Since our founding, the National Institute has worked to promote access to reproductive health care by focusing on change at the local and state levels, beginning with our home city and state of New York. That ongoing experience of working on the ground with local and state advocates, policymakers, and health care providers has informed our approach to working with our partners across the country.
Early organizational successes included launching the Residency Training Initiative, which resulted in improved abortion training programs at hospitals in New York City and went on to be replicated in other communities. The National Institute also ran the Low-Income Access Program, which helped local organizations in more than 15 states advocate for women’s access to reproductive health services through public insurance programs, and the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign, which from 2000-2012 engaged activists from across the country in advocacy efforts to expand access to emergency contraception.
A more recent signature public education campaign is the Maybe the IUD campaign, launched in 2010 with the goal of raising awareness among a younger audience about the IUD as an effective form of contraception. In 2015, the New York City Department of Health adapted the Maybe the IUD campaign as a citywide campaign.
Youth work has been a hallmark of the National Institute. Our flagship TORCH program has provided peer health education and leadership training for New York City youth since 1990.
The National Institute is perhaps best known for the work we do in partnership with organizations across the country. In 2008, we were one of the first reproductive health and rights organizations to focus on the local level when we launched the Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health. Recognizing that the greatest reproductive health disparities – and the greatest opportunities for success – existed on the local level, the Urban Initiative provides organizations with funding, strategic guidance, and in-depth technical assistance to advance reproductive health, rights, and justice in their cities and counties.
The National Institute has always worked with statewide organizations as well, but on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2013, we formalized that state-based work by launching the Strengthen Our States Initiative, a long-term campaign to secure reproductive rights and health. With an eye toward building traction in states that have been generally hostile to choice, as well as leveraging the opportunities in more progressive states, this initiative is creating a bottom-up groundswell of support to turn the tide on access to abortion. The State Infrastructure Project is another program through which we partner with organizations in the states, through long-term campaigns to secure reproductive rights and health.
Finally, the National Institute has worked to change the conversation about abortion access through original message research and public opinion polling on reproductive rights and health. In 2008, we launched How Much Time, which emphasized the real-life consequences of rendering abortion illegal. In 2010, in anticipation that our opponents would use the Affordable Care Act as an opportunity to impose new restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion care, we developed messaging that affirmed the positive, value-based approach to coverage for abortion, whether private or public (an important precursor to the All* Above All campaign). And in 2014, as elected officials, candidates, and progressives across the country turned their attention to women’s financial stability, we conducted research to demonstrate that voters see links between abortion access and women’s lives, finding that they see these issues as intimately interconnected.
The National Institute has a long history of bold, proactive strategies and campaigns to expand reproductive health and rights in cities and states across the country. We will continue to push the envelope until the ability to make reproductive health care choices is truly a reality for everyone.