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.