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All Alabama abortion clinics in compliance

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — With all of Alabama's abortion clinics now in compliance with state regulations, advocates and health officials say they hope problems that led to the 2006 shuttering of one clinic and probation of three others are in the past.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said surveyors will have inspected all eight clinics by December, meeting the department's goal of annual reviews thanks to increased staff.

"I would anticipate this year not finding any problems as we had in the last few years," Williamson said Tuesday.

"We are in the process of having adequate staffing now and can complete inspections in a more timely fashion than we've ever done them," he said.

Last year saw a rash of problems at abortion clinics, some of which hadn't been inspected in more than five years. The increased attention followed a health department investigation that found a woman delivered a 6-pound, stillborn baby in February 2006 after a nurse at Summit Medical Center in Birmingham gave her an abortion drug even though she was nearly full-term.

Two Montgomery clinics, Reproductive Health Services and Beacon Women's Center — which is owned by Summit — were put on probation in the aftermath along with New Women All Women Health Care in Birmingham.

Diane Derzis owns New Women All Women, the clinic where a police officer was killed in Eric Rudolph's 1998 bombing. New Women All Women and Beacon were taken off probation Oct. 1, and Reproductive Health was reinstated in July.

Derzis said Tuesday that probation creates "a lot of unease."

"When you're on probation it's a constant presence there and you're fearful that regardless of how well you conduct business and how well you do things — the fact that you're on probation is always in the midst of that," she said.

The Birmingham clinic's license was downgraded after its administrator was caught ordering the medications Tylenol with Codeine and Hydrocodone for her own use.

Clinics on probation must develop and adhere to a plan of correction and have one year to fix all the problems. Their license can be revoked if new violations are found during the probationary period and the license is automatically revoked if improvements aren't made by the end of one year on probation.

Alabama, which had 14 abortion clinics in 2000, is down to eight. Summit's closing last July left the state with nine and the Center for Choice in Mobile closed this spring when its owner retired.

Derzis said she and other clinic owners worried they were suffering backlash because of the "Summit fiasco."

"But what happened there was outrageous, absolutely outrageous, and I think all of us were tarnished with that brush," she said.

"I think the (health) department received the brunt of the anger from the public where I'm not sure it's where it should have been borne," Derzis said. "You're hearing we're all alike when the reality is the majority of doctors who do abortions are good doctors. If you have a bad apple ... it hits everybody else."

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

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