For the last decade, the National Institute has worked to increase access to reproductive health care facilities that provide abortion, using all the policy tools at our disposal to ensure that women are able to access the quality care they need free from fear, intimidation, and violence. Protecting access includes promoting laws and policies that protect the areas around facilities that provide abortion care, as well as efforts to ensure that so-called crisis pregnancy centers – anti-choice organizations that pose as legitimate reproductive health care facilities – are not able to deceive and manipulate women in an effort to prevent them from obtaining unbiased options counseling and timely reproductive health care, including abortion.

On the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in McCullen v. Coakley, striking down a Massachusetts law that imposed a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health clinics, the National Institute hosted a webinar, A Year After McCullen: Strategies for Protecting Clinic Access in Three Communities, featuring former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, our Pennsylvania partners, and other advocates to discuss viable strategies for protecting clinics. To access that webinar, contact acholia@nirhealth.org.

See below for some highlights on protecting clinic access.

In 2009, the New York City Council strengthened the city’s Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, protecting the area surrounding reproductive health care facilities. The National Institute’s sister organization, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, worked hand-in-hand with the New York City Council to pass this critical legislation, which increases penalties for following, intimidating, and harassing women or providers within a 15-foot zone around clinic premises.

In its 2014 decision in McCullen v. Coakley, the U.S. Supreme Court cited New York City’s clinic access law as a model.

The National Institute has partnered for many years with the Women’s Law Project, including by supporting their efforts to pass, implement, and defend Pittsburgh’s buffer zone law. Based on this experience, and with the National Institute’s support, the Women’s Law Project developed a 2010 guide, Safe Space: Activist’s Guide to Clinic Buffer Zones, that provides insight into the Pittsburgh experience for other local-level advocates seeking to pursue this strategy. In 2015, the Women’s Law Project successfully defended Pittsburgh’s buffer zone law after it was again challenged following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McCullen v. Coakley. They shared their experience with implementing and defending this law in the National Institute’s webinar A Year After McCullen: Strategies for Protecting Clinic Access in Three Communities [Email acholia@nirhealth.org for the password]. With the National Institute’s continued support, the Women’s Law Project is currently developing guidelines for state and local police departments in Pennsylvania to assist them in addressing and averting the persistent, targeted harassment of abortion providers.
Following the release of our 2010 report, “She Said Abortion Could Cause Breast Cancer,” released in conjunction with our sister organization NARAL Pro-Choice New York, detailing how so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) deceive and harm women by posing as full-service reproductive health care facilities in order to spread anti-choice propaganda and manipulate women, New York City passed an ordinance requiring CPCs to disclose whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff. The law also requires CPCs to abide by standard confidentiality practices, since medical privacy laws do not apply to CPCs.

We’ve Partnered With the Following Organizations to Protect Clinic Access: