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Reproductive Rights Project Biennial Report 1997-1998


The Reproductive Rights Project defends reproductive freedom in New York through a cutting edge program that combines litigation, legal analysis, public education and advocacy.

The project remains committed to protecting those most vulnerable to the anti-choice agenda – teenagers, poor women and women of color — in a political climate that has proven alarmingly hospitable to anti-choice policies. In setting priorities, the Project recognizes that stopping abortion is the centerpiece of a broader anti-choice agenda. By punishing sexual activity outside of marriage, censoring reproductive health information and eliminating essential services, opponents of choice seek to achieve “zero-tolerance.” The Project continues to defend abortion rights as well as the broader reproductive rights agenda: sex education, contraception, STD prevention, and the full range of pregnancy related services.

The Project is uniquely suited to its role as the legal arm of the reproductive rights movement in New York. Our expertise in the constitutional and statutory underpinnings of reproductive rights and the broader civil liberties agenda enables us to identify and analyze the key legal and policy issues and point out the implications for individual liberty, privacy and equality. Our statewide chapter network and strong working relations with the pro-choice, youth and HIV/AIDS advocacy communities keep the Project informed about problems as they arise – and enable us to provide reliable and effective legal support on a broad array of issues.

Legal analysis is the foundation of our work. It forms the basis for litigation when government interferes with reproductive rights. It shapes our advocacy work and often enables us to reverse policies or practices that are inimical to choice. Finally, as we share our analyses with other organizations, government agencies, policy makers and the media, the Project provides a powerful weapon for others to advance the cause of reproductive freedom in public debate.

As the number, scope, intensity and seriousness of anti-choice threats have increased dramatically in recent times, the Project has sought to maximize our resources – to achieve victories where possible without massive litigation, to select the issues carefully, and to develop the strongest facts upon which to pursue litigation.

The Project’s priorities in the past year have been:


  • resisting bans on so-called partial birth abortion and protecting access to late term procedures;
  • defending abortion access; and
  • expanding and protecting minors’ access to the full range of reproductive health information and services.

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So-Called “Partial Birth” Abortion Bans

The campaign to ban so-called “partial birth abortions” represents the most serious threat to reproductive choice in recent times. Resisting this threat is, therefore, top priority.

The Project is responding to this threat by:


  • developing and disseminating legal and policy analysis of the proposed New York and federal bans;
  • sharing our expertise and coordinating efforts with the advocacy, medical and legal communities.
  • preparing for litigation at the federal or state level should a ban be enacted or, should it become necessary, to challenge the application of New York’s unconstitutional restrictions on third trimester procedures;
  • assisting interested medical centers/ physicians in overcoming hurdles presented by New York law both in individual cases and as a matter of policy.

Inventing the vague and inflammatory term “partial birth abortion” and supplementing it with grotesque and misleading descriptions, opponents of choice have successfully confused many pro-choice legislators and the public. At both the state and federal levels, they have come perilously close to enacting legislation that purports to ban “this procedure,” but would really criminalize the most common and safest procedures.

Responding to New York State Legislation

The New York State Senate could hardly wait to go on record in 1998 to support a ban on so-called “partial birth” abortions. However, an unresolved factional split between the moderate opponents of choice and the Conservative Party forestalled that effort. Lacking agreement on whether to push for a vote on an overly broad ban without a life or health exception, as opposed to one that contains only a life exception, the Senate postponed its vote indefinitely. Ironically, the State Assembly, whose leadership purports to oppose the ban, breathed new life into the issue when it narrowly defeated a motion to discharge the Manning /Maltese bill from the Assembly Health committee. At that time, the Speaker’s office leaked a report of a third version of the ban – one that would apply post-24 weeks. The pro-choice community united in opposition to all the proposals. The Project prepared and distributed its legal analysis of all written versions and coordinated with the other pro-choice organizations in framing objections to the unwritten Silver proposal.

In opposing the bans, the NYCLU takes advantage of the string of legal victories in challenges to bans in other states over the past year to mitigate that dilemma. The Project has produced and distributed a series of memos for advocates, policy makers, NYCLU chapters and members highlighting the conclusion of courts around the country that nearly every partial birth law that has been decided has been declared unconstitutionally vague or substantially narrowed to withstand constitutional scrutiny. We also point out that the proposed bills would also impose an unconstitutional “undue burden” on women’s right to reproductive choice by banning procedures which may be necessary to preserve their health and in cases where the fetus is not viable.

In addition to distributing our own materials, the Project assists other organizations in preparing their materials about the ban. When the New York Times refused to print a letter to the editor from the project, we passed it along to NYCLU chapters and advocates urging them to use it as they saw fit.


The Project also remains prepared for emergency litigation in case New York enacts a state-wide ban to the extent possible at this stage, we have assembled the resources to seek an injunction prior to the effective date of a law. We have identified plaintiffs and developed outlines of the factual record, the pleadings and affidavits, and the legal memoranda.

Opposing the Monroe County Ban on Contracts with Partial Birth Abortion Providers

In an unusual effort to supercede state law with county level anti-choice policy, the Monroe County Legislature passed a ban on county contracts with all agencies and affiliates that provide “partial birth” abortions. This would impact all abortion providers that receive any county money including Medicaid, Title X, STD prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, and rape crisis counseling.

We assisted the Genesee Valley Chapter in mobilizing opposition to the proposed ban, prepared testimony and press releases, and assisted the pro-choice minority in the county legislature and pro-choice organizations in identifying the problems and developing strategies. We co-authored a letter with Planned Parenthood urging the County Executive to veto the ban, and alerted the federal Health Care Finance Administration to the ban’s illegality.

The Monroe County resolution is the first ban of its kind. It could set a dangerous precedent and encourage other counties to pass similar bans in order to pressure the State Legislature to follow suit. The Project will challenge this or other copy-cat bans, if appropriate, through litigation.

In testimony before the County Legislature, the NYCLU argued:


  • The resolution is impermissibly vague. Throughout the country similarly ill-defined “partial birth” abortion bans have been knocked down by federal courts.
  • The resolution violates state and federal Medicaid laws. The federal Medicaid laws require that state Medicaid policies provide uniform services throughout the state. Monroe County does not have the authority unilaterally to deny mandated health care coverage to its residents.
  • The resolution imposes an undue burden on choice and unconstitutional conditions on funding. The resolution seeks to prohibit an agency or its affiliate from receiving county funds even if it performs the abortion procedure with private funds. This resolution violates Rust v. Sullivan where the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not restrict what agencies that receive government money do with non-government funds.

Overcoming Legal Obstacles

Because New York law unconstitutionally prohibits post 24-week abortions except when a woman’s life is in danger, women who discover late in pregnancy that the fetus is not viable are often unable to get an abortion. In July 1997, the Project contacted the Bronx District Attorney on behalf of a physician seeking authorization to terminate a post-24 week non-viable pregnancy. Although the Project had secured approval for a letter affirming the legality of a post 24-week procedure because the fetus was not viable, the case became moot when the patient miscarried. Since we had not had to address the problem with the District Attorney’s office in the newly hostile political climate, the renewed contact offered an opportunity to refresh the institutional memory regarding the issue and our arguments. The Project has advised abortion providers that it is prepared to go into court when necessary to enjoin the unconstitutional application of New York’s current law to prohibit a third trimester abortion in such a case. Though prepared to litigate, we continue to assist doctors and patients in overcoming hurdles to rare, but necessary, third trimester abortions.

Impediments to Abortion Access

In recent years access to reproductive health care has been undermined by many factors including: anti-choice violence; government interference through onerous restrictions, prosecution or harassment of providers; and a shortage of providers. The advent of Medicaid managed care and the wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals pose additional threats to all reproductive health services.

Medicaid Managed Care and Child Health Insurance Program

The switch to Medicaid Managed Care raises the specter that private and religious insurance companies could vitiate the safeguards for reproductive health that have long been the touchstone of New York’s health care program for low-income women. In the Medicaid context, the family planning by-pass could well be transformed into its opposite: an excuse for providers hostile to reproductive health services to exclude these services from coverage.

The complexity of the Medicaid scheme and insufficient providers have made this an extremely difficult issue. The Project has worked with Planned Parenthood of New York City, NARAL, Community Service Society, the Door, and other coalition partners to sort out the issues and develop a strategy. We seek, thereby, to insure that women in New York City can obtain timely and quality comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion, sterilization and family planning.

In Spring, 1998, the Project testified before the Women’s Committee of the City Council on the need to safeguard and ensure confidentiality and access as New York City moves toward Medicaid Managed Care. The Project is helping to formulate legislation that will ensure that women in New York City do not lose access to timely services when the city makes the transition.

The Project has also convened a working group of adolescent providers and advocates to ensure that both Medicaid Managed Care and the state’s newly expanded Child Health Insurance Plan (CHP) afford confidential access to care for adolescents. For the April, 1998 meeting of the State Department of Health Subcommittee on Family Health Issues, the Project prepared a memo on the right of adolescents to receive confidential reproductive health services from CHP providers.

Medicaid regulations

At the request of a Cooperstown physician, physician assistant, and NARAL, the Project prepared a memo clarifying the scope of “medically necessary” abortions under the state Medicaid statute. We explained that the United States Supreme Court and state case law have held that the determination whether a procedure is “medically necessary” is to be made by the attending physician, exercising his or her best clinical judgment. Case law has likewise held that all of the factors a physician typically considers in making that judgment are also relevant in the abortion context. The memo enabled the physician to resume the practice of routinely treating Medicaid patients who needed abortion, rather than restricting his services to therapeutic abortions. The Project also shared with the Cooperstown team the Commissioner’s ruling that physicians assistants can perform abortions. As a result they developed plans to train the physician assistant as a provider.

Training and Access

The right to choose is jeopardized by a documented shortage of providers. The exclusion of abortion from routine medical training and the climate of fear generated by anti-choice violence contribute to the problem. Medically unwarranted government regulations – be they outdated clinic requirements or the ambiguous “physician only” requirement – also play a role.

Abortion in Family Practice

Family practice doctors should be an important pool of abortion providers. Because of their commitment to holistic care, many of them are deeply committed to integrating abortion services into their practices. Indeed, many of the providers trained in first trimester abortion at Planned Parenthood’s Clinician Training Initiative have been family practitioners. Increasing their participation in the delivery of abortion services would help re-integrate abortion into mainstream medicine and afford patients the continuity of care that is so rare when it comes to abortions.

The Project helped organize Abortion Access in Primary Care — a group of family practice physicians, physician assistants and public health workers — to integrate abortion into family practice settings and expand the provider pool. Numerous obstacles make this difficult. Generally functioning as Article 28 community-based clinics, family practice clinics are often unable to comply with the state’s onerous and outdated abortion clinic regulations. Malpractice coverage and insurance credentials pose additional problems.

The Project has prepared summaries and analyses of applicable regulations and helped identify areas of flexibility. The coalition includes medical directors and physicians in family practice clinics affiliated with Long Island College Hospital, Beth Israel, Columbia Presbyterian and Montefiore. Their teaching hospital affiliation enables them to train residents as well. One facility has already approved commencement of medical abortions with MVA back-up. Serious discussions are underway with clinic administrators at two others. By co-ordinating resources and strategies for overcoming each of the barriers, the coalition hopes to integrate abortion in key community based clinics around the city.

Government harassment of abortion providers

The Project assisted a major metropolitan area abortion provider in responding to a Medicaid fraud investigation. The investigation is one of several involving New York City physicians operating as doctors’ offices rather than licensed clinics. The provider under investigation operates several facilities, including one which had been the target of anti-choice harassment and an illegal eviction proceeding against which the Project successfully defended in 1995. After several months of investigation, including appearances by more than 12 past and present clinic employees, the Attorney General dropped the investigation without filing criminal charges. As a trusted legal resource, the Project advised clinic staff and consulted with clinic counsel to identify civil liberties objections to requested documents and help the clinic simultaneously protect the legal rights of physicians, administrators and patients.

Hachamovitch v. DeBuono (Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) (amicus)

As one of a small group of providers that provides late term abortions and exercises his right to treat patients in an office setting rather than a clinic, Dr. Hachamovitch has been a frequent target of the Department of Health. On November 4, 1997 the Project filed an amicus brief in support of his challenge to a 30 day suspension imposed by the New York State Department of Health’s Office of Professional Misconduct (“OPMC”). The OPMC finding of professional misconduct was based on the testimony of two of the four emergency medical service personnel who witnessed the incident in question. Dr. Hachamovitch disputed their account, but was denied access to the other 2 technicians who were on the scene. He was later precluded from reopening the hearing when he learned the identities of the other two technicians and that their official reports of the incident were in keeping with Dr. Hachamovitch’s testimony. Newly discovered evidence corroborates his account.

Dr. Hachamovitch is challenging New York’s regulatory scheme for disciplining physicians on due process grounds. He contends that the OPMC’s denial of access to exculpatory evidence during the disciplinary proceeding and its refusal to allow rehearings to consider newly discovered exculpatory evidence violate his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The NYCLU’s amicus brief argued that a physician may not be deprived of his constitutionally recognized interest in his medical license without due process. The OPMC is not required to divulge any exculpatory evidence to the physician under investigation; at the same time, however, the regulations allow for only very limited discovery. In addition, the regulations do not permit a rehearing in light of newly discovered exculpatory evidence. The Project argued that this scheme creates a high risk that the state may erroneously deprive a physician of his license, but that adding these safeguards would protect that interest without imposing any significant administrative or fiscal burden on the state.

The Second Circuit ruled in September, 1998, that the abstention doctrine does not preclude federal review of due process objections to OPMC’s procedures. The state has petitioned for a re-hearing en banc.

Hospital Policies

In November, 1997 the Project wrote to Montefiore Hospital objecting to two policies primarily aimed at Dr. Hachamovitch, but jeopardizing abortion access to many patients. The hospitals had sought to prohibit Dr. Hachamovitch from performing late term abortions (post-18 weeks) in his office setting. It also informed clinic staff that minors could not obtain abortions in Montefiore’s ambulatory facility without parental consent. In response to our letter, the hospital backed off from the hospitalization requirement for late term patients. The hospital also denied that it required parental consent for minors. Subsequent calls to verify current practice have confirmed that the hospital no longer insists on parental consent.

Anti-choice violence

With the enactment of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and its New York City counterpart, abortion providers and their patients acquired a weapon to stem anti-choice violence and obstruction. Importantly, the acts permit providers or patients to proceed civilly on their own, or for the Justice Department, the state attorney general or, in New York City, the corporation counsel, to seek injunctive relief and civil damages on their behalf.

Because of the NYCLU’s historic commitment to protecting both free speech and reproductive rights, which are both typically at issue in these cases, the Project is often looked to for advice in these matters. The Project continues to assist providers like Long Island Gynecological Services, Bronx Gynecological, and Ambulatory Surgery Services of Brooklyn by clarifying the distinction between protected First Amendment activity, reasonable time place and manner restrictions, and harassment or other illegal activity.

In the litigation context, the Project is often best suited to dealing with clinic access issues as amici. We continue to assist other organizations and providers in understanding the demarcation between valid time place and manner restrictions and interference with speech.

U.S. v. Lynch (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) (amicus)

One pending New York case threatens to eviscerate the laws designed to protect clinic access: U.S. v. Lynch. Although federal judges are assigned at random, this and another case arising under FACE – U.S. v. Mc Daniel — were both assigned to the same anti-choice federal judge, John Sprizzo, whose unprecedented and bizarre contempt ruling in Lynch could give new life to anti-choice challenges to the law.

U.S. v. Lynch is the criminal prosecution of two clergymen who admittedly violated a court injunction and blocked the entrance to the Dobbs Ferry Women’s Medical Pavilion. Despite the uncontested violation, Judge Sprizzo acquitted the pair of criminal contempt based on a novel legal theory. Finding that the men were motivated by sincere religious belief, he ruled that they did not act willfully as required for a conviction on charges of criminal contempt.

Previously, religious challenges to FACE and exemptions from its mandate had been universally rejected. Although Judge Sprizzo’s exemption for “sincere religious” motivation would not establish a religious exception to FACE itself, it could vitiate court injunctions issued pursuant to the statute with regard to religious motivated violators.

The Project submitted an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Lynch. The Project argued that: 1) the appeal is barred by principles of double jeopardy; 2) the trial court erred in holding that sincere religious motivation could negate the required element of willfulness in a criminal contempt proceeding; but 3) the court can and should reject the lower court’s reasoning, notwithstanding its rejection of the appeal on double jeopardy grounds.

Landlord Tenant Problems

Clinics around the country face problems obtaining and retaining office space. As a result of our victory in challenging the attempted eviction of the Long Island Gynecological Services, the Project responds to inquiries from attorneys around the country who confront related landlord-tenant problems. Because there are so few judicial opinions on these issues, the Project’s insights and resources are especially valuable.

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Minors’ Rights: Teen Health Initiative

The Teen Health Initiative was launched in April, 1997, to remove the barriers that prevent young people from accessing the critical health services and information they need. These obstacles range from subjective fears about confidentiality and consent to policies and practices that limit young people’s access to services and information. The current political climate is increasingly punitive towards young people as evidenced by the recent barrage of anti-youth legislation ranging from the federal abstinence only “sex education” programs to parental consent requirements and condom bans.

Through a strategy of public education and advocacy, the THI has been able to respond to these challenges and empower young people with the information and skills necessary to become their own advocates. The Teen Health Initiative provides teens and the professionals who work with them vital information on minors’ rights to confidential reproductive health care and on government policies and proposals to undermine these rights. Through peer-led workshops for teens, trainings for professionals and peer educators, and minors’ rights literature, the Initiative empowers teens to seek the health care they need and to advocate for policies that make services more accessible.

In its first year, the THI has established an effective and innovative peer education program, published and distributed public education literature on minors’ rights and initiated advocacy efforts to protect the rights of young people to reproductive healthcare information and services.


THI Peer Educators

Much of THI’s vitality and innovation is a product of our expanding peer education program. The THI peer educators undergo intensive training so that they can lead interactive workshops on minors’ rights to reproductive healthcare. The peer education program provides peer leaders with the opportunity to be mentored, and to become community organizers, teachers and advocates. In 1997, the THI’s 14 peer educators came from public high schools in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn.

This fall the THI recruited its second group of peer educators. Senior members of the group, who had already completed a training program and were certified to lead workshops, participated actively in recruitment and training. They led a workshop and presented a panel discussion about the program for an Open House that attracted over 30 participants. The peer educators helped to develop the application process, interviewed the candidates and are currently assisting in the training of new peer educators.

THI Training on Minors’ Rights

Peer educator training consists of an intensive six-week training on reproductive rights issues, including: minors’ rights to consent to and to receive confidential treatment for abortion, prenatal care, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, drug and alcohol abuse, and emergency care. It addresses the legal underpinnings and practical applications of reproductive rights, emancipation and the mature minors doctrine. Through interactive exercises and activities, they develop their workshop facilitation and acting skills. They also identify their individual strengths, which they call upon when presenting workshops. Team building activities help them to work effectively as a group.

Having completed their initial training, peer educators meet every Saturday to refine their skills and deepen their understanding of reproductive rights. THI peer educators also participate in conferences and trainings that build their skills while providing them with opportunities to collaborate with other teens so that they can build broad support for the rights of young people.

In November, 1997, four Teen Health Initiative representatives attended “Framing Our Messages: A Media Advocacy Training” in New Orleans sponsored by The Institute of Women’s and Ethnic Studies. The two-day training focused on youth-oriented media strategies for young activists including urban radio, community/cable access television programming and youth print media. The peer educators developed media advocacy plans, completed sound bite training and met with members of the media to discuss ways of expanding their outreach.

THI staff representatives shared their sex/AIDS education organizing experiences, legal/policy strategies and youth program ideas with participants from New Orleans who are advocates for sex education in the schools. Our peer educators exchanged experiences and ideas with other peer educators from around the country.

On January 24, 1998 THI staff and peer educators participated in Planned Parenthood of New York City’s Youth Lobbying Institute for youth attending the Family Planning Advocates(FPA) Conference in Albany. RRP Staff Yueh-ru Chu and Dimple Abichandani led a discussion on current legislation that will impact minors’ access to reproductive health care. The peer educators also discussed the legislative process and their role in it as lobbyists.

At the FPA Conference, THI peer educators met with legislators and urged them to support comprehensive sex education and minors’ access to reproductive healthcare. They participated in youth forums with teens from throughout the state to discuss key issues and develop strategies.

These trainings supplement the peer educators’ knowledge of the law and assist them in developing crucial advocacy skills. The sessions also provide the peer educators with a forum to share information and build relationships with other youth leaders and organizations that will be valuable for future efforts.

Workshops and Trainings

In the last two years the THI has reached several thousand young people, advocates, and professionals in more than 60 workshops. Workshops are the primary vehicle by which we reach out to young people and professionals who work with them. The growing number of requests for workshops and written materials and positive feedback are evidence of their overwhelming success.

Trainings for Minors

Peer-Led Workshops

Young people themselves can best communicate information on sexual health and reproductive rights with their peers. Because of their shared perspective, peer educators can develop a rapport with the group that an adult educator would struggle to achieve. Using interactive workshops to teach teens how to overcome perceived barriers to care, workshop leaders encourage their peers to seek the health services and information they need and deserve.

Workshops address young people’s rights and responsibilities regarding abortion, birth control, HIV/AIDS and other often overlooked reproductive health issues. They are scheduled in consultation with health educators and school-based health professionals so as to build on existing health education programs.

In the initial THI peer educator training Project staff worked with the peer educators’ experiences, interests and ideas to develop the workshop. Over the course of the training, peer educators participated in many role plays and discussions around reproductive rights issues. With the support of Project staff, they then identified activities that would be appropriate and effective as tools to educate their peers. Thus, the current workshops for teens capitalize on the expertise of the teen educators. THI staff and peer educators are constantly revising the format to accommodate new issues and fresh approaches.

The THI peer-led workshop relies on short skits, improvisational role plays with audience participation, and discussions to foster dialogue on controversial reproductive health issues. In this context, the peer educators bring the legal information on minors’ rights to their peers in an accessible and exciting manner.

THI peer educators have presented workshops to a broad range of HIV/AIDS and sexual health peer education groups (see attached list), including: Hispanic Young People’s Alternative, the Staten Island HIV/AIDS Peer Educators, the 92nd Street Y HIV/AIDS educators, the AIDS Center of Queens County, Teens Helping Each Other, Young Adult Institute, Project Reach Youth, the Ryan Center Peer Training Institute, NARAL Torch, Hamilton Madison House and the Brooklyn Association of Teen Educators Conference. By sharing our information with peer educators who themselves reach other teenagers, the THI is able to reach an even broader audience.

The Project also presented workshops to students at: University Heights High School, the Community School for Comprehensive Education, Queensboro Learning Center, P. 937 (the High School for Pregnant and Parenting Teens), and Sheepshead Bay High School.

The THI peer-led workshops, have reached over two thousand students and have been so enthusiastically received that we are almost always invited for follow-ups. As a result of two highly successful workshops, Project Reach Youth in Brooklyn has requested that we assist in their annual training, presenting workshops to each of their eight peer education groups. After attending one of our workshops, Teens Helping Each Other requested our participation as presenters in the Brooklyn Association of Teen Educators Conference. The positive evaluations from that conference generated yet another invitation to help train their new group of peer educators.

Training for Professionals

School Based Professionals

School-based health professionals work on a daily basis with teenagers, educating them about disease and pregnancy prevention and often helping them obtain necessary care. Their understanding of minors’ rights to obtain confidential treatment is critical. Project staff presented workshops for several hundred school based professionals. These sessions were specifically tailored to the needs of school-based professionals, working through both basic and subtle minors’ rights issues, and discussing methods of educating teenagers.

In April 1998, the Project presented a workshop to a group of School-Based clinicians at the Morrissania Diagnostic and Treatment Center. We have also presented workshops to clinicians at the Ryan Center and counselors at the SPARK programs throughout the city.

School based educators and health workers have been a particularly enthusiastic audience for the Project’s legal guide, Teenagers, Healthcare & the Law. We distribute this guide at every workshop and can hardly keep up with the hundreds of requests we receive for additional copies. For example, the LYFE centers have requested several hundred copies for distribution to both staff and students at their centers.

It is vital that all adults who work with teens daily — teachers, social workers, athletic coaches — be educated about teen rights. These professionals have the ability to provide a support network for young people, to educate them on a daily basis and to assist them in times of crisis. While our workshops facilitate the work of school-based professionals, they also provide us with a window into current issues facing young people.

Advocacy and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs)

Advocacy and community-based organizations are a vital source of information, services and activities for young people. Some have their own peer education programs while others have teen parent groups or provide services. We have presented workshops at the Planned Parenthood-South Bronx Clinic (The Hub), Allianza Dominica, NARAL, Inwood House, Hamilton Madison House, as well as many others.

We also distribute our model workshop outline, including our effective minors’ rights quiz to community-based organizations. Based on our training and workshop materials staff members from the Caribbean Women’s Health Association and Allianza Dominica presented successful and informative minors’ rights workshops to the teens in their program. We also assisted Allianza Dominica in setting up their peer education program.

Medical Professionals

In fall 1997, the THI presented a workshop at the SUNY – Stonybrook School of Nursing for a class of nurse practitioner students. Most of the workshop participants were professionals who were already in clinic placements, yet most were misinformed about the rights of young people to obtain reproductive health services without parental consent. This workshop demonstrated the need for further outreach to medical professionals who administer- or withhold- care. We respond to inquiries on a regular basis from HIV/AIDS service providers, nurses and doctors that reflect a broad problem of misinformation or lack of information.

The THI outreach program is more than a vehicle for education. It gives the RRP insight into trends and problems in the schools and in the community. As a result of THI workshops and literature, Allianza Dominicana, a community center in Washington Heights, has contacted us for information on pregnancy discrimination in the schools. The Caribbean Women’s Health Association and The Door, have raised similar concerns. As a result, the RRP is preparing to raise issues of pregnancy discrimination with the Board of Education. The Ryan Center has come to us with questions on minors’ right to consent to sterilization in New York. PPNYC, Inwood House, the LYFE program and the school based SPARK program have come to us with questions regarding child abuse reporting requirements. Often peer educators and the professionals who work with them approach us with specific minors’ rights questions after our workshops. In some cases the questions turn on fine points of law. In others, however, they reflect a basic lack of understanding that would logically be a serious impediment to access. Because our workshops reach such a broad spectrum of the community, we are able to identify patterns that reflect discriminatory policies and practices and practices that require systemic attention.

Minors’ Rights Literature

It is no accident that many young people and the professionals who work with them are uninformed or misinformed about minors’ legal rights to obtain confidential reproductive health care. The law in this area is especially confusing because no single statute – or even group of statutes — codifies the rules. As a result, many significant issues are left to a complex interpretation of constitutional law, legislative history, and basic principles of jurisprudence.

The challenge for the Reproductive Rights Project is to present the law in a way that is both accurate and accessible, thereby empowering individuals to advocate for right and maximize access to care.

Teenagers, Healthcare & the Law:
A Guide to Minors’ Rights in New York State

The centerpiece of the THI’s library is Teenagers, Healthcare & the Law: A Guide to Minors’ Rights in New York State. Having evolved with both input from the target audience and knowledgeable experts the guide is simultaneously comprehensive and accessible-a remarkable feat given the complexity of the material. This sixty – page booklet summarizes the law in key areas, using hypothetical examples to clarify the points. It addresses general health care access and rights issues, devoting special attention to family planning, abortion, HIV/AIDS and related topics.

The legal guide gives health care providers, social workers, advocates and educators ready access to the information they need to advise young people and advocate for them. It is extensively documented so that professionals can cite legal sources for their positions when necessary.

The accessible format of Teenagers, Healthcare & the Law makes it an excellent resource for youth and peer educators as well. At the same time, it provides information for these individuals and organizations on where to go for help with difficult questions. Teenagers, Healthcare & the Law allows us to broaden our outreach to a new pool of educators, health professionals, and advocates.

We exhausted the first printing of 5000 in only four months and have reprinted 12,000 more copies to meet the high demand. A bilingual Spanish/English edition is scheduled for publication by the end of the year.

Know Your Rights: The Flyer

The Reproductive Rights Project’s “Know Your Rights” flyer provides easy to read information for teenagers about their rights to health care. It was developed at the request of a group of community educators, including representatives from the Department of Health, the AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York, Safe Space, the Caribbean Women’s Health Center and THEO (Teens Helping Each Other). It has been enthusiastically received by educators, advocates, and young people who have requested hundreds of copies. The Project encourages individuals and organizations to duplicate it freely to ensure the broadest possible distribution and thereby maximize access to vitally needed information.

“Know Your Rights” is particularly useful because it is so compact and clear. It evolved so successfully because we sought and incorporated the suggestions of young people, who are the target audience.

The flyer is distributed to participants at each minors’ rights workshop. Its clear summary enables workshop participants to leave with an overview of the workshop topics and a practical reference guide to their rights. The flyer, containing our address and phone number, also reinforces to workshop participants the Project’s availability as a resource on minors’ rights issues.


Youth Rally ’97

In May of 1997 an anti-youth provision in the federal welfare bill allocated 50 million dollars in block grants for abstinence-only education. The funds are restricted to be used exclusively for abstinence education. Comprehensive sex education programs which address abstinence along with decision making skills, self-esteem building and prevention but which also provide information on contraception would not be funded. Additionally, the legislation requires each state receiving funds to match every four federal dollars with three state dollars, thereby jeopardizing existing state funding for comprehensive sex education programs. New York State applied for the federal grant.

The Teen Health Initiative peer educators felt that the urgency of the issue demanded immediate action. In a collaborative effort with youth advocates from the AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York (AANNY), and with the support of Project and AANNY staff, they planned a rally to protest the abstinence-only provision to the welfare bill. Young people directed the entire rally, emceed, performed and spoke. Teen Health Initiative peer educator Kimiko Taylor served as an emcee, and Andrea Fonville spoke at the rally. Jose Plaza designed the flyer. Many of the THI peer educators also participated in planning the rally and securing speakers and performers.

The rally took place on June 20th, in City Hall Park.

Hotline Project

On Dec 1, 1997, World AIDS Day, the Teen Health Initiative held a press conference to announce plans for a hotline (1888-HIV-EDUCATE) encouraging teens, parents and educators to protest the lack of effective HIV/AIDS education and/or condom availability programs in NYC public high schools. We are undertaking this effort in response to recent reports demonstrating that the NYC Public High Schools are not in compliance with a Board of Education mandate on HIV/AIDS education. The Hotline will serve as a vehicle for identifying schools that are not in compliance with State and local mandates about HIV/AIDS education and condom availability programs. Our responses to phone calls will range from collaborative technical assistance and legal advocacy to the filing of formal complaints. THI peer educators, along with NYCLU staff, spoke at the press conference about the need to advocate for young people’s rights to effective HIV/AIDS education.

At the December 1 Hotline Project Press Conference, the Executive Directors of AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York, Parent AIDS Initiative and Y.E.L.L. applauded the initiative, and spoke about their intent to collaborate with the NYCLU to ensure the success of the hotline. The RRP, through this Hotline Project has been instrumental in bringing together a working coalition of organizations committed to improving HIV/AIDS education in the New York City Public Schools. After launching the Hotline Project, we held a meeting attended by the key coalition partners to discuss a broad spectrum of strategies including the Hotline Project, a Center for Disease Control letter writing campaign, coordinated demonstrations at the Board of Education and meetings with Board of Education members.

Through litigation, policy development, legal analysis and advocacy, the Project defends minors’ access to sex education, contraception, and confidential reproductive health care. We respond to inquiries from providers regarding their authority to provide minors with confidential testing and treatment for HIV, STDs, and pregnancy related conditions. Our Teen Health Initiative is a critical component of the Project’s minors’ rights work. By keeping the Project in constant contact with young people and the professionals who work with them, the Initiative helps us identify the issues that need to be addressed in defend the reproductive rights of young people.

Access to Condoms

Kalke et al. v. City of New York et al. (Appellate Division, First Department )

Condom availability is essential to the prevention of unwanted teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. As the schools have proven unable or unwilling to provide adequate sex education including condom accessibility, informal education programs in city parks and other public areas have become increasingly important. Kalke v. City of New York is a legal challenge to the ban on condom distribution and usage demonstrations in City Parks.

The Project won its first victory in the case out of court. In response to the lawsuit, the city dropped the ban on condom distribution in the parks and replaced it with a permit scheme.

On December 30, 1997, a unanimous panel of the First Department (Murphy, P.J., Wallach, Mazzarelli, Andrias, J.J.) affirmed the March 28, 1996 decision of the Supreme Court, New York County (Schlesinger, J.) that the ban on condom demonstrations in city parks is unconstitutional. The court left standing the Parks Department’s permit requirement for the distribution of “non-commercial products”. Under that regulation, a person who wishes to distribute “products” “non-commercially” must obtain a permit, and distribute from a fixed location and only upon “an indication of interest from the recipient.” Although the regulation does not contain any express limitation with respect to any particular products, the Parks Department imposes an age limit of 16 on condom recipients.

The Project represented the All Saints Lutheran Parish, a South Bronx church that runs a HIV/AIDS peer education program for young people, and its pastor, the Rev. David Kalke. As part of its educational program, Church-trained peer educators visit City parks to educate young people about preventing HIV infection, distribute condoms and, upon request, demonstrate correct condom usage.

On appeal, the City sought to justify the regulation as a content-neutral, reasonable time, place and manner restriction designed to serve its purpose of preserving the character of the parks as an urban sanctuary and to minimize litter. The regulation, the City argued, was intended to minimize litter and protect the sensibilities of park-goers who might find the Church’s activities “bothersome, intrusive and offensive.”

The Project, on behalf of the Church as cross-appellant, argued that the regulation violates the First Amendment both facially and as applied to the Church’s educational activities. The regulation is facially invalid because its promulgation was motivated by the City’s hostility towards the Church’s activities. In addition, the permit scheme impermissibly delegates excessive discretion to the Commissioner to censor officially disfavored speech. The brief further argued that under Supreme Court case law, bans on uninvited speech are unconstitutional. Finally, the brief argued that the regulation fails as a content-neutral, reasonable time, place and manner regulation.

On the issue of the absolute prohibition on demonstrations, the First Department agreed with the trial court that:


Petitioners’ distribution and demonstration of condoms, in the context of their peer education program for AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention, constitutes expressive conduct sufficiently imbued with elements of communication falling within the protection of the First Amendment. 

It therefore concluded that to the extent that the regulation “completely prohibits any demonstration of products in the parks whatsoever, it is broader than what is necessary to further the expressed governmental interest, in effect cutting off an entire medium of expression . . . and is therefore unconstitutional[.]”

This decision represents an important victory for the ability of organizations such as the All Saints Lutheran Parish to continue their vitally needed HIV/AIDS prevention efforts unimpeded. Young people in communities such as the one served by All Saints – overwhelmingly poor and minority — have been particularly devastated by the spread of AIDS. Responses to the Project’s outreach to community-based organizations and service providers about Kalke have confirmed the importance of their ability to reach and help their target population through condom distribution and demonstration in the parks.

As a matter of First Amendment law, the case is also important: public parks are a traditional focal point for expressive activity, and government interference with sex-related speech is a recurring problem.

Although the court did not affirm our challenge to the permit scheme, the Project will not appeal. Since our clients have been able to distribute condoms without a problem under the new Parks Department scheme, the case is neither ripe for review nor compelling. However, the Project remains in contact with community based organizations that distribute condoms in the parks to monitor and respond to problems that may arise.

Pregnant and Parenting Teens

The Project is frequently called upon to defend the rights of pregnant and parenting teens who face discrimination in school.

On March 23, 1998, Project Director Donna Lieberman testified before the Women’s Committee of the City Council on discriminatory practices within the New York City public schools. Through the Teen Health Initiative, the Teen Parent Resource Center and the City-Wide Task Force on Pregnant and Parenting Teens, the Project has learned about several instances in which students have been forced out of school as soon because they were pregnant. Sometimes schools “counsel” pregnant student out, ostensibly for their best interest, other times they refuse to accept pregnant students, claiming, for example, that their insurance does not cover them. Discrimination against pregnant students creates yet another obstacle to their ability to complete their education and obtain essential skills to become self-supporting and productive members of society. The stringent work/ learnfare requirements make these discriminatory practices all the more problematic. The Project will follow up the testimony with a letter to Dr. Crew identifying the problem and requesting a meeting.

Torres v. the Archdiocese of New York (unfiled)

Students in the Catholic schools also face discrimination when they become pregnant. The Project represented Ingrid Martinez, a pregnant senior at Cathedral High School in Manhattan. . As a result of her pregnancy, Cathedral High School informed Ms. Martinez that she could no longer attend class as of the beginning of May, as well as the Senior Prom and graduation ceremonies because it would be too “stressful” for her to do so. The school proposed that she complete her studies at home, returning to school only to take her final examinations.

The Project wrote a letter to Cathedral, expressing concern over this action. Cathedral did not respond. The Project then prepared an Article 78 proceeding on behalf of Ms. Martinez, arguing that the school had acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to follow its own rules. Archdiocesan policy forbids schools from punishing pregnant students. The Project also argued that the school had breached its contract with Demaries Torres, Ingrid’s mother. Ms. Torres had made tuition payments in the expectation that Ingrid would receive an education, which includes attending classes, and had made payments for the prom and graduation ceremonies in the expectation that Ingrid would be able to attend these events.

On the eve of filing the lawsuit, the Archdiocese contacted the Project regarding Ms. Martinez. principal of Cathedral, and the Archdiocese. School officials acceded to all of Ms. Martinez’s wishes. She was permitted to continue attending class, the prom and graduation.

Mt. Sinai Settlement: From Discrimination to a Model Teen Education Program

Under the terms of the settlement with Mt. Sinai Hospital regarding racial segregation on its maternity ward, the Project oversees the model pregnant and parenting teen parent resource, health care, and education program at Julia Richman Educational Complex in conjunction with the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health program and the directors of the Julia Richman Educational Complex. The Complex contains several alternative high schools, an elementary and intermediate school. The LYFE Center and Head Start program that provide school based care for the children of teen parents, is the focal point of a parenting and child development educational program for the entire school. The program provides essential support services so that teen parents can stay in school. IT also includes a peer education component on parenting and reproductive health. As public schools face the influx of teen parents returning to school under the constraints of the new welfare laws, this program should be used as an alternative to the punitive “zero tolerance” approaches to reducing unwanted teen pregnancy.

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Reproductive Technology

The emergence of new reproductive technologies creates new reproductive options for women. This technology raises a host of new legal, philosophical and ethical issues to which the Project responds.

Kass v. Kass (New York State Court of Appeals) (amicus)

The Project played a major role as amici in Kass v. Kass, New York’s “frozen embryo case.” At issue was the disposition of five frozen pre-zygotes created through in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) for Maureen Kass and Steven Kass during their marriage. The Kasses, who were divorced after the creation of the pre-zygotes, have conflicting interests regarding the pre-zygotes. Maureen Kass sought to attempt to become pregnant by having them implanted in herself. Steven Kass wanted them destroyed. This case was one of first impression in New York, and only the second in the country to deal with the legal issues raised by assisted reproductive technologies.

On May 7, 1998, the New York State Court of Appeals resisted invitations to make new law and held that the contract between the parties was valid and required that the pre-zygotes be donated to research, and thereby, destroyed.

Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Kaye put to rest two potentially dangerous claims. First, she rejected the notion of “fetal personhood” that would somehow bestow the frozen embryo with legal rights. Second, she appropriately rejected the trial court’s misguided application of Roe v. Wade that prompted that court to award the frozen embryo’s to Mrs. Kass. A pregnant woman’s exclusive control of her pregnancy derives from the fact that pregnancy occurs inside her and every medical decision relating to it uniquely and profoundly affects her body and health. These overriding concerns are simply not present when the fertilized eggs are sitting in the petri dish, not in her womb. In the in vitro context, the parties’ interests are more nearly equivalent.

Because of the potential for a landmark decision in this case, the Project submitted amicus briefs at every level of the proceeding. We also provided extensive assistance to counsel for Stephen Kass, who had little previous exposure to reproductive rights jurisprudence and eagerly incorporated our ideas and suggestions into her arguments. In fact, Project counsel helped her prepare the oral argument before the Court of Appeals.

The Project’s brief argued that, in the absence of a clear contract, the court should adopt a strong presumption in favor of the party wishing to avoid parenthood. We agreed, however, that where the parties to an IVF procedure have entered into a clear contract as to the disposition of the pre-zygotes, that contract should control as long as it does not violate public policy. Our brief did not, however, take a position on the contract at issue in the Kass case.

The novelty of assisted reproductive technology and the dilemmas it creates have generated considerable media interest in the Kass case. Project counsel discussed the case on Court TV on May 14. On March 19, 1998, Project Director Donna Lieberman spoke at a panel on the case organized by Jacoby & Meyers, the firm that employs Mr. Kass’ attorney, Linda Armatti-Epstein. In addition, Newsday asked the Project to write an op-ed about the case. Project Director Donna Lieberman and Project Counsel Yueh-ru Chu co-authored a piece which appeared on March 29, 1998. The Project has also received numerous requests for copies of the Project’s Court of Appeals brief, including one from a concurring justice on the Appellate Division panel.

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Pregnancy and Childbearing

The Project prepared legal analyses and testified a legislative committee on proposals regarding drug use during pregnancy and its effect on newborns.

Drugs, Pregnancy and Child Neglect

One bill introduced by Nettie Mayersohn sought to make a newborn’s positive toxicology prima facie evidence of neglect.

The Project objected to this proposal on both constitutional and public health grounds. We pointed out that a single drug test, even if accurate, is not tantamount to child neglect. An newborn’s accurate, positive urine drug test only establishes that the mother used drugs 24 to 96 hours before giving birth. It does not, itself, establish consistent drug use, addiction, inability to parent, neglect or abuse. Moreover, the proposed legislation does not mandate the use of “state of the art” tests and protocols that would minimize the incidence of false positives.

The Project also identified constitutional flaws. Presuming neglect – the legal basis for the removal of a child from his or her parents – from a single test that does not correlate to incapacitating drug use violates the constitutional right to family integrity. Mayersohn’s bill also poses a threat to women’s constitutionally protected right to decide whether to bear a child free from government interference. It constitutes gender discrimination because it penalizes mothers, but not fathers, for drug use prior to a child’s birth, although paternal drug use is equally likely to harm offspring and is equally probative of neglect or abuse. Finally, studies have demonstrated that laws, which presume maternal unfitness on the basis of a positive toxicology, are likely to result in discrimination against women of color.

Universal Infant Toxicologies and Drug Treatment for Pregnant Women

As an alternative to the Mayersohn bills, Assemblymember Roger Green proposed legislation that would mandate universal infant toxicologies and provide rehabilitation services for the substance-abusing parent or caretaker.

On December 3, 1997, Project Counsel Yueh-ru Chu testified before the Assembly Committee on Children and Families on the use of newborn toxicology screens.

The Project urged the creation and enhancement of caregiver rehabilitation services on the grounds that they have been proven effective, yet are in desperately short supply.

We objected to the proposed universal mandatory testing because it violates the right to informed consent and individual privacy. Studies have shown that discretionary testing results in disproportionate testing of women of color and poor women. Universal testing, however, does not alleviate this problem. Perhaps most relevant, a toxicology is not an accurate gauge of parental fitness; it measures only whether a woman used drugs in the 24 to 96 hours prior to delivery. Mandatory testing without any “reasonable suspicion” – the suspicion here would be simply pregnancy — also constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the state constitution. Project Counsel also testified that compulsory testing.

As an alternative, the Project proposed the use of mandatory universal counseling and drug use assessment, which uses an extensive interview in place of a toxicology. Studies have demonstrated that these types of screens are more effective than the toxicologies because they are more likely to identify long-term patterns of substance abuse and use. The toxicologies, however, simply measure drug use in the few days prior to birth. Such assessments are also less costly and less intrusive.

The Project continues to provide technical assistance to other advocates on the issues relating to perinatal drug exposure.

Pregnancy Discrimination in the Military

In summer, 1997, the Project was contacted by a young woman who had been disqualified from enlistment in the Army Reserves because of an allegedly positive pregnancy test. Two months after she initially enlisted, the young woman was told that she would not be shipped out because she had tested positive for pregnancy as part of a routine check-up. The young woman told the reserves that she was not pregnant and asked for a second test, which was denied. One week later, she began menstruating – exactly one month after her previous period. She went immediately to a civilian health clinic and had a urine test; a few days later, she also had a blood test. Both were negative for pregnancy.

The young woman then requested a copy of the Army’s pregnancy test. The laboratory report merely indicated that her test was “borderline,” without any quantitative results. The Army, however, classified her as “positive.”

In consultation with the Project, the Nassau County Chapter wrote a letter on behalf of the young woman to the Assistance and Investigations Division of the Army. The letter sought an explanation of the Army’s conclusion that the young woman was pregnant was based on a borderline test result, why a confirming test was not ordered and how the Army plans to remedy this procedure in the future.

In fall, 1997, the Army threatened to discharge her, and the Project represented her at her hearing. After negotiating with the Staff Judge Advocate’s office, the Project reached an agreement whereby: the Army apologized to the young woman for her experience; she was reinstated with her previous financial package and military occupation specialty assignment; she was granted an ROTC age waiver; and she was rescheduled for a new ship out date for basic training.

The Right to Breast Feed

In the past year, the Project has been called upon to intervene on behalf of several women who have been harassed by government officials and agents of private entities for breast-feeding in public. In January, 1998, the Project represented a young woman who was prohibited from breast feeding her infant in a building on the Queens College campus by a college administrator who claiming it was “offensive.” In March, 1998, we interceded on behalf of a employee of the New York City Department of Health who was threatened with disciplinary charges for breast-feeding in a private area of a clinic during her break. We have received a similar complaint from a customer at a children’s store. In June, we complained to the expulsion of breast-feeding mothers and their infants from a baby swim club at a YMCA.

In each case, the Project wrote to the offending party informing them that women have the right to breast feed in public and private places pursuant to N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 79-e and outlined the policy reasons for that provision. We requested an apology and staff education and sensitivity training. In response, we have typically received a letter of apology and promises of “sensitivity training” in the future.

Because of the widespread lack of public education on this issue, the Project is contemplating a formal request to the city or state Department of Health to undertake a publicity campaign to inform the public of the law, and internal education among government employees.

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Other Issues

Defending the First Amendment rights of other organizations

City of New York v. Troop
City of New York v. Sorrentino
City of New York v. Lee
decided together, New York City Environmental Control Board (direct)

The Project represents Toni Troop, the president of the Greater Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and Lauren Sorrentino and Andrea Lee, two NOW interns, in their appeal to the New York City Environmental Control Board.

Troop, Sorrentino and Lee came to New York City to demonstrate NOW’s support for gay and lesbian rights at the annual Gay Pride Parade, which was held on June 29, 1997. In addition to taking part in the march, the NOW volunteers also made NOW literature available to parade participants and onlookers. As part of their activities, the volunteers also sold buttons, frisbees and other paraphernalia with pro-choice, feminist and other political slogans.

The New York City Police Department issued violations to all three for unlicensed general vending. All three entered a denial to the violation. The Environmental Control Board, however, found each respondent guilty of the violation and fined each one $250.

On October 18, 1997, the Project, filed a Letter of Appeal on behalf of the NOW volunteers, arguing that their activities were protected by the First Amendment. Specifically, the Letter argued that the City’s action was unconstitutional under Bery v. City of New York. In Bery, the Second Circuit reviewed the constitutionality of applying New York City General Vendors Law §20-453 — the very regulation respondents were found guilty of violating — to visual artists who wished to exhibit and sell their art in New York City public spaces. The court held that the City could not constitutionally require the artists to obtain licenses. First, the court held that visual art is an expressive medium and therefore entitled to First Amendment protection. The court also noted that the artists did not lose this protection because they were selling as well as exhibiting their work. Most importantly, the court held that the license requirement failed to leave open ample alternative means of communication because it acted as a complete bar to the artists’ expression. By regulation, only a limited number of licenses are available, and the present holders of the licenses may automatically renew them. Consequently, an extremely long waiting list exists for the licenses, making obtaining one essentially impossible.

Similarly, respondents here were selling items incidental to engaging in an expressive activity — participating in the Gay Pride march. Requiring an impossible to obtain license as a precondition to speech impermissibly burdens their right to freedom of expression.

On November 18, 1997, the Project filed a supplemental brief on behalf of the NOW volunteers. The brief argued that the volunteers’ participation in the Gay Pride Parade was an expressive activity, and that their sale of political paraphernalia in connection with marching did not render their activity commercial rather than expressive. The brief also further elaborated upon the Letter of Appeal’s Bery argument.

After nearly a year, the ECB finally rejected the appeal on the grounds that it did not have authority to adjudicate our constitutional claims.

Roe v. Wade Celebration

On January 7, 1998, the Project and the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project co-sponsored a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Nearly 200 people attended the event which honored ACLU reproductive rights clients, including Howard Moody, the founder of the Clergy Consultation Service; Judith Belsky, a psychiatrist who assisted many women in the days before Roe; Irving Rust, who challenged the Title X gag rule; Joan Coombs, formerly of PPNYC and a plaintiff in Rust and Hope v. Perales; and two anonymous plaintiffs in ACLU challenges to Medicaid restrictions.

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1999 Promises

1999 promises new and serious challenges to reproductive rights.

It is difficult to predict precisely which issues will require a serious legal response. But the Project has a solid foundation to face whatever challenges arise.

In the coming period, the Project anticipates:


  • legal analysis, public education, and, if necessary, litigation in opposition to so-called “partial birth” and late term abortion bans;
  • legal and policy analysis to ensure access to confidential health care under Medicaid Managed Care and Child Health Plus;
  • legal analysis and advocacy to removes barriers to abortion services by family practice doctors and mid-level clinicians;
  • legal support for abortion providers facing harassment by government and/or hospitals;
  • legal support, public education and advocacy to ensure minors’ access to confidential reproductive health care;
  • defense of pregnant and parenting teens against discrimination in school; and
  • development of literature on the rights of pregnant and parenting teens.

History demonstrates all too clearly that “pro-choice” policies are only as permanent as we require them to be. The Project is confident, however, that our cumulative expertise and experience will enable us to resist the inevitable threats to choice and preserve the fundamental right in New York.

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The Reproductive Rights Project appreciates the generous support of private donors and :


  • The ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Grants-to-Affiliates Program
  • The Huber Foundation
  • The New York Community Trust
  • The Open Society Institute
  • The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation

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