Dr. Leah Torres, an Alabama OBGYN and abortion provider whose license was revoked under murky circumstances last year, is struggling to pay the $100,000 in legal fees charged for a year-long battle with the state’s medical board, according to a friend and fellow activist Robin Marty.
Dr. Torres’s case was covered extensively in the national press last year following her move to Alabama and the nearly instantaneous revocation of her right to practice medicine in the state. In May of 2020, the Alabama abortion fund Yellowhammer purchased the Alabama Women’s Center, one of the three remaining clinics in the state, from a soon-to-retire physician. According to Marty, the fund’s communications director, Yellowhammer asked Torres if she’d be interested in moving to Alabama to becoming the clinic’s medical director in the interest of providing a local practitioner rather than one who is flown in from another state, as is common in the abortion-restrictive South.
Torres, a well-known figure who had previously worked in rather anti-abortion locations like Salt Lake City and once sued conservative news sites for defamation, immediately agreed. As she told Rewire in 2020, she hoped that “other clinics elsewhere are looking to this clinic as a model.”
But just weeks after she arrived in Alabama and began practicing medicine with the Women’s Center, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners denied her application for a permanent state medical license. (She had been operating under a temporary license.) In August of 2020, the board suspended her right to practice, alleging Torres made fraudulent statements in her application and made “public statements related to the practice of medicine which violate the high standards of honesty, diligence, prudence, and ethical integrity demanded from physicians licensed to practice in Alabama.” According to AL.com, a broad coalition of anti-abortion groups including local Operation Rescue and Physicians for Life had filed official complaints with the state.
According to Marty, the state board refused requests to expedite the hearings. Eventually, the board sent a letter noting the action against the doctor “should never have been taken” and that currently, Torres’ disciplinary record is clean. But the process was a lengthy and expensive one: After the August revocation, a hearing wasn’t held until December. In January, the state agreed to give Torres her license back if she submitted to ethics classes. After completion of the classes, the medical board, which did not reply to a request for comment, waited until its next meeting in March to give Torres the official documentation. She was unable to work for four months.
The clinic has been operating since March with its intended medical director at the helm, but the legal counsel required to navigate the dispute with the state was expensive and Yellowhammer has been unable to come up with much assistance. Marty started a GoFundMe this week; as she tells Jezebel, “I feel personally responsible for the situation Dr. Torres is in.” But she’s optimistic about the provider’s future, and notes the Women’s Center is seeing about 50 patients a week for OGBYN services.
“Alabama is so desperately underserved right now,” says Marty. “We’re doing the projects we intended to do a year ago, when we first opened. We’re finally getting back on track again.”