private choices public spaces

Additional Information


Although guaranteed by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (1973), access to reproductive healthcare continues to be further restricted with states independently controlling and governing degrees of access.  In the last three years there have been a tremendous increase in the number of restrictions state legislatures have passed across the country; in 2011, 92 new abortion restrictions were passed, in 2012, 43 new restrictions were passed[1] and in 2013, 70 abortion restrictions were passed.[2] According to the Alan Guttmacher institute, in 2008 over 87% of U.S. counties had no abortion provider and in non-metropolitan areas, 97% of counties had no provider. Approximately one in four women who have had an abortion are required to travel 50 miles or more for the procedure. [3] The availability of access is also dependent upon where in the country you live. For example, in the northeast 18% of women live in counties with no providers; in the Midwest, 52% of women live in counties without providers; in the south 47% of women live in counties with no providers; and in the west 13% of women live in counties with no providers.[4]  As more restrictive legislation continues to be passed, certain groups find it increasingly difficult to exercise their legal right to abortion as granted by federal law. Women below the federal poverty level now have almost four times as many abortions as higher income women and black and Hispanic women comprise more than 52% of women having these abortions.[5]

Most abortion clinics are located in spaces that have been either re-purposed or renovated into medical facilities. In highly restrictive states where there are high numbers of protests, there needs to be more protection and privacy for both patients and employees going into and out of the clinic. Patients and medical staff are accosted verbally and visually, including physical intimidation bordering on abuse.

Directly intersecting with the highly contentious issue of abortion and the space of abortion clinics, this design action and public installation encourages public discussion through the exhibition and educational programming about the role of design in our built environment. This is an opportunity for a design intervention to re-envision how such a separation can be physically manifested and engage pertinent socially and politically relevant issues. The action will engage important ideas around the role of design in our built environment, ways design thinking can impact such a politically volatile subject, and how the public understands, inhabits and engages public space.

One of the original aspects of this project is the content and site – the only remaining abortion clinic in one of the most conservative and restrictive states in the country.[6] Rarely within design communities is such a contested space put forth as the site of action. There are two primary goals of the project. The first, more intellectually, civically and socially invested, is to foster public discussion about the spaces of reproductive healthcare access in a state with only one remaining clinic – including the role of protest and it’s impact on public space in abortion care, how space literally participates in access, the difficulties these women are encountering in physically exercising their legal right and concerns about who suffers from these tactics. The second, spatially and design focused, is to raise awareness about why design matters, the active role design can play in political issues and how designers can utilize space to encourage public engagement within such contested public spaces.

[1] Guttmacher Institute State Center, “Laws Affecting Reproductive Health and Rights: 2012 State Policy Review,”

[2] Guttmacher Institute, “Barriers to Abortion Access,”

[3] ‘Rachel K. Jones et al., “Abortion in the United States: incidence and access to services, 2005,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (2008) 40(1):6–16.

[4] Rachel K. Jones and Kathryn Kooistra, “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States, 2008,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (2011) 43(1):41–50. A minimum of 13% of counties in Connecticut and a maximum of 82% of counties in Pennsylvania are with no providers; a minimum of 83% of counties in Michigan and a maximum of 98% of counties in both South and North Dakota are without providers; a minimum of 0% of counties in the District of Columbia and a maximum of 91% of counties in Mississippi; a minimum of 0% of counties in Hawaii and a maximum of 96% of counties in Wyoming are without providers.

[5] Alan Guttmacher Institute, “An Overview of Abortion in the United States 2009,”

[6] Frank Newport, “Mississippi Most Religious State, Vermont Least Religious,” Gallup Well-Being, February 3, 2014,


Additional Resources:

CAD drawings of the site can be found here.

Maisie Crow, The Last Clinic,

The Last Abortion Clinic, Frontline PBS,

12th & Delaware HBO documentary on Florida Clinic,