Huntsville Zoning Board Puts Children at Risk, Ignores Laws

(September 5, 2014 – Huntsville, AL) The Huntsville (Alabama) Board of Zoning Adjustment is putting children at risk and ignoring state and local law with the decision to allow abortions to be performed across the street from the Ed White Middle School. This week, Life Legal Defense Foundation filed an appeal in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Alabama, challenging the action on multiple grounds.

In an unprecedented move, Zoning Enforcement Coordinator Jim McGuffey granted an exception for a previously shut-down abortion center to open in a residentially zoned neighborhood directly across from the school. The now-closed Madison Street abortion provider surrendered its license in May, after failure to comply with new laws requiring abortion facilities to meet the same standards as other ambulatory centers. In addition to being across the street from Ed White Middle School, the abortion site is within blocks of Highlands Elementary and the Islamic Academy of Huntsville.

Despite state and local laws governing zoning restrictions, McGuffey bases the variance on the board’s 1998 specifically-worded permission for an out-patient clinic under the management of the Board of Huntsville Hospital.

“The language of the 1998 variance is very clear that the board made an exception for that specific Huntsville Hospital outpatient clinic at that point in time. An abortion provider is in no way comparable to a hospital satellite site,” stated Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. “There is absolutely no correlation between pregnancy termination – which destroys preborn life – and a hospital clinic that promotes healing and wellness. To draw such a comparison is ludicrous.”

The appeal claims that 1) the property is not zoned for an abortion center, 2) the Board of Zoning Adjustment violated the Zoning Ordinance by granting a new variance without proper notice, 3) the construction at the property violated the Zoning Ordinance, 4) all actions regarding the property should have been stayed on July 24, 2014 when an original appeal was filed, and 5) a new variance should not be granted.

What Cody finds most troubling is the lengths at which city officials will ignore local and state law in order to accommodate the abortion facility owner, Dalton Johnson. The Zoning Ordinance requires that residents be given notice of the specific terms of a variance. The board has overlooked this requirement and has also allowed Johnson to make upgrades to the building without the legally required permits.

Local residents and business owners have expressed concern over the exceptions granted for an abortion provider, especially in such close proximity to their children’s schools. There is considerable opposition to having an abortion center in the community and many find the board’s decision unfathomable. “It’s shocking that the zoning board has ignored the law to expose children to abortion at an age where many are just beginning to learn about their bodies and how they were born,” explained Cody. “We intend to take every legal action possible to prevent this abortion provider from opening.”

Read the Life Legal Defense Foundation appeal filed in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Alabama, here.