SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Anti-abortion activists are focusing their attention on Selma and a clinic they say is violating state laws. A coalition of pro-life ministries from all over the country made their way to the historic city Friday night, gathering at Christ the King Episcopal Church.
It's a two-day event called "The Selma Project," designed to expose alleged illegal practices within the abortion industry.
Among those at the front of the charge are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece, Alveda King, and the National Black Pro-Life Coalition's Catherine Davis.
"We're hoping to call attention to the fact that the states are turning a blind eye to abortionists that are breaking the laws of the state. They're basically giving them a pass," Davis said.
They say Dr. Samuel Lett at the Central Alabama Women's Clinic in Selma is an example of that.
"We know that women have been injured in this clinic. We know for sure he scheduled more abortions than he's allowed to do, according to state law," said Father Terry Gensemer, Director of CEC For Life and an urban pastor in Alabama for more than 20 years.
"He gives us a picture of all that's wrong with abortion today. He's illegal," Davis added. "The state of Alabama has not taken action to shut him down and that's pretty much the case around the country. States are not enforcing their own criminal and civil laws against the abortionists that break them."
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) confirms that officials did investigate a claim alleging that Dr. Lett's office was performing a number of abortions each month that would require the clinic to have a license by ADPH as an abortion or reproductive health center.
A license is required if a facility does 10 or more abortions a month or 100 or more in a calendar year.
"ADPH was unable to establish that this clinic performed a number of abortions that would require it to be licensed as an abortion or reproductive health center. State law -- § 22-9A-13, Ala. Code 1975 -- prohibits ADPH from disclosing information relating to the number of abortions performed by a physician," said Brian Hale, ADPH's general counsel.
But pro-life leaders stand by their claims. They say they turned over audio recordings to the state that proved otherwise last year which launched what they call a "cursory" probe. Now, they're pushing for a more thorough investigation into Dr. Lett.
"We have audio recordings where 11 or 12 different women called and were successful in scheduling an appointment to go in for an abortion all in the same month," Davis said.
"We're here to say to the health department and to the nation that women, particularly black women, are targeted in this area, in Selma and that babies are being killed here. We want the city of Selma to know what's going on, we want the state of Alabama to know that its citizens are not being protected the Alabama Department of Public Health, and we want justice to be done for the victims of this doctor," Fr. Gensemer added.
Dr. Lett declined to do an on camera interview but says the groups have "wrong information" and that his office has been checked by the state and does not have any problems. He thinks protesters are trying to take advantage of the recent attention focused on Selma to further their agenda. Local and national media were in town earlier this spring to mark the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March.
But Fr. Gensemer says the Life Legal Defense Foundation, CEC For Life, and Operation Rescue started gathering evidence and information on the clinic long before those events.
"Selma is important to the whole nation, it's always had historical significance to our country. And what's going on in Selma is going on in other cities similar to this that don't have standing abortion clinics, but they have doctors doing abortions under the table," he said.
"The Selma Project" got underway with a prayer rally Friday night. Participants took part in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge Saturday morning.