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Ramping things back up

There’s an undeveloped lot cornering Birmingham’s First Avenue North and I-65. When I visited last year, it was empty, save for fast-food wrappers, neglected grass and a few “No Trespassing” signs.

From a nearby overpass, commuters eyeing the skyline of Alabama’s Magic City probably wouldn’t notice the lot, but they may soon if proposed construction materializes. Planned Parenthood Southeast has spent $430,600 to secure the spot with the intent to relocate its current Birmingham center to the downtown property.

The possibility of the abortion industry kingpin occupying such a visible piece of Alabama real estate has set pro-lifers on edge, but that’s not the only concern. Madison native Natalie Brumfield, director of Birmingham Bound4Life, says public records and private investigations show the last abortion at a Planned Parenthood in Birmingham happened over a year ago. She hopes the new location doesn’t change that.

Of course, it isn’t that Planned Parenthood hasn’t tried to facilitate more abortions. They’ve just had a few setbacks.

The Alabama Department of Public Health in 2010 put the Birmingham location on probation after a Live Action sting revealed the center failed to report a claim of statutory rape. The felonious undertow continued in 2014, when officials shuttered the facility for 10 months. This time employees were selling drugs in the parking lot.

According to Brumfield, the branch also has a laundry list of other, less-publicized violations — improper hand washing, poor records management, botched abortions, failure to sterilize medical instruments. She knows this because for more than 10 years, she’s been a regular on the sidewalks outside Planned Parenthood’s aging building. She’s prayed, counseled, and worn Bound4Life’s trademark red mouth tape.

“The idea is to show we’re praying, not protesting. We’re pleading with a higher court and displaying solidarity with the voiceless,” Brumfield explains. “I’ve had women and boyfriends come pray with me. Sometimes they change their minds.”

Brumfield’s pro-life work didn’t begin in Birmingham, though. It was birthed outside a Jackson abortion center. As early as age 7, she joined her dad there to pray. He was a fixture on the sidewalks – so much so that someone inside the facility notified him when a family friend made an appointment to terminate her secret pregnancy.

“To this day, we don’t know who called, but we reached out to the young woman and she chose the gift of adoption. I experienced the difference loving on someone can make, and it put a passion in me,” Brumfield remembers. The passion continued during her years at the University of Georgia. “I was around girls making these kinds of choices, and I spoke about it as chaplain of my sorority. I spoke life into girls.”

Speaking life into girls is a goal of her work in Alabama, too. As she counsels at a local crisis pregnancy center, Brumfield sees new hope: Alabama voters in November decided to add language to their state constitution that recognizes the rights of unborn children. Still, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Barbara Ann Luttrell told me a 2019 groundbreaking at the new site is imminent.

Pro-life advocates here in Mississippi are facing challenges, too. Last week, Jackson police handcuffed and arrested Pastor Ryan Sullivan outside the state’s only remaining abortion facility, the loud and proud pink building sitting front and center in trendy Fondren. Sullivan allegedly stepped across a flagged boundary line. Police also arrested another protesting pastor in November. Doug Lane, a regular on the sidewalks, described the actions as “intimidation tactics.”

“I can’t remember the last time they’ve put someone in cuffs for a simple trespassing charge,” he says. “Public right-of-way lines have been an issue here for 20 years.” Disputes between protesters at the center and Jackson Police have resulted in two federally-issued consent decrees in recent years. The decisions required the police department to return bail money, signs, and fines, as well as to implement First Amendment rights training for officers. Lane says he’s concerned recent actions indicate Jackson is making a reversal and will “ramp things back up.”

And as we prepare to acknowledge yet another anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I have a simple suggestion for anyone in need of “ramping back up” their concern for both the unborn and born: Spend 10 minutes watching adoption stories on YouTube.

Let me explain.

While interviewing Natalie Brumfield, I learned the 36-year-old blogger is also true to Bound4Life’s adoption emphasis. She and her husband, Matthew, began fostering within 14 months of saying “I do” and have since adopted three children. The oldest was on his way to a special facility before they stepped in. “We were his fifth, and last, chance,” Natalie recalls. “At the time, we were the only foster family in Alabama that didn’t have other children in the home, and that’s what Braxton had to have.”

The video of the court action decreeing Braxton a Brumfield, featuring Mandi Mapes’ adoption theme song, “This Love,” has gotten more than 380,000 hits on YouTube. Others similar stories have hit the million and more marks. I encourage you to find out why.

Oh, and when you do, be sure you grab a Kleenex.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.