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Ex-official at closed Birmingham abortion clinic charged

BIRMINGHAM (AP) - The former administrator of a Birmingham abortion clinic that was shut down after health officials found numerous violations was arrested Friday on misdemeanor charges including performing illegal abortions at the clinic.

Janet Onthank King, 58, was an administrator at the Summit Medical Center when it was permanently closed in June. According to a health department report, a woman delivered a stillborn baby in February after a Summit nurse gave her the RU 486 abortion drug even though her blood pressure was too high and the baby was nearly full-term.

King, who is also a licensed nurse, surrendered to the Jefferson County Sheriff's office Friday and was released on $1,000 bond for each of the three charges. Two charges are for knowingly or recklessly performing abortions as a non-physician in two instances and the third is for making false entries into equipment sterilization reports.

Birmingham attorney Richard Jaffe is representing King and said her involvement in the incident was minor.

"She performed no procedures, she prescribed no medications ... in short, she committed no crime," Jaffe said in a statement Friday.

Jaffe said King's license to practice nursing in Alabama was "still in place."

After the clinic's closing, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners banned King and Dr. Deborah Lyn Levich from working together and accused Levich of allowing her nurse practitioner to prescribe drugs and render services for which she was not approved.

The women voluntarily severed their joint operating agreement before the board's July 18 hearing on the matter, a move Jaffe said was made because the agreement was no longer useful after Summit was closed.

If convicted, King faces a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 for each count.

Summit's closing left Alabama with nine abortion clinics and spurred the health department to increase inspections to at least once per year.

Health officials have also proposed changes to the state's abortion rules, saying the amendments will improve follow-up care for patients by placing more responsibility on clinic medical directors and increasing qualification requirements for backup physicians.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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