Meridian Star

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August 4, 2013

State of Ala trying again to close abortion clinic

BIRMINGHAM —

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — State regulators have been trying since 2012 to shut down an abortion clinic that was cited for rampant health violations, and a judge has set a hearing for Monday to decide whether it should remain open.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says longtime operator Diane Derzis is playing a legal shell game to keep open the clinic, located in a two-story pink building owned by a company composed of Derzis and an associate.

Derzis says the brick building isn't abortion clinic at all, but a doctor's office operated by a physician who rents the building from her. She says he performs fewer than 30 abortions a month. For state regulations for abortion clinics to apply, a facility must perform at least 30 procedures a month for at least two months of the year.

The building was undeniably the home of New Woman All Women Health Care in 1998, when abortion foe Eric Rudolph detonated a deadly bomb outside. Derzis — known to some critics as the "abortion queen" — shut down only briefly before reopening back then.

Derzis also owns clinics in Jackson, Miss., and Richmond, Va., and is fighting to keep those open as well. A women's center she operates in Columbus, Ga., has yet to face serious legal challenges, she said.

"They just haven't gotten to it yet," Derzis said in an interview Friday at the Birmingham site.

A Birmingham-area abortion opponent, Sarah Howell, said she hopes all of Derzis' operations are closed.

"They're not safe for women or preborn children," said Howell, assistant director of CEC for Life, an Episcopalian ministry that opposes abortion.

Alabama state attorneys say Dr. Bruce Norman has been performing abortions illegally in Derzis' building since she, partner Patrick Smith and their businesses agreed last year to surrender the license. They were cited for dozens of problems, including inadequate care for patients.

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