a review by the health department, and the clinic got a new state license, Hale said.

The facility requirements are part of an abortion regulatory law passed by the Legislature in 2013. Another part of the law, requiring abortion clinic doctors to have approval to admit patients to nearby hospitals, was struck down by a federal judge in Montgomery in August.

Opponents of the law, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, say the law is designed to close clinics because hospitals are reluctant to grant privileges to abortion doctors. They said that reduces access to abortion by requiring women to drive farther and spend more money to get an abortion.

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The state attorney general is appealing that ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The law's sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin of Indian Springs, said the law is designed to protect women's safety.

The Birmingham clinic, as well as state-licensed clinics in Montgomery and Mobile, say they will have to close if the admitting privileges requirement is upheld in court because they use doctors without admitting privileges at local hospitals. The Huntsville clinic and another in Tuscaloosa use physicians with hospital admitting privileges.

Alabama is one of 11 states that have passed laws requiring admitting privileges. A similar law in Mississippi could close that state's lone clinic in Jackson.

Alabama clinics reported performing 8,469 abortions in 2013, and 1,046 of those involved females from out of state, according to reports the clinics filed with the health department. The Tuscaloosa clinic, which is closest to Mississippi, is the state's busiest, with 3,600 pregnancies terminated last year.