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.
In 2017, NIRH released the Local Reproductive Freedom Index, a first-of-its-kind initiative that evaluates the reproductive health, rights, and justice policies of 40 U.S. cities. Explore the Local Index here.
Some of our strategies have included:

Many of our local partners have successfully passed policies to advance access to abortion and contraception.
To regulate crisis pregnancy centers misleading and endangering women, we’ve partnered with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.
To advance sex education and contraception, we’re partnered with the Denver Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership, NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.
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.
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.