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Pro-Life Activist Seeking Buffer Zone Between Abortion Clinics and Schools

James Henderson, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, wants to close down North Alabama’s only abortion clinic, the Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville.


It is a fight he’s been waging for a decade.

Dalton Johnson, the executive director of the Alabama’s Women’s Center, is fighting to keep the facility open. Johnson is not a man made for surrender. He’s already had to close one facility because the building’s hallways were too narrow according to a new Alabama law, but was able to move and re-open in the new building.

Henderson has never knuckled under, either.

He filed suit against the city of Huntsville, alleging the city was violating its own zoning ordinances when the Alabama Women’s Center was allowed to open at a new location, right across the street from a school, the Academy for the Arts and Sciences.

Judge Alan Mann dismissed the suit involving Huntsville’s zoning ordinance “with prejudice,” writing in his opinion, “The Court has taken into account all of the arguments of counsel, the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing, as well as all of the relevant and applicable law. The Court does not in this case, nor should it in any case, interpose personal feelings or politics in the rendering of a just and legal decision.”

The Christian Coalition of Alabama decided an appeal would be fruitless.

But Henderson has not given up.

He has a new plan: a new law that would impose a 2,000-foot buffer zone between abortion clinics and schools, just like the buffer zone meant to ensure sex offenders keep their 2,000-foot distance from schools.


Liberal groups like Think Progress say the negative impact of that would be twofold. Not only would it force the closure of the only abortion clinic in North Alabama, it would increase “abortion stigma” by equating the medical procedure with sexual deviancy.

The Christian Coalition of Alabama has been holding regular protests outside the clinic even though Academy for the Arts and Sciences administrators blocked off the parking lot the pro-life demonstrators had been using as a staging area.

“It’s just not a good idea to have an abortion clinic with all that goes on, with all the free speech activities, the noise, the confusion, the boom boxes and the police cars with blue lights. All those things that are acceptable as free speech activity, it’s just not what you want across the street from a school,” Henderson told a local TV station, WHNT.

Johnson told the Huntsville Times that all the ruckus mentioned by Henderson actually comes from the pro-life demonstrators.

“Nobody would know this is an abortion clinic if the protesters weren’t out there,” he said.

The buffer-zone legislation has not been proposed, yet.

Henderson needs to align his troops. He is talking to other pro-life organizations in Alabama, lining up their support before finding a state lawmaker who might help take this battle to the state’s legislature.


Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) chief legal adviser, David Byrne Jr., told Henderson the governor would do what he could to help, if and when legislation is proposed.

Henderson may also be able to rely on the state’s Republican Party for assistance. Henderson is on the Alabama Republican Party’s executive committee.

“We are more motivated than ever to press on in standing for the unborn and their mothers,” he told the Huntsville Times. “There will be a lot of public input and I know it’s something Republican legislators will support.”

The fight to close the Alabama Women’s Clinic in Huntsville is but one battle in a long war the Christian Coalition of Alabama has been waging against abortion clinics.

Pro-choice advocates say it is only one example of the anti-abortion attitude they believe permeates Alabama.

A 48-hour waiting period, an ultrasound, and counseling, which pro-choice people say is “biased,” are all required before a women can have an abortion.

Alabama also has a parental consent law that allows the state to appoint a lawyer for fetuses being carried by pregnant teenage girls, and call witnesses to testify why the teen should not be allowed to receive an abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has given Alabama an “F” on “choice-related laws.”


The organization described Gov. Bentley and both houses of the state legislature as being “anti-choice” and cited seven “anti-choice laws” including a criminal ban on abortion, biased counseling regulations, and targeted regulation of abortion providers.

Henderson and his supporters aren’t bothered by the “F” from NARAL. He told WHNT-TV he and his coalition are not about to surrender the Alabama Women’s Center battle without a fight.

“We see this as a continuous process. We will continue standing for life and doing what we can to close abortion clinics across the state.”

And stand he has. Henderson and the Christian Coalition have been demonstrating outside the Alabama Women’s Center first in one location, now in the other, for more than 10 years.

Dalton Johnson said, “If he would go on home and stop protesting then it would not be an issue.”

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