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Lead plaintiff in birthing center lawsuit gets temporary license

Oasis Birthing Center of Birmingham, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Public Health, is back in business.

Oasis Family Birthing Center of Birmingham is back in business after spending six months closed due to a larger dispute over regulations with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Oasis is a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the ADPH claiming its then-proposed regulations, which have now been enacted by the department, are unconstitutionally onerous on birthing centers and Certified Professional Midwives.

The suit cleared the way for Oasis and other such birthing centers to continue operations, as Circuit Court Judge Greg Griffin issued a preliminary injunction in October 2023.

“This is a temporary process put in place for the duration of the lawsuit,” said Whitney White, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

Dr. Heather Skanes, who operates the birthing center, said it feels good to be back in business after being forced to close the center’s doors in July.

“We’re excited to be open again and hoping to continue to have a perfect safety record to show our practice is very reasonable,” Skanes said.

Because of the ADPH’s new regulations, Skanes said she had to start turning potential patients away. Although the center could technically have continued to offer prenatal care, Skanes said that wouldn’t have been financially feasible without being able to deliver babies.

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The injunction has returned a sense of normalcy for birthing centers that align with national standards, but the root of the lawsuit remains and will need to be settled by the courts to offer long-term relief.

If the court sides with ADPH, birthing centers and midwives have said the regulations could force them to abandon the business model completely.

This kind of midwifery, outside of a hospital setting, has only been legal in the state for four years after being outlawed for decades.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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