In 2008, the National Institute launched the Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health to support local advocacy for reproductive health, rights, and justice. At the time, not many advocacy efforts focused on the local level, despite the robust possibilities for cities and counties to improve reproductive health outcomes.

Through the Urban Initiative, we’ve provided funding and strategic technical assistance to support dynamic, forward-looking local organizations that want to improve reproductive health in their communities. We also give our local partners the space to connect with each other and with national organizations to share resources, brainstorm solutions to challenges, and evaluate new ideas and strategies

The Urban Initiative has provided more than a million dollars in funding to 58 organizations in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and sustained a robust network that now connects hundreds of advocates, elected leaders, and public health officials across the country. Learn more about our Urban Initiative’s local partners here.

Some of our strategies have included:

As part of our partnership model, we regularly provide support to local organizations with which we partner, including strategic guidance, assistance drafting a range of materials (from policy language, testimony, and talking points to press releases and letters to the editor), and assistance creating and implementing a media plan.

In 2009, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland helped Baltimore pass the first-in-the-nation local ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to disclose that they do not provide or refer for abortion care. In the years following, with the continued support of the Urban Initiative, local ordinances or resolutions have also passed in Austin, Texas (NARAL Pro-Choice Texas); Chapel Hill, N.C. (NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina); Dane County, Wis. (NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin); Montgomery County, Md. (NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland); and New York, NY (NARAL Pro-Choice New York).

Thanks to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Columbus adopted a resolution in 2009 calling on fair hearings for the state’s Prevention First Act, a bill that would increase access to birth control, emergency contraception, and comprehensive sex education in Ohio

Denver, Colo., passed a resolution aimed at the Denver Public Schools Board of Education supporting comprehensive sex education, thanks to Urban Initiative partner Denver Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership, in 2009.

As part of their Urban Initiative grant in 2010, NARAL Pro-Choice Montana helped the Missoula and Helena, Mont., school boards adopt comprehensive sexuality education curricula.

See also our extensive work in passing local resolutions to support lifting bans that deny abortion coverage.

Through summits, roundtables, and trainings such as policymaker leadership institutes and policymaker boot camps, Urban Initiative-supported events have convened hundreds of local lawmakers, public health officials, school board members, and other decision-makers and stakeholders to address local reproductive health issues and consider solutions.

One such convening occurred in Chicago, Ill., on August 11, 2010. The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) hosted Young, Smart and Pregnant: Overcoming Barriers to Academic Success, featuring teens from their Young Parent Alliance. More than 125 advocates and representatives from Chicago Public Schools, the Department of Health, and offices of elected officials gathered to highlight the challenges pregnant and parenting youth face and to build support for the Pregnant and Parenting Youth Bill of Rights. Attendees also shared resources and programs available for pregnant and parenting youth. Panelists, including an adolescent health care physician, a nurse, a teacher, and two parenting youth, shared their ideas to improve the lives of pregnant and parenting youth in Chicago. ICAH continues to work to advance the Bill of Rights and, in the meantime, was able to support the recent adoption citywide of medically accurate and age-appropriate sexuality education.

For more information about hosting a convening for policymakers, see our Local Primer.

Urban Initiative-supported community education forums provide a space for interested community members to discuss a timely reproductive health issue and hear from experts on recent research or data on the topic.

For example, in 2010, in Baltimore, Md., the Healthy Teen Network and the Baltimore City Health Department hosted a roundtable to release their report on teen pregnancy, which was created in conjunction with the Baltimore Department of Health, Urban Health Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and Center for Adolescent Health. The event featured opening remarks from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. Dr. Patricia Paluzzi, Healthy Teen Network’s President/CEO, presented the strategic plan to address teen births and facilitated a discussion to develop a plan of action in Baltimore City.

For more information about hosting community education events, see our Local Primer.

The past several years have seen the rise of “Progressive Cities,” as activists, elected officials, and a growing grassroots base have built a movement on a host of important issues, including raising the minimum wage, establishing protections for immigrants, fighting discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and protecting the environment. Recognizing that these issues intersect with our work, the National Institute is helping ensure that advocates for reproductive health, rights, and justice have a voice in efforts to build truly progressive cities.

The National Institute developed Building Blocks for Change: A Primer on Local Advocacy for Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice to make the case that reproductive health, rights, and justice are important local issues and to support reproductive rights advocates seeking to incorporate a local strategy into their work.

In partnership with Local Progress, the National Institute created policy briefs on comprehensive sex education and abortion access for local policymakers. We also presented on the Urban Initiative’s work at the 2014 Local Progress Convening in New York City.