West Alabama Women's Center

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The West Alabama Women's Center is a non-profit women's healthcare clinic located at 535 Jack Warner Parkwy in Tuscaloosa. is the clinic's director and Leah Torres is medical director. The clinic currently provides family planning and prenatal care along with screening for sexually-transmitted diseases.

Gloria Gray founded the clinic in 1993, with Louis Payne as medical director. It was once Alabama's busiest provider of abortion services, averaging more than 3,000 such procedures per year, and became a frequent target for anti-abortion protests and threats. In 1997 an arsonist burned the clinic building down. Another vandal later drove a car through the front wall of the clinic, and bullets were fired through the windows several times.

Payne retired in 2014 and was succeeded by Willie Parker. Parker was not granted admitting privileges to DCH Regional Medical Center, a requirement of the "Women's Health and Safety Act" (Act of Alabama 2013-79). That law was struck down by U.S. District Court judge Myron Thompson in 2016. In the meantime, Payne, who did have admitting privileges, came out of retirement to provide patient services. Gray and two other clinic owners were presented with the American Civil Liberties Union's Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty in 2015.

In 2019 the legislature passed the "Alabama Human Life Protection Act" (Act of Alabama 2019-189) to make abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses perishable by up to 99 years in prison. Judge Thompson enjoined the state from enforcing the law based on the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. An unintended effect of the law was an influx of monetary donations to the Yellowhammer Fund, which had begun as a volunteer group to escort patients past protesters at the West Alabama Women's Center. The advocacy group purchased the clinic from Gray in 2020 and its communications director, Robin Marty, began serving as director of operations.

Marty recruited Torres from New Mexico in August of that year so that Payne could resume his retirement. She began practicing under a temporary license granted by the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners. Within weeks she was ordered to surrender that license and to cease providing care because the board judged some of the statements made in her application were deceptive. She appealed the decision and was granted a permanent license to practice in March 2021.

The Supreme Court reversed its Roe v. Wade ruling in June 2022, and Judge Thompson lifted his injunction against Alabama's enforcement of anti-abortion laws on June 24. The West Alabama Women's Center assisted dozens of patients in transferring their care to providers in Georgia and temporarily closed. It reopened in July to provide other services to women, including many uninsured or underinsured patients with complications.


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