St. Louis, MO – In the St. Louis City Hall Rotunda today, National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) President, Andrea Miller, joined a group of local elected officials and reproductive health, rights and justice advocates to call on St. Louis to step up and advance reproductive health, rights and justice policies in light of constant attacks from Governor Greitens and President Trump.
During the press conference convened by NIRH, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri Executive Director Alison Dreith, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Reproaction Pamela Merritt, and representatives from the Board of Aldermen celebrated the passage of the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Ordinance (Board Bill 203) and the pending introduction of an ordinance to protect abortion clinic patients and staff from harassment, (Board Bill 34). Speakers also discussed using the Local Reproductive Freedom Index, a first-of-its-kind initiative launched by NIRH to evaluate the reproductive health, rights, and justice policies of 40 cities, as an advocacy tool to build grassroots support and inspire new policy ideas for advancing reproductive freedom in the Midwestern city.
“St. Louis is a great example of a progressive bastion using all the tools at its disposal to advance reproductive health, rights, and justice in one of the most extreme anti-choice states, in a country that is increasingly hostile to these issues,” said Andrea Miller, president of NIRH and NIRH Action Fund. “As the Trump and Greitens administrations continue to limit access to reproductive health care, cities like St. Louis are our last line of defense.”
Since President Trump was inaugurated in January, women have witnessed the roll back of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control insurance coverage mandate, the pursuit to dismantle access to affordable health care, and the president’s dogged commitment to overturn Roe v. Wade the first chance he gets – a commitment made evident in his appointment of anti-choice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Already, states are continuing the trend of imposing record numbers of anti-abortion laws and shutting down clinics.
The Local Reproductive Freedom Index uses 37 unique policy indicators to calculate how individual cities are protecting and advancing reproductive freedom across a range of categories, including access to abortion clinics, funding and coverage for reproductive health care, support for young people and families, and advancement of inclusive policies for all people. Of the 40 U.S. cities analyzed in the Local Index, San Francisco was found to be best equipped to protect and advance reproductive freedom for its residents, followed closely by New York City and Los Angeles.
St. Louis scored two out of five stars – the city has room for improvement when it comes to reproductive rights, but recent policy work show it is well on its way. The Reproductive Health and Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Ordinance, which Alderman Megan Green sponsored, was passed by the Board of Aldermen in February 2017. Despite organized opposition from the state government and from the Catholic Archdiocese, this measure protects St. Louis residents from discrimination based on their personal decisions to raise a family or access reproductive health care, including abortion. This measure is also significant because St. Louis is one of only two cities in the country with such protections in place — even cities that scored at the top of the Local Index, like San Francisco and New York City, have yet to take such action. While the governor of Missouri tried to nullify this important protection, even convening a special legislative session with the express goal of overturning it, the policy remains in place and has energized the local activist community and established the leadership of local elected officials — a powerful victory for a city located in one of this country’s most restrictive states for reproductive health, rights, and justice.
“I’m excited to continue to push St. Louis to be a champion for reproductive rights,” said Alderwoman Megan Green.” We’ve made some great strides, but definitely have some work to do. I’m confident with the help of the National Institute for Reproductive Health St. Louis can be a role model for other cities on supporting reproductive health.”
“Here in St. Louis we’re taking a bold stand to push back against regressive, anti-choice agendas at the state and federal levels,”said Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia. “The people of Missouri deserve better, and we’re starting here in St. Louis by passing innovative policies that advance reproductive freedom for all of our communities.”
“The truth is that 7 in 10 Americans agree that abortion should be kept legal and accessible. But in places like Missouri, governors have ignored this consensus and have instead waged a crusade against our access to basic reproductive healthcare,” said Alison Dreith, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. “While access should never depend on your zip code, St. Louis is the perfect example of how cities can lead in the resistance and enact policies that actually help women and families. NARAL looks forward to continuing to work with NIRH and the Board of Aldermen to advance reproductive freedom and inclusive policies for all people.”
“Black women and our families face infant and maternal mortality rates worse than some developing countries, but Greitens continues to prioritize the anti-abortion movement’s regressive agenda over his constituents needs. Reproaction is organizing in St. Louis and across the state to raise awareness and demand accountability because Missourians deserve better,” said Pamela Merritt, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Reproaction.
According to the Local Index, cities are already serving as counterweights to the Trump administration’s assault on individual freedoms, bodily autonomy, and reproductive health care: 21 cities have made advances in undocumented peoples’ access to reproductive health care, and in the wake of increased anti-abortion rhetoric and protests, eight cities have implemented policies to protect access to abortion clinics. Striking back against Congress’s repeated attacks on reproductive freedom, nine cities have passed progressive measures urging Congress to act on federal policy solutions, such as repealing the Hyde Amendment and similar bans. Cities are also improving upon sexual and reproductive health care for residents: 31 cities have made advancements in providing funding for funding for sexually transmitted infections, and 18 cities implement some form of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools.
NIRH has a proven track record of successful advocacy at the local level to fight for reproductive freedom, having long worked with on-the-ground partners to change public policy, galvanize public support, and normalize women’s decisions about abortion and contraception. Since first partnering with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to launch the Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health in 2008, NIRH has provided more than a million dollars in funding to 58 organizations across 50 cities and sustained a network connecting hundreds of advocates, elected leaders and public health officials nationwide.
Miller attended the press conference today as part of a month-long tour of four cities in the Local Index: Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, and St. Louis. She is meeting with advocates, partners, community members, and lawmakers for conversations about the importance of city leadership when it comes to ensuring residents’ reproductive freedoms, and to learn more about what those cities need to succeed.
About the National Institute for Reproductive Health
The National Institute for Reproductive Health builds power at the state and local level to change public policy, galvanize public support, and normalize women’s decisions about abortion and contraception.
Using a partnership model, we provide state and local advocates with strategic guidance, hands-on support, and funding to create national change from the ground up. We are a force multiplier – we form strategic partnerships with a wide range of organizations to directly impact the reproductive health and lives of women across the country. Since 2008, NIRH has provided direct grants and hands-on support to more than 145 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in 37 states and 50 localities across the country.
At the national level, we engage in groundbreaking public opinion research, proactive policy initiatives, and innovative advocacy campaigns to shape a new national conversation about reproductive freedom.