Gotham Gazette Thu, 19 Jul 2018 21:36:28 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Trump Administration Attacks on Title X Could Result in Even More Deceptive Women’s Health Clinics scott pp100 cityhall 057

Comptroller Stringer with Planned Parenthood (photo via @NYCComptroller)

The Trump-Pence administration just took aim at the Title X program—the nation’s long-standing program for affordable birth control and other sexual and reproductive health care that more than four million people nationwide, including 150,000 New Yorkers, rely on each year.

The administration issued a new call for funding applications that radically changes the program's priorities—and that will shift funding away from expert sexual and reproductive health care providers, to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers that masquerade as legitimate health care facilities solely to shame and mislead pregnant individuals about their reproductive health options.

There’s no denying it: This is all part of a coordinated attack on access to accurate sexual and reproductive health care information—and to access to birth control and safe, legal abortion.

The attacks don’t stop there. On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard its first major reproductive rights case since the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s anti-abortion appointee—and the case could also change how crisis pregnancy centers operate. It will determine whether crisis pregnancy centers will be allowed to continue to lie to people about their reproductive health care options by calling it First Amendment promoted speech.

Let’s be clear – we must fight back against these attacks to ensure that New Yorkers, especially those with low incomes, continue to have the fundamental health care they need and deserve.

Since 1970, the government has awarded Title X grants to sexual and reproductive health care providers that offer contraception, STI testing, cancer screenings and more to help uninsured and underinsured individuals afford them. Historically, Title X is meant to ensure that every person—regardless of where they live, how much money they make, their background, or whether or not they have health insurance—has access to basic, preventive sexual and reproductive health care. This program is a critical safety net for many people who would otherwise go without health care, like those in low-income communities and communities of color who disproportionately face barriers to care.

When programs like this are under attack, it’s our most marginalized communities and at-risk families who stand to suffer the most. As a recent report by the New York City Comptroller’s Office showed, in 2015, 91 percent of people served under Title X throughout New York State were women, and 60 percent had incomes at or below the federal poverty line. Nearly one-third were uninsured.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ new guidelines for Title X would push these patients to go to facilities that emphasize abstinence-only ideology and that do not offer the full range of birth control options. The new guidelines are designed to roll back access to highly effective forms of birth control, like long-acting reversible contraceptives (IUDs and implants).

These guidelines also clearly open the door to anti-abortion fake clinics participating in the program, even though they use deceptive tactics such as providing medically inaccurate information to women, including lying about the gestational age of a pregnancy in order to make it harder for someone to access an abortion.

Already, throughout New York City, crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as legitimate health care facilities solely to shame and mislead pregnant individuals about their reproductive health options and prevent them from seeking abortion care. The new Title X guidelines could result in these fake clinics receiving taxpayer dollars and expanding, targeting even more people who are seeking legitimate reproductive health care services. These misleading anti-abortion facilities may continue to exist—but we shouldn’t be supporting them with federal taxpayer money.

This egregious attack on Title X is an attack on women and vulnerable communities, and on the rights of New Yorkers to make the health decisions best for them and their families.

All New Yorkers should have control over their sexual and reproductive lives. This includes the decision of whether, when, and how to have children, how to practice healthy and respectful sexuality, how to protect ourselves and our partners against STDs, and more. When we make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care, we determine our own futures. And when our reproductive autonomy is under threat, so too is our collective health and well-being as a community and as a city.

We will do everything we can to ensure that all people are empowered to take control of their health and their futures. We see the hostile agenda coming from Washington to take away our basic freedoms and target our most vulnerable communities, and we are ready to fight for you and with you every step of the way.

Scott M. Stringer is the New York City Comptroller. Laura McQuade is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City. On Twitter @NYCComptroller and @PPNYCAction.

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Trump Administration Attacks on Title X Could Result in Even More Deceptive Women’s Health Clinics Thu, 22 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Trump Administration’s Edict to CDC Puts Millions of Lives at Risk ppstand

The Washington Post recently reported that, in an unprecedented and dangerous move, the Trump-Pence administration has banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using seven key words and phrases: “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” and “diversity.”

As a health care provider committed to fighting health disparities and caring for everyone who comes through our doors, we are horrified by these reports. This is dangerously ideological, and will put the health and well-being of millions at risk.

It’s not just about these seven terms. The Trump-Pence administration is trying to make a radical change in the focus of the entire agency—pushing a science- and evidence-based agency to one seeking to advance extreme ideology. The CDC is a non-partisan, non-ideological federal agency charged with scientific research and improving and protecting public health. This move is a direct contradiction to the pledge the agency has made to the American people.

This is just one more attempt by the Trump-Pence administration to prioritize a fact-free, ideological agenda over people’s health. From day one, this administration has shown a complete disdain for women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and science—from the policies they’ve enacted to the people they have put in charge of important programs. This effort further reveals their agenda: using the federal government to push harmful, politically driven policies at the expense of science and medicine.

This is only the latest of a long string of dangerous policies and rhetoric coming out of the Trump-Pence administration. Just a few weeks before this, Trump decided that reliable birth control methods should be replaced with the “calendar method,” which fails nearly a quarter of those who use it every year.

It’s clear that this administration is attempting to infiltrate all areas and agencies of government—and of our private lives—with their harmful ideologies. And it’s not just the administration. Under House Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership, the House has worked tirelessly to restrict access to sex education, birth control, and abortion. In fact, when recently discussing the GOP tax cut plan, Speaker Ryan proclaimed that women need to have more babies.

The edict to the CDC is an affront to women, to transgender people, and to all communities that experience health disparities—this is an affront to the patients that we serve every day in New York City and elsewhere. It’s also an affront to the professionals who work at the CDC, to the science and medical communities whose work will be deeply affected, and to anyone who has benefited from scientific research or medicine in the United States and around the world.

The Trump administration is using the federal government to try and control women’s bodies and erase LGBTQ people and people of color. This goes directly against the will and values of New Yorkers—and of Americans—and we will not stand by and let this happen.

This move is beyond ideologically twisted, and will put millions of lives in danger, including our patients’. The Trump-Pence administration should be ashamed, and must end this dictate immediately.

Laura McQuade is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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Trump Administration’s Edict to CDC Puts Millions of Lives at Risk Wed, 27 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Planned Parenthood of NYC Joins Call to Remove Racist Statue dr j marion sims statue 2

J. Marion Sims statue (photo via Wally Gobetz)

When images of white supremacists taking the streets in Charlottesville first surfaced, thousands of New Yorkers participated in rallies to condemn the hateful actions and rhetoric of white supremacist groups. The protests were powerful affirmations of our city’s stance against racism and hatred.

But even though New York City is seen as a progressive place, we must not let this reputation blindside us. The history of racism isn’t particular to Charlottesville – New York must recognize white supremacy in our own backyard and we must take steps to upend it.

For years, activist groups around New York City have been doing just that by calling for the removal of a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, who repeatedly performed surgical experiments on enslaved black women in the 19th century without their consent and without anesthesia. According to Sims, “black women don’t feel pain.”

Recently, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) held a powerful protest in Central Park calling for the statue to be removed. Planned Parenthood of New York City joined City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other elected officials and partners at a rally calling for the removal of this statue. East Harlem Preservation has also been calling for this statue to be removed for a decade.  

PPNYC strongly condemns the statue of Dr. Sims because it sanctions racism, hate, and abuse of black women. We stand with the many groups calling for its immediate removal.

This call to action goes beyond merely removing a statue or symbol. We need to recognize and call out white supremacy as a fundamental and systemic problem that fuels racial and economic inequality and reproductive oppression.

America has a long history of controlling and threatening the safety and body control of people of color. White supremacy affects the people who come to Planned Parenthood for care and their ability to determine their own destiny. We cannot lose sight of that as we continue to fight to expand and improve reproductive health care for all.

Black women are still three-and-a-half times more likely to die in childbirth than white women in The United States. Laws that block access to abortion and contraception disproportionately impact low-income communities, including immigrants. Women of color, who are more likely to rely on Medicaid to receive health care, risk losing access to life-saving services like cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and more, because of Congress’ shameless attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

At PPNYC, we know that a statue that represents violence and hatred and a lack of medical care has no place in our city. We also know that our work will continue beyond the statue’s removal. PPNYC is more committed than ever to delivering compassionate care, and to building a city where no one has to live in fear of exclusion, harassment, or violence.

At PPNYC, we welcome people of all races, backgrounds, ages, incomes, and immigration statuses to our doors for high-quality health care. We will never turn away anyone seeking health care – no matter what.

Not just because our patients’ lives are at stake, but because that is our mission – to ensure that all New Yorkers can access the care they need to lead safe and empowering lives.

Planned Parenthood of New York City stands with BYP 100, East Harlem Preservation, and other groups and activists speaking out against racism and white supremacy. As the injustice of racism persists, none of us can be silent. For the sake of our city and our country, all of us must take a stand.

Christina Chang is Vice President of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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Planned Parenthood of NYC Joins Call to Remove Racist Statue Wed, 13 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Planned Parenthood’s Message for Albany, To Be Delivered in Person ppnyc stairs 1

Planned Parenthood NYC 

Many of us have been involved in national actions like participating in the Women’s March on Washington, but now more than ever, it’s just as important to take action at our state and local level. On Monday, January 30, dozens of Planned Parenthood of New York City supporters, volunteers, and staff are getting on a bus to Albany to demand that our elected officials protect New Yorkers’ access to health care.

In the midst of the worst assault on reproductive rights that we’ve ever seen, we need leaders that will stand up for reproductive health and rights. There are local steps that must be taken. Recently, in response to the demands of New Yorkers, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced bold action to enhance access to affordable contraception through insurance coverage.

While this is a great step forward, it’s also only the beginning. Right now, our State Senate majority is hostile to sexual and reproductive health issues, and has failed to enact crucial legislation that would protect New Yorkers’ access to care. Now more than ever, our elected officials must move to ensure that reproductive health is protected.

Here’s what we’ll be pushing for on Monday in the capital:

Protecting Planned Parenthood & Ensuring Continued Funding
Under the current federal administration, we are facing threats to funding for Medicaid and Title X, programs that we rely on to provide essential health care to thousands of New Yorkers each year. Losing funding would have a devastating impact on the communities we serve, particularly for women of color and low-income women. In 2017, we are demanding that our state’s elected officials stand with Planned Parenthood and reject any attempts at the federal or state level to restrict access to reproductive health care.

Ensuring Access to Abortion through the RHA
New York State legalized abortion in 1970, three years before the Roe v. Wade decision. But with Roe now at risk, New York must take additional steps to make sure that abortion access is protected. We must update three key components of our current law: first, the Constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade must be written into New York state law. Second, we must remove restrictions that criminalize abortion providers. And, finally, our law must reflect modern medical practice by allowing Advanced Practice Clinicians to provide abortion care. The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) accomplishes all these goals and should become law during this session.

Improving Contraceptive Access
The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) made contraception more accessible than ever, but New Yorkers still face barriers in accessing the contraception they need. The Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act (CCCA) ensures commonsense solutions so New Yorkers have the tools they need to lead healthy lives and fulfill their dreams. The CCCA removes out-of-pocket expenses for vasectomies and improves New Yorkers’ ability to access Emergency Contraception in a timely manner, in addition to provisions similar to those the governor has put forward.

At PPNYC alone, 64,000 New Yorkers rely on us annually for health care services. Our communities come to us for indispensable primary and preventive care, including contraception, breast and cervical cancer screening, pregnancy testing, STD testing and treatment, HIV testing, and more. And regardless of insurance status, immigration status, or ability to pay, we’re here for all people—no matter what. Time and time again, we have heard from patients and activists about the importance of being able to access affordable, high-quality care. Now is the time for New York elected officials to step up and protect access to health care, not just in New York City, but across all affiliates statewide.

The assault on reproductive rights will only intensify around the country, and New York has the unique responsibility to stay true to its progressive legacy. Now is the time to be a model for resistance. Now is the time for our elected officials to stand up for reproductive health and rights, and send a message that will resonate around the country: we won’t go back.

Joan Malin is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood NYC. On Twitter @PPNYCAction.

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Planned Parenthood’s Message for Albany, To Be Delivered in Person Fri, 27 Jan 2017 05:00:00 +0000
100 Years Later, Planned Parenthood of NYC is Still Growing to Meet New Yorkers’ Needs ppnyc100 

PPNYC celebrates 100 years with First Lady McCray

One hundred years ago, in 1916, Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn as a small birth control clinic. Since then, PPNYC has grown to five health centers—one in each borough—and provides sexual and reproductive health care services and information to more than 64,000 New Yorkers each year, and reaches another 25,000 through our extensive sex education programs.

Incredible gains have been made over the past century. PPNYC has been at the forefront of increasing access to birth control, ensuring the availability of safe and legal abortion, and getting coverage for preventive care and birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Today, we continue to be a champion for access to sexual and reproductive health care, improving sexuality education, and advocating for policies that make the lives of New Yorkers better every day.

But even with all the progress we’ve made, we are only just getting started. As the city has grown, we’ve changed and adapted as the communities we serve have changed. Our goal is to expand our services to better meet the needs of all New Yorkers—including men, young adults, gender nonconforming people, and the LGBTQ community.

Today, PPNYC continues to serve Brownsville not as a stand-alone clinic, but through Project Street Beat, an innovative street-based outreach program that provides HIV prevention services and counseling. The Project Street Beat - Keith Haring Foundation Mobile Medical Unit delivers care to some of our city’s most vulnerable individuals by meeting them right in their own community. This year, PPNYC is rolling out new services to provide more care to the communities we serve. In August, we began offering PrEP at our health centers, a daily pill that helps prevent HIV. By the end of 2016, we’ll be offering vasectomies and transgender hormone therapy.

Providing welcoming and trans-affirming care is essential to meet our goal of providing the best possible health care to all New Yorkers. And as always, our services are offered to everyone who comes through our doors—regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.

Along with our new services, our Education Department is also expanding and developing innovative strategies to reach even more New Yorkers, including the launch of a new program called Sexuality Education for Adults. Additionally, Promotores de Salud, PPNYC’s initiative that trains neighborhood residents to serve as peer health educators in the community, will partner with Project Street Beat to offer medical interpreting alongside sexual and reproductive health services.

PPNYC’s work is grounded in the idea that reproductive health and rights are closely intertwined with social justice issues. Many of the communities that we serve experience systemic oppressions dictated by race, gender, ethnicity, income, immigration status, ability, and more. We work alongside community-based organizations and reproductive justice organizations in the fight for a world where access to health care and rights are a reality for all people.

We are determined to fight for this goal now and always, and we are committed to improving the lives of New Yorkers—no matter what. We are 100 years strong and getting stronger. Our vision has always been to work toward a world where people have full control of their bodies and destinies. As we commemorate the extraordinary achievements made over our first 100 years, we are proud to launch our second century with as much passion, courage and conviction as our first.

Joan Malin is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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100 Years Later, Planned Parenthood of NYC is Still Growing to Meet New Yorkers’ Needs Fri, 28 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
To Prevent Zika Threats, Reproductive Health Care is Necessary bassett mayor zika nychealthy

City's health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, discusses Zika (photo: @nychealthy)

As the Zika virus continues to make headlines around the world, it is crucial that our city, state and federal governments do all that they can to prevent the spread of Zika. This is especially important in New York City, home to approximately 25% of the cases in the United States.   

Our elected officials are doing just that. The Mayor’s Office has unveiled a three-year plan focused on increasing clinical services, controlling mosquito populations, and raising public awareness through media campaigns and outreach to over 200 health care providers that serve New York City women. Additionally, just this week, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James put forth a list of recommendations to prevent the spread of Zika in our city, which among its many important proposals, calls for more education and increased access to sexual and reproductive health services to protect New Yorkers from exposure to Zika and its related health risks.

Zika is primarily spread by mosquito bites. However, we now understand that it can also be transmitted sexually. The CDC recommends that men with symptoms abstain from sex or use condoms for at least six months and that all people who travel to places where Zika is spreading abstain from sex for at least eight weeks or use barrier methods like condoms or dental dams, whether they have symptoms or not.

At Planned Parenthood of New York City, we have long recognized how integral it is to public health that all people have the services and information they need to decide if and when to have children, and to protect their sexual health. This is even more critical with the threat of the Zika virus and its effects on infant development.

As one of the city’s leading provider of high-quality sexual and reproductive health care services, PPNYC delivers the care New Yorkers need to reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission of Zika through the provision of condoms and other forms of birth control that can prevent or delay pregnancy until the risk has passed.

Additionally, we understand that in the face of Zika, it is imperative that we continue to protect access to safe and legal abortion. As of August 2016, 49 pregnant women have tested positive for the Zika virus in New York City. PPNYC is committed to making sure that all people have the information and services necessary to make the best decision for them, whether that is to prevent unintended pregnancy, safely end a pregnancy, or carry a pregnancy to term and raise a child.

The importance of sexual and reproductive health services to public health cannot be overstated.

We applaud Mayor de Blasio and Public Advocate James for emphasizing the importance of stemming the spread of Zika, and for recognizing how PPNYC’s services can help ensure that all New Yorkers have the resources and care they need to protect themselves and their families against Zika.

PPNYC is proud to be working alongside our city’s other health care providers and elected officials to reduce the transmission of the Zika virus to keep New Yorkers healthy.

Joan Malin is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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To Prevent Zika Threats, Reproductive Health Care is Necessary Sun, 21 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
City’s Menstrual Equity Laws Will Help Reduce Period Stigma IMG 19041

A City Hall rally in support of menstrual equity

My period got me suspended from school. That should not happen to anyone. Yet in New York City and elsewhere, people who have periods—including transgender and gender-nonconforming people—still struggle to access menstrual products and the resources they need. This can hurt their ability to succeed academically, personally, and professionally.

New York just made history when the City Council approved the nation’s first bills of their kind to provide free tampons and pads in all public schools, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and correctional facilities throughout the city. Making menstrual products accessible is a simple matter of dignity and respect.

No one should have to go through what I went through. I started my period on graduation day from 5th grade when I was only 11. There was no way I could tell any of my classmates; the culture of female shame at my school was overwhelming. In middle school, I had very painful menstruation and ended up fainting in class in 7th grade. Of course my best friend told the whole class why, and my school made me leave to go see my pediatrician immediately - not fun. During 9th and 10th grades I missed exams a few times because of my period. My mom wouldn't allow me to see a gynecologist because she was against birth control, and sexuality overall was a problematic subject in our household.

Since I didn’t feel it was possible to talk to my mom and didn’t grow up living with my dad, I had to sneak off campus when I was 16 to speak to a Planned Parenthood provider about using birth control to alleviate the pain from my periods. Planned Parenthood was the only safe space I felt I could talk about my body. The fear I felt even going to a health clinic made me feel silent and alone, and too fearful to ask for a doctor’s note from the provider. I ended up getting suspended from school after the dean found out I left without parental consent.

This was an offense that would be reported and explained to every university I applied to—all because of period and reproductive health stigma!

Regardless of getting suspended and the aftermath, the experience was triumphant overall because it is why I am now interning for Planned Parenthood of New York City and passionate about menstrual equity. It's also why I supported Columbia's student council president on effective ways to push our administration to provide sanitary pads, rather than just tampons for students.

No one should get suspended or have to miss class because they don't have the resources to take care of their own health and body.

I'm thankful that City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and others are working tirelessly to ensure that individuals in city schools, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and jails can access tampons and pads when they need them. I am grateful that Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to soon sign this legislation into law. Periods—a natural bodily process we cannot control—should not be a financial impossibility or emotional burden for anyone!

Making menstrual products accessible will help normalize conversations about menstruation and sexual health. This will help reduce the shame and embarrassment all people who menstruate, especially youth, have felt about their periods.

Eliminating period stigma has the power to change people’s lives. Everyone who has a period deserves access to the resources to meet their essential needs so that they can stay focused on their futures.

Elle Wisnicki is a Health Center Advocate intern in Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City and has been a campus representative for Planned Parenthood at Columbia University.

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City’s Menstrual Equity Laws Will Help Reduce Period Stigma Tue, 28 Jun 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Amid Federal Brinksmanship, New York City Officials Redouble Support for Planned Parenthood Chirlane PP

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray at a Planned Parenthood rally (photo: @Chirlane) 

In the face of federal debate and brinksmanship over funding for Planned Parenthood, many in New York City have doubled down on support for the women's health care organization.

In the past month, the city has seen the opening of a Planned Parenthood health center in Queens (expanding the organization's presence into all five boroughs), two large rallies during which numerous elected officials championed the importance of Planned Parenthood’s health care services, and one leading Assembly Democrat calling for the state to boost its financial support for the clinics if conservatives in Congress were to cut off the organization's federal funding.

“The attacks against Planned Parenthood, we all know, are attacks against women and, in particular, low-income women and women of color who rely on Planned Parenthood for vital services - medical services that are comprehensive,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at a large rally in Manhattan Tuesday. The speaker and others rallied in support of Planned Parenthood, repeatedly attacking conservative Republicans for their efforts to defund the organization.

The city government’s strong support for Planned Parenthood, seen at Tuesday’s rally, which featured several elected officials, and in budget dollars that go toward supporting the organization, help cement New York City’s national reputation as a liberal capital.

On Wednesday, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing a temporary spending bill that will keep federal agencies operating through December 11. The threat of a potential shutdown over funding of Planned Parenthood loomed for weeks, spurred by the release of secretly filmed videos this summer which showed Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the preservation of fetal tissue for medical research.

The Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group that filmed the videos, claims that they show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue. The videos have prompted an ongoing investigation by Congress into Planned Parenthood’s practice of donating fetal tissue for medical research. A forensic analysis of the videos commissioned by Planned Parenthood found evidence of manipulation, "intentionally deceptive edits, missing footage, and inaccurately transcribed conversations," according to Politico, which obtained a copy of the report.

Four states - Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Utah - have ordered state agencies to cut off federal funding to local Planned Parenthood chapters, leading those branches to file lawsuits. According to the Associated Press, in court documents, the Utah branch said the governor's decision to cut off funding is based solely on unproven allegations that took place in other states, by other arms of the national group.

New York City government sends approximately $850,000 a year to the city’s central Planned Parenthood branch in the forms of various grants, namely for health care services and sex education, according to an official from PPNYC. The city also allocates capital awards to Planned Parenthood each year, which have ranged from $75,000 to $400,000.

Speaking about the services that Planned Parenthood provides for New York City residents, PPNYC CEO Joan Malin told Gotham Gazette, “Roughly 85 percent of our services are preventative care - birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, STI testing, annual exams - we do the full range of reproductive health care services for women and men.”

Malin explained that Planned Parenthood New York’s funding comes from a combination of “private donors, public funding from the city, state, and federal government,” and an endowment, “but for our patient services, we rely overwhelmingly on Medicaid and Title X family-planning grants, which allows us to provide services for anyone who needs our care regardless of their ability to pay. Out of a $44 million budget, $9 million is federal funding. If that were to go away we would be sorely challenged to continue to provide our services."

Mark-Viverito, joined on stage at Tuesday’s “Pink Out NYC” rally by fellow Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Brad Lander, said, "We are proud as Council members to ensure that we direct your taxpayer dollars and invest your taxpayer dollars in Planned Parenthood, to make sure that they are able to provide vital services throughout the City of New York. We expect the federal government to continue to do the same thing."

The rally on Tuesday in lower Manhattan was one of nearly 300 events held in 90 cities across the country in support of Planned Parenthood’s work, organized as negotiations continued in Washington, D.C.

"Congress should be ashamed!" New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray shouted to the crowd of some 500 pink-clad supporters, just hours before it was announced that government funding would be extended until mid-December. "Congress should be ashamed to punish women who have no other health care options. I know firsthand that Planned Parenthood provides excellent services!"

McCray continued, “Planned Parenthood provides services to "2.7 million women, men, and young people....Did you realize that? We need Planned Parenthood and we will not allow the funding to be taken away!"

McCray, Mark-Viverito, Rosenthal, and Lander were joined at the rally by Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and state Senators Daniel Squadron and Liz Krueger.

"Our bodies will not be used as an organizing strategy for the right," Public Advocate James shouted, eliciting cheers from the crowd. "This is nothing more than a distraction from the issues that we care about — a need to educate girls, a need to end income inequality, and a need to end poverty in this country."

James pointed out that the bulk of services Planned Parenthood provides have nothing to do with abortion, despite the national conversation being focused on the abortion issue. "Let me tell you the facts,” James said, “80 percent of Planned Parenthood clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancies. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 400,000 pap smears, and 500,000 breast exams every year. These tests detect life-threatening cancers. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and Planned Parenthood educates and provides outreach to 1.5 million young people."

On Thursday, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues, emailed Gotham Gazette to call Planned Parenthood of New York City a long-time “staunch advocate, educator, and provider of reproductive health care to 50,000 patients annually.” PPNYC “has received funding from the New York City Council to expand services to support family planning, curb teen pregnancy and STDs through education.”

When asked what might happen next for Planned Parenthood, even with a temporary compromise in Washington, PPNYC CEO Malin replied, "This issue is going to remain in the public discussion, unfortunately. As all of our speakers said, there are so many issues that we need to be talking about - greater access to health care, immigrant reform, Black Lives Matter - there's so many issues we need to be talking about. Focusing on reproductive health care is important, but the way [opponents are] talking about it is a distraction. I would say that that distraction is going to continue throughout this election, and Republicans are going to look for ways to keep this issue at the forefront."

Not all Republicans are looking to keep the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood in the spotlight, however. Republican strategist and president of Somm Consulting, Evan Siegfried, told Gotham Gazette, “Until we know what the facts are, the calls to defund are premature.”

Congressional investigation is ongoing, and as analysis of the incendiary videos showed the footage had been drastically altered, Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Cecile Richards testified before Congress just this Tuesday. Richards defended the $450 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood, explaining that 87 percent of it comes from Medicaid and Title X family planning monies. “We, like other Medicaid providers, we are reimbursed directly for services provided,” she said.

“No federal funds pay for abortion services, except in the very limited circumstances allowed by law. These are when the woman has been raped, has been the victim of incest, or when her life is endangered,” Richards explained (abortions account for just three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services nationally, according to the organization’s most recent report).

Hard-line conservatives like Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz are committed to defunding Planned Parenthood to the point that they would rather plot to shut down the government than allow the organization to continue its work through federal funding.

Cruz recently decried the state of his divided party, saying that the more socially liberal Republicans, specifically the “New York billionaire” donors who insist candidates are pro-choice, hate the base and hold the party back from really fighting on key social issues. It’s part of the intra-Republican conflict that led to House Speaker John Boehner’s recent resignation announcement.

Speaking anonymously with Gotham Gazette, New York Republicans have indeed expressed frustration with the far right wing of their party, with one saying it is “on a crazy quest that will kill [Republicans] with the swing voters in 2016.”

by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette

Amid Federal Brinksmanship, New York City Officials Redouble Support for Planned Parenthood Thu, 01 Oct 2015 22:24:31 +0000
Council Members Aim Help at Parents Returning to Workforce  

kallos presser

Council Members Kallos (middle), Cumbo (left), & Cornegy (photo: @BenKallos)

NEW YORK - City Council Members Ben Kallos, Laurie Cumbo, and Robert Cornegy today introduced a bill and five-point plan to help working parents re-enter the workforce after temporary disruptions in employment.

The proposed legislation, of which Kallos is the lead sponsor and he introduced at the Council's Stated Meeting, would expand the city's "Workforce1" job training program and provide additional online resources for parents returning to work.

The five-point plan calls for training in technology, partnerships between public agencies and private companies, resume assistance, a proactive outreach campaign to spread the word about job training, and more online information for parents.

The council members announced the legislation earlier Tuesday at a press conference in front of City Hall, backed by supporters from women's rights groups. On the last day of Women's "Her-story" Month, said Council Member Cumbo, "We must recommit to the struggle that women face daily." Cumbo chairs the council's women's issues committee. She called attention to issues of gender pay equity, the lack of a paid family leave law at the state and federal levels, and the limited resources to help new parents transition back to work, all of which contribute to the loss of a "critical braintrust."

"Parent's should have our city's full support when they choose to return [to work]," Cumbo said.

The council members appear to be responding to a critical issue. Nearly 40 percent of women took significant time off for family-related reasons, as did 24 percent of men, according to the Pew Center for Research. Only 10 percent of men quit their jobs while 27 percent of women quit for those reasons. For 31 percent of mothers, time off hurt their careers; 18 percent of men felt the same.

"The fight for gender equity cannot be confined to just one month," said Council Member Kallos, echoing Cumbo's sentiment. "We must fight for gender equity every day of the year."

Kallos stressed the diversity of stay-at-home parents, who span all socio-economic classes and races, and the potential impact on the local economy from facilitating the transition back to the workforce. "We envision a city where any parent is confident that he or she has the support necessary to reenter the workforce and does not need to struggle to do so," he said.

The Workforce1 program's 18 career centers helped 40,000 people get jobs in 2013, according to Center for an Urban Future. Kallos hopes to increase the number next year by expanding the program with more technological training and making it a "one-stop shop for information and training, not just a way to connect to in-person resources."

Erica Cohen, a young parent and graduate student, worked with Kallos on this campaign. She has been unemployed for five years and has found it tough to find a job while being the primary caregiver for her daughter. "There are some skills that I don't have or I'm rusty at and I think any re-entry program that can help me with those skills and help me with the unique obstacles of returning to work," she said. "Whether you're a stay-at-home mother or father, there are unique challenges, I think this plan would help parents with these unique obstacles."

Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. has been a strong supporter of women's equity and gender issues, and he is also chair of the Council's small business committee. Last year, Cornegy created the first community lactation station in his office in Bedford-Stuyvesant for mothers to breastfeed their infants in private. Today's bill, he said "acknowledges that the barriers that (women) face are real and have real consequence for their present economic security and their futures."

Representatives from advocacy groups including the Women's City Club of New York, The Lower Eastside Girls Club, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro Choice, and New York Communities for Change also showed their support for the proposals.

by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette

Council Members Aim Help at Parents Returning to Workforce Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:46:17 +0000