Meet the 2 women mobilizing a team of architects to help design and build abortion clinics nationwide

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  • Two women are mobilizing US architects to design and build abortion clinics nationwide.

  • Lori Brown and Jordan Kravitz expect many to flee anti-abortion states to get the procedure.

  • Brown and Kravitz want to design clinics near borders to lessen travel costs for abortion-seekers.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, two women took to Twitter for help.

"[I]f you are an architect and are willing to be included on a list to assist abortion clinics in states where abortion remains legal, Jordan Kravitz and i are creating a list," Lori Brown wrote. "[P]lease let us know. ASAP… spread the call."


Brown, a professor at the Syracuse University School of Architecture, and Kravitz, a healthcare architect and medical planner, teamed up to field the requests. About 90 architects responded to the call, Brown told Insider. The goal, Brown said, is to mobilize a team of architects who'd be willing to help design and build new clinics in states where abortion is still legal.

Now the two women have now found themselves at the forefront of what might be the biggest architectural movement in support of reproductive rights.

Architects have historically ignored the reproductive health space

Architecture is a male-dominated profession. Although nearly half of all US architectural students are women, just 17% of registered architects are female, according to a 2020 report from the American Institute of Architects.

"It has been a bit ostracized in the profession," Brown said. "Because [abortion] is so political and politicized in this country, that tends to turn certain populations away from even wanting to think about working on a type of project like this."

As a result, according to them, architects have seldom taken on abortion clinic projects. And abortion clinics, which often face threats and violent demonstrators, haven't realized that they can turn to architects to help them navigate design and building complexities.

A 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas is escorted down the hall by clinic administrator Kathaleen Pittman prior to getting an abortion.
A 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas is escorted down the hall by clinic administrator Kathaleen Pittman prior to getting an abortion, Oct. 9, 2021, at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana.Rebecca Blackwell, File/Associated Press

"We're trying to mainstream the issues around abortion as a space where architects need to be engaged and working on and helping design," Brown explained. "And then also, for providers to know that there's so many people who are interested and willing to work with them."

So far, they're going to keep the list a secret and circulate it only through known abortion online distribution lists and networks to avoid potential harassment or threats.

"I have the privilege of being [in] the academy," Brown said. "I'm not reliant on clients for my source of income. So, I won't take a financial hit like a lot of the architects."

But "people have to stand up," she added, which is why she and Kravitz started the list in the first place.

For now, they'll focus on sending architects to states in which abortion is still legal to avoid wasting resources, Brown said.

The goal is also to create a set of guidelines that help future architects design spaces dedicated primarily to reproductive rights and abortion. Currently, no such guidelines exist, Brown said. But she hopes this mobilization effort will help standardize practices for abortion clinics.

Preparing for a flood of out-of-state travel

Overturning Roe v. Wade means the question of the legality of abortion is now in the hands of individual state legislatures — essentially making the medical procedure illegal or inaccessible in at least 22 states. There could be added restrictions in several others.

However, the ruling will not stop people from obtaining an abortion, reproductive rights experts say. To circumvent the new restrictions, people have begun seeking care overseas. Others are crossing state lines, often taking drastic measures.

Recently, for example, a pregnant 10-year-old girl from Ohio fled her home state to Indiana to get an abortion. Earlier this month, 27-year-old Gershon Fuentes confessed to raping the girl, which led to her impregnation.

However, there aren't enough abortion clinics in states where the medical procedure still remains legal to be able to effectively respond to the influx. An analysis conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research and policy group, found that some states may be overburdened. Illinois, for example, is expected to see an influx of more than 8,000%, the group projected.

louisiana abortion provider
A woman naps, bundled up against the air conditioning, as she waits to have an abortion, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La.Associated Press/Rebecca Blackwell

And traveling out of state is expensive and unattainable for many people. Some Americans might shell out as much as $10,000 to cross state lines and receive an abortion, as Insider previously reported, which often includes the cost of the procedure, hotel, transportation, and other expenses such as childcare or food.

In their plan, Brown and Kravitz are anticipating an influx of patients.

"I firmly believe that because of this, there's just not enough abortion clinics in the states where abortion is remaining legal to provide services for all of these women that need them, so they're going to have to build," Kravitz told Insider. "They're going to have to expand these spaces."

The two want to design clinics near state borders to shorten the traveling time to seek an abortion, Kravitz said.

How architects can support and bolster abortion clinics

Architects are useful to abortion providers, the women said, because they can think about implementing safeguards, improving the patient experience, and staying in compliance with local laws and regulations.

Safeguards can include the establishment of secure passageways for patients to walk through to minimize or avoid harassment from anti-choice protesters. Other safeguards can be having separate entrance and exits so people who've had an abortion aren't harassed when they leave.

"Because everyone knows what's happened when you exit," Brown said.

Other times, architects can suggest implementing bulletproof windows to deter or prevent potentially dangerous situations.

However, since there are no standardized guidelines for architects to follow, these safeguards aren't universal practices when it comes to establishing abortion clinics. But part of an architect's job is to foresee the patient's experience and design elements that cater to it.

That's particularly why it's so important for women to be involved in healthcare architecture, especially when setting up abortion clinics, Kravitz and Brown said.

"Abortion is healthcare, and we should be, especially in the architecture, design, and healthcare world … talking about abortion clinics the same as we talk about dental clinics or hospital patient towers," Kravitz said.

Architects also can interpret zoning laws and fight against rules that don't make sense for an abortion clinic.

They can, for example, review specific laws and ordinances that make it harder to establish an abortion clinic and make the argument that they don't need to adhere to them.

These rules are frequently called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and critics argue they're imposed to curtail the abilities of an abortion clinic. The laws "go beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety," the Institute says.

So architects can help navigate that space, according to Brown and Kravitz.

Some of these laws take the form of "building code standards that do not improve the health and safety of women's care," Brown said. "And one of the things to note is that those groups making these changes in building codes are most often, there's no architects there. It's most often people who have very little expertise in the build environment."

The goal of an architect in the reproductive healthcare space is to guide abortion providers through a seamless process of establishing a clinic.

abortion clinic escort volunteers in pink vests with woman with fist in air
Workers at a family planning clinic watch as thousands of abortion rights demonstrators march past their clinic chanting support on their way downtown on May 14, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.Scott Olson/Getty Images

"We are particularly well-suited to be able to read and understand building codes, and also, to argue and advocate for ones that are sensible and ones that are only political," Brown said. "A lot of these TRAP laws are political kinds of building codes that aren't necessary and should not exist."

But because the design of abortion clinics is so rarely talked about in the architecture community, Brown and Kravitz said, this kind of pushback against regulators and officials seldom happens.

"The architecture community itself has remained relatively silent about abortion and architecture," Kravitz said.

It's the hope of Kravitz and Brown that this mobilization effort will at least begin to challenge the stigma of abortion and reproductive rights within architecture.

"Architecture needs to participate more broadly in the spaces of everyday life," Brown said. "And abortion is one of those spaces where we have been absent and we have a lot to contribute."

Read the original article on Business Insider