Trial over Alabama abortion law begins

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – The owner of an abortion clinic in Alabama’s capital city testified Monday that for the 36 years she’s been in business, she has always used out-of-town doctors who wouldn’t be able to admit patients to local hospitals as required under a new state law.

June Ayers, the owner of Montgomery’s Reproductive Health Services, was the first witness in the trial of a lawsuit that she and others filed over the law that requires clinics to use doctors who have approval to admit patients to nearby hospitals in case of complications. Her clinic and clinics in Mobile and Birmingham would have to close if the law is enforced, officials have said.

Mississippi, Wisconsin and Texas have laws similar to Alabama, but Texas is the only state where the law is being enforced.

Ayers said she has never been approached by any Montgomery physician wanting to perform abortions at the clinic. She said doctors can be harassed for performing the procedure that brings emotional debate from opponents and supporters.

She recounted one physician the clinic used from Baltimore, Maryland, who had his picture taken outside the clinic and then had posters about him being an abortion doctor show up in his neighborhood.

Proponents of the law say problems arise because traveling doctors remain in a city only a few hours and aren’t around to handle complications. Attorney General Luther Strange’s staff said in a court filing that the state will present witnesses, including physicians, who will testify that having a doctor on hand to manage complications and admit a patient to the hospital will improve the quality of care.

Ayers testified complications are rare, but her traveling physicians wouldn’t qualify for the privileges because they don’t live in the Montgomery area and would not have the required number of hospital admissions.

Three of Alabama’s five licensed abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood Southeast clinics in Mobile and Birmingham, use traveling doctors and say they will have to close if the 2013 is enforced.

The West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa and the Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville use local doctors who have admitting privileges at hospitals in those cities.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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