In the wake of deadly violence at abortion clinics in the 1990s, federal, state and city laws were enacted to protect access to reproductive health care clinics. Clinic access laws are an important tool in responding to clinic violence, deterring possible offenders, and ensuring access to reproductive health care, while appropriately protecting the First Amendment rights of protesters to peacefully express their views. There are three principal laws that protect clinic access in New York: (1) the Federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE); (2) the New York State version of FACE; and (3) the New York City law entitled Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act (ARHCF). The New York City clinic access law was amended in 2009 to provide greater protections to people seeking or providing reproductive health care services, and to make the clinic access law easier to enforce. The NYCLU has devised the following materials to help reproductive health care clinic employees, volunteers, and patients better understand the law; to more easily recognize the difference between lawful, constitutionally-protected protest activities and protest activities that may cross the line into obstructive misconduct that violates the clinic access laws; and to provide guidance as to how to best document possible violations of the law.
- Memorandum (PDF): This memorandum summarizes federal, state, and local clinic access laws with a focus on the New York City clinic access law. This memorandum is not meant or intended to provide legal advice. If you have questions, please contact us.
- Clinic Access Laws During the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF): This memo addresses the interplay between clinic access laws, public health guidelines, and conduct by clinic opponents. Given the danger of contracting COVID-19, these guidelines inform acceptable conduct in our public spaces, including outside reproductive health care facilities.
- Model Clinic Escort Handbook (PDF): This model is meant to provide guidance to clinic escorts about the clinic access laws, and can be inserted into the section of a clinic’s handbook relating to clinic access and protesters.
- Model Clinic Feedback Form (PDF): Documenting possible violations of the clinic access laws is critical to effective enforcement of these laws. The NYCLU’s model feedback form was designed to elicit information pertinent to enforcement of the law.
- The Impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCullen v. Coakley Decision on Reproductive Health Clinic Access Laws in New York State (PDF)