Alabama spent the last decade as one of the most restrictive states in which a person can get a legal abortion. Laws meant to shutter clinics, 48 hour waits that require two trips for each patient, even a (thankfully still unenforced) total abortion ban have all been levied by anti-choice politicians in an attempt to stop people from accessing their constitutional right to care.
But the state knows that if they can scare away doctors, abortion is gone for good, even if it stays legal. And doctors know their license is always in jeopardy if they set foot inside the state.
Dr. Leah Torres did the unthinkable in August of 2020 – she packed up her home and moved to Alabama to run the state’s largest clinic and replace its retiring doctor. But on August 26th, 2020 - just three weeks after she started working at the clinic, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners ruled to refuse her a permanent medical license, and immediately revoked the temporary license they had issued her. It happened in the morning, and patients in the lobby were sent home – callers waiting for appointments were told nothing was available. The clinic scrambled for any available temporary help and abortion services became completely dependent on when or even if a doctor could be found.
Dr. Torres could have left. After all, she still had a license in another state. She could have gone to a more progressive state, found another clinic and permanently left Alabama’s pregnant people with one more clinic that could only operate when an out of state doctor had the time in their schedule to visit. Instead, she appealed the decision – a seven-month long process during which she often went unpaid and unable to do as much as take a temperature out of fear of being accused of “practicing medicine without a license.”
Instead, Dr. Torres fought – and she won.
On March 24th, 2021, nearly 7 months after her temporary license was revoked, she finally received her permanent Alabama state medical license. And now, one full year after this saga began, both the medical board and the licensing commission have voided the initial revocation, because, according to their final analysis, “[This] action should never have been taken.”
The state can admit they were wrong and wipe the record clean for Dr. Torres. What that doesn’t do, however, is compensate for the financial damage she incurred. It doesn’t replace the four months she went without any salary because to accept payment meant potentially bankrupting the clinic, and it definitely doesn’t address the more than $100,000 worth of legal bills she accrued fighting the state’s “mistake.”
Dr. Leah Torres came to Alabama to help pregnant people exercise their right to an abortion in a state that will do anything to block them from that decision. She came to Alabama to expand birth control options, to offer trans- and gender-affirming healthcare in a state that until this last year told their youth in their sex ed classes that being LGBTQ+ makes them far more likely to die. She came to Alabama to provide judgement-free, fact-based, affordable sexual healthcare where Medicaid is almost non-existent, a vast amount of the population is uninsured, and poverty is at its highest for marginalized communities.
But due to the actions the state took against her license, she will be forced to pay over $100,000 for her efforts.
Alabama needs more medical professionals like Dr. Leah Torres, but with massive punitive debts being put on those who come, who will ever take the risk? Will you help erase this debt and show those who oppose abortion that their efforts to scare away doctors – legally and financially – will never succeed?
Dr. Torres has helped so many - both in Alabama and across the nation. Now it's our turn to help her.
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