Alabama clinics face doctor shortage

Physicians required by law are threatened by harassers.

Published September 20, 2006 12:57PM (EDT)

Alabama abortion clinics have found themselves stuck, the AP/Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer reports, via Kaiser. The rock: A 2003 state law requiring clinics to have their regular doctors backed up by a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital. The hard place: In order to have admitting privileges, you must live in the state. And Alabama doctors, subject to intense harassment by extremist antiabortion groups -- and well aware that threats against them are not necessarily empty -- are, understandably, not exactly lining up.

"We've actually had doctors in other cities that have been told by abortion opponents that if they back us up, they will be targeted," Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Foundation and owner of Mississippi's only abortion clinic, told the AP.

As Broadsheet has reported, clinics in Mississippi and elsewhere (that is, the clinic in Mississippi and others elsewhere) have found themselves in similar binds. The current focus on Alabama was spurred by a recent announcement by the state health department that it would seek to revoke the license of a Montgomery clinic alleged to be operating without a backup doctor.

Defenders of the law say it's designed to ensure that clinics maintain proper standards of care for women; its opponents -- while supporting in principle the notion that health providers should be subject to proper regulation -- say such regulations, designed to dovetail precisely with clinics' known challenges, are merely setting a trap.

Meanwhile, harassers of doctors have run their statements through their own spin-o-matics, making their actions, too, sound like an effort to protect women and their rights. "It's not harassment -- it's exposure," one local antiabortion activist told the AP. "These women have a right to know if the doctor who is taking care of them and their unborn babies during the day is involved with a clinic that is killing babies at night." Well, OK. But if women are interested in such information, I'm thinking they could they just ask.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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