BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A judge is expected to rule this week on the future of a controversial medical facility that performs abortions in Birmingham.
It’s at the former site of New Woman All Women Health Care which surrendered its license last year.
Now, the state health department wants to shut down operations at the site, claiming it’s an illegal operation.
The case was heard Monday in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
The state health department contends the operation is an unlicensed abortion or reproductive health facility, but defense attorneys argue it’s a doctor’s office outside the realm of things the health department can regulate.
Judge Joseph Boohaker will have the final say.
The ADPH says the judge must determine whether the new operation fits the criteria of an abortion/reproductive health center and whether it is adequately licensed. Defense attorneys argue there is a threshold of 30 abortions per month for any two months in one year used to define such a facility and that Dr. Bruce Norman’s office performs fewer than that.
The state argues that since abortions are the only medical procedure performed at the location, then it fits the definition.
It also argues the operation violates a consent agreement under which the former New Woman All Women Health Care facility relinquished its license last year. They say the phone number for New Woman All Women was leased, along with the building, to Dr. Norman. The state also argues that any facility which advertises as an abortion/reproductive health center is one and says the former center’s website remained active for some time after it closed.
Defense attorneys say the number is no longer leased to the new operation and the website has been disabled.
According to testimony- the phone number now rings to an abortion referral service which may connect prospective patients with providers including Dr. Norman.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s focusing on a telephone number, but if the state had wanted to do something about the telephone number they could have done that in their consent order and didn’t do so,” said Howard Miles, defense attorney.
The defense argues the state must prove the people it wants to regulate are hospitals.
“There’s really no need for state involvement on this particular issue because they’re just simply not hospitals,” said Howard Miles, Defense Attorney
The Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a friend of the court brief- in support of the state’s case, according to LLDF Executive Director Dana Cody.
“It’s the same in that all they are providing is abortion. Dr. Norman is still the abortionist,” said Cody.
Doctor Norman testified that his office also provides contraception, counseling, and prescriptions. He said he wants to expand his practice, but that it’s only a few months old and all the legal challenges surrounding the operation have gotten in the way. Dr. Norman also testified that some of his patients were referred to him by the health department.
Judge Boohaker says he will have a decision by Friday or sooner.
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