About This Work
Access to high-quality, trustworthy abortion care is central to our ability to control our bodies, our lives, and our futures. Advancing abortion care means both ensuring that abortion clinics are safe for patients and providers, and preventing the deception of “crisis pregnancy centers,” which are fake clinics that lie and deceive women.
For the last decade, NIRH 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. NIRH works with partners to develop local policy strategies to address clinic violence, encouraging clinics and advocates to seek appropriate policy remedies for threats to patients and clinics in communities.
At the same time, we’ve worked to ensure that so-called crisis pregnancy centers – fake clinics that pose as legitimate reproductive health care facilities – are not able to deceive and manipulate women in an effort to prevent them from making their own decisions about abortion. Nearly 2,500 fake clinics exist in communities across the country. Common tactics of fake clinics include presenting an aura of medical authority to trick women into thinking they are in an abortion clinic, lying to women about the gestational age of their fetuses, and dispensing intentionally misleading information to prevent women from accessing abortion. NIRH has worked with advocates to pass city regulations in cities across the country, including Austin, Baltimore, Hartford, and New York City. Although some of these ordinances are no longer enforced following legal challenges, advocates in several cities have been successful in regulating these dangerous centers. Amidst ongoing momentum at both the state and local levels to improve access to reproductive health care, NIRH will continue to work with advocates on the ground to fight the deception of fake clinics in cities and states across the country.
In June 2016, the Columbus, OH City Council unanimously passed the “Healthcare Workers and Patient Protection Ordinance.” The measure establishes a 15-foot zone around clinics, within which there are enhanced penalties for engaging in “disorderly conduct.” This ordinance also prohibits obstruction of clinic entrances and premises, and prohibits conduct within the buffer zone that “places another person in reasonable fear of physical harm, or attempts to do the same.” Councilmember Elizabeth Brown sponsored the ordinance, and the introductory text cites “the disturbing trend of increasing threats of violence and vandalism” at reproductive health care facilities as the explanation for the [...]
In 2005, the city of Pittsburgh passed an ordinance that created a 15-foot fixed buffer zone and an 8-foot floating zone around abortion clinics. However, a court ruled in 2009 while either option would be constitutional on its own, the city could not enforce both zones simultaneously. After discussion with key stakeholders, Pittsburgh elected to keep the fixed zone in place. After the McCullen v. Coakley decision, protestors in Pittsburgh filed a new challenge against the buffer zone ordinance, but in March 2015, a federal judge upheld the zone, holding that the ruling in McCullen did not impact the constitutionality of Pittsburgh’s law. Read about the [...]
In 2010, NARAL Pro-Choice California released a report detailing the deceptive practices of fake clinics entitled “Unmasking Fake Clinics: the Truth about Crisis Pregnancy Centers in California.” In 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance prohibiting fake clinics from making misleading statements or posting deceptive advertisements about their services. First Resort Inc., a local fake clinic, sued the City for civil rights violations, and a federal court upheld the law in 2015. Read NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation’s CPC report. Read the San Francisco ordinance. The New York Times covered the introduction of the bill, and Huffington Post covered its initial passage. SF [...]
In 2010, NIRH Action Fund released a report on the deceptive practices of CPCs in New York entitled “'She Said Abortion Could Cause Breast Cancer’: A Report on the Lies, Manipulations, and Privacy Violations of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in New York City,” based on an undercover investigation they conducted with several volunteers. The following year, the New York City Council passed an ordinance requiring CPCs to post signs and otherwise disclose information about the services they provide, including whether a licensed medical provider is on staff at the center and whether center staff will refer women for contraception and abortion [...]
In 2013, San Francisco enacted an ordinance that created a fixed 25-foot buffer zone around reproductive health facilities. After the McCullen decision, elected officials worked with Planned Parenthood and the City Attorney’s Office to create a new ordinance more likely to withstand a constitutional challenge. The new ordinance, passed unanimously by the City Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2014, combines many elements of other buffer zone laws. It makes it illegal to shout at or follow and harass people within 25 feet of a reproductive health clinic. Within this 25-foot zone, a protestor must stay at least 8 feet away from any person [...]