Donald “Grab ’Em By the Pussy” Trump is proving to be just as cruel a president as reproductive-rights advocates feared. In the course of his campaign, Trump transformed himself into a rigid pro-life candidate; chose a vice president who had, as a Representative, written an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood; and famously suggested that women should be punished for having abortions. (During a less-covered moment of that same interview, Trump said men who get women pregnant should not be: “Different feelings, different people,” he reasoned.) Now, just nine months into his presidency, the Trump administration has rolled back President Obama’s contraceptive-coverage guarantee, attempted to eliminate essential health benefits including maternity and newborn coverage, and strongly endorsed the House bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Yet, while the news from the top is undeniably grim, city governments and grassroots advocates across the United States have been busy holding the line on reproductive rights—and even moving it forward. From San Francisco to Chicago to Boston, cities are enacting legislation and creating programs designed to support reproductive health and justice. And these efforts, which are outlined in a new reproductive-freedom index by the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), offer a powerful counterpoint to the narrative of retreat and retrenchment playing out across state legislatures and in our nation’s capital.
“There’s no question that we need to be exceedingly vigilant right now given attacks by the federal and state government,” says Andrea Miller, president of the NIRH. “But we would do ourselves a real disservice to let that blind us to the power and potential of local governments.”
To measure something as massive and dynamic as “reproductive freedom,” NIRH examined 40 of the country’s most populous cities, measuring their policies against 37 weighted indicators. Taken together, these indictors paint an encompassing picture of reproductive freedom—one that includes everything from access to sexual-health education to anti-discrimination polices on gender identity to a $15 minimum wage, as well as a woman’s fundamental right to choose.
The index’s highest-scoring cities were exactly those you might expect: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, which is to say coastal, wealthy, and historically progressive cities, each received 4.5 stars, out of a possible five. These cities check all the essential boxes—they protect abortion-clinic access, fund reproductive health, support families, take a stand—but also offer innovative programs that expand the notion of what it means to fight for reproductive freedom.
San Francisco, for instance, has worked to lessen the influence of so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), where pregnant women go to pursue what they think are abortion services—but which CPCs do not, in fact, offer. Instead, when a woman who wishes to terminate a pregnancy arrives at a CPC, she is manipulated in a variety of ways, from being shown graphic photos to being given medically inaccurate information. To counter these deceptions, San Francisco passed an ordinance in 2011 prohibiting CPCs from making false statements or putting out misleading advertising.