The day after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed a bill that put her state on the path to banning almost all abortions, a 20-year-old woman from Tennessee walked into an abortion clinic with an ex-boyfriend and underwent the procedure.
“I'm a single mom of three kids,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, after having an abortion. “I have nothing to offer this child. You know, like, I'm already spread thin. I have my other three to take care of.”
She was one of about 20 women who had the procedure that day at the Alabama Women’s Center. Because there, it was business as usual. The ban — which is certain to be challenged in court — won’t go into effect for several months. Meanwhile, abortion is still legal in the state.
Dalton Johnson co-founded the Alabama Women’s Center in 2001, and since then, the center has had to adapt and sue over multiple new laws and ordinances designed to shut its doors.
“It’s been one thing after another. You know, I kind of feel almost at home in the federal courthouse,” Johnson said. “It's been admitting privileges. It's been the zoning."
“The anti-choice group sued the City of Huntsville for issuing my business license, and so that was a whole battle that we had to fight and pay for out of pocket. And, of course, we prevailed in that one. The building codes,” she added. “And probably some more I just can't even think of.”
So for Johnson, the latest law isn’t much of a surprise. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t emotionally affecting the staff at the clinic, as they answered phones and cared for patients.
“As I was leaving the house this morning, I started to feel like these butterflies in my stomach. The fear was coming over me,” said Makeda Harris, the center’s receptionist. Most days, she’s the first face a patient would see at the clinic.
Outside the clinic, protesters line up every day holding signs and imploring the women who walk inside to choose life. Many of them are regulars, and the staff knows them by name. A mother and daughter prayed outside Thursday after one woman, shielded by the bright umbrellas of the escorts who volunteer in the parking lot, walked in.
The escorts exchange words with the protesters almost every day, but if the protesters weren’t on the sidewalk near the center, it wouldn’t have been a normal day at the clinic.