HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Pro-life advocates, who are suing to shut down Huntsville’s abortion clinic, gathered across from the Madison County Courthouse Thursday morning for a silent prayer vigil.
The vigil came ahead of a 9 a.m. hearing in their case against the City of Huntsville’s Zoning Board.
WHNT News 19’s Daniela Perallon is Tweeting from the hearing – follow her updates @DanielaPerallon.
The group is seeking a preliminary injunction that would prevent the clinic on Sparkman Drive from operating while the case makes its way through court. The Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) is representing the group.
The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives shut down its operation on Madison Street in downtown Huntsville earlier this year.
The owner said it was impossible to retrofit the facility to comply with the Alabama Women’s Health and Safety Act of 2013.
The clinic re-opened this month at a location at 4831 Sparkman Drive, after receiving the appropriate approval from the City of Huntsville Zoning Board and the Department of Public Health.
Allison Aranda, attorney for the pro-life group says the approval should never have happened.
“State law and local zoning law requires an automatic stay as soon as that appeal was filed on July 24th, and the one thing that was clear is that the city did take action after that appeal was filed and that action was unauthorized.”
Zoning Board administrator James McGuffey testified he did not sign the building permit until August 22nd, three days after the zoning hearing where they decided the zoning variance allowing for a medical facility applied to the women’s clinic.
However the city inspection department issued a certificate of completion to the clinic on August 14th, and Aranda says the business license was transferred on August 8th.
The LLDF also aimed to make the case that the clinic’s operations would cause “irreparable harm” to the nearby community. In court they presented video evidence showing a loud protest between the pro life and pro choice advocates at the clinic’s previous downtown location. Reverend James Henderson could be heard reading a passage from Romans over a loud speaker while clinic escorts chanted back “PRO-CHOICE!” over music.
Attorneys for the city would not offer a comment on Thursday’s proceedings. In the courtroom, however, they worked to dismantle the argument that the clinic would cause “irreparable harm” by showing maps indicating none of the plaintiff’s in the case live nearby the clinic, some living 3 miles away and one as far as 9 miles away. They also mentioned the nearby businesses have not joined the lawsuit.
In the past, clinic representatives have said they would not hold disruptive counter-protests at the Sparkman Drive clinic.
Judge Alan Mann should issue an order in the coming days. If he does not grant the group’s request for a preliminary injunction they will continue to challenge the zoning variance.
“The issue as to whether the 1998 variance allows for the operation of an abortion clinic at this property is still in dispute. We will go forward with the case, conduct discovery, and fight this until the end,” said Aranda.