Recent abortion rights legislation in cities

Posted on February 28, 2018

This edition focuses on policies that expand reproductive rights on the local level. A lot of crucial work can be done by city councils, mayors and other local leaders that will improve women’s lives. The following are recent examples of these kinds of policies:

Hartford, Connecticut—In December, Hartford enacted an ordinance to regulate crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) that is similar to this San Francisco ordinance. CPCs are offices that use delays and deception to stop patients from accessing abortion care. They present themselves as legitimate reproductive healthcare facilities when, in fact, they rarely offer any real healthcare services or have licensed medical personnel on staff. The Hartford ordinance prohibits false, misleading or deceptive advertising about the services they provide. It also requires CPCs to disclose whether there are actual licensed medical personnel on the premises who are available to provide services.

St. Louis, Missouri—The St. Louis Board of Alderman are on track to pass a board bill that will establish an 8-foot zone around the driveways to reproductive health clinics. This buffer zone will protect patients’ rights to access healthcare free of harassment and interference. It will also protect clinic personnel from harassment and keep protesters from impeding traffic around clinics.

Austin, Texas—The Austin City Council became the first locality in the South to pass an ordinance which establishes a comprehensive paid sick leave program for workers in the city. The law requires that private employers allow their workers to accrue up to eight days of paid sick leave per year and is scheduled to go into effect in October 2018. Reproductive rights activists lobbied for the creation of this paid sick leave program in part because of how much time women must take off work to obtain abortion care in Texas, where state mandated waiting periods require two visits instead of one.

New York City, New York—The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has just started issuing fines to enforce a law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to disclose whether there is a licensed medical provider on site and what services and referrals they actually provide. The original law was amended in May 2016 to require disclosure be made on a 11 x 17-inch sign posted at the entrance of the facility and in any areas that patients received services. This disclosure is also required to be shared, in both English and Spanish, during oral discussion with patients and on every page of their website, social media posts and advertisements.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—The Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution in November 2017 that endorses the reinstatement of abortion coverage for women enrolled in public insurance programs. To do this, the resolution calls for the enactment of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act, and a general lifting of the ban on abortion coverage in private insurance plans sold through the state exchange.

Columbia, South Carolina—The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance at the end of 2017 that updated the city’s protections against employment discrimination to include, pregnancy, childbirth and other related medical decisions regarding familial status. To do this, the ordinance added pregnancy, childbirth, and other related medical decisions into the list of protected classes which should allow women to make their own personal decisions about reproductive health without interference from their employers.