New York plans to help family planning clinics after Title X cuts – The Journal News | LoHud.com

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke Friday, Oct. 5, in Peekskill at a campaign event and pledged to codify Roe v. Wade into NY law if elected and Democrats win the Senate. Video provided by Cuomo’s campaign Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief

Reproductive health-care providers in New York have a backup to Title X funding now that the Trump administration has banned them from offering abortion services, counseling or referrals. But it remains unclear when the state will provide resources for those agencies.

As Title X cuts loomed earlier this year, the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo built $16 million into the state budget to buffer family planning providers if the changes came to fruition.

“The New York Legislature worked hard with the governor to include funding to support family planning providers in the event of lost Title X funding,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, who chairs the Committee on Children and Families. The Suffern Democrat wanted the governor to distribute the funding to clinics immediately.

By Thursday, the New York State Department of Health nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who championed a Women’s Justice Agenda this year, had not made public announcements about the funding.

“It’s very unclear what is going to happen here,” state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi said. She said distribution of funding is “very byzantine in this state,” and urged the governor to release the $16 million soon.

Biaggi, a Pelham Democrat whose 34th District includes portions of New York City, said she was especially concerned about economically disadvantaged Bronxites’ access to reproductive health care, noting that two family planning clinics in Brooklyn announced they may shut down after losing Title X funding.

Confusion at clinics

Family planning clinics throughout New York receive Title X funding. Several clinic operators remain confused about the impact of the new regulations on their future funding.

Tioga Opportunities, Inc.’s family planning clinic in Owego is the sole state health department-approved provider in Tioga County. The clinic is complying the new Title X  rules, director of family services department Christine Shaver said, unless they receive different advice from the New York State Health Department.

“Although we’ll abide with the ruling, the new ruling is going to limit us with providing information for all potential options for addressing pregnancies,” Shaver said.

A spokesman for Hudson River HealthCare said its two Westchester clinics in Peekskill and Yonkers would continue providing family planning and health screening services, unless directed otherwise by the state Department of Health. 

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Planned Parenthood, the largest provider in the nation of sexual and reproductive health services, announced on Monday that it would halt accepting Title X funding.

Vincent Russell, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, said the state’s contingency fund will ensure their clinics continue to provide all services to people in Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, and Suffolk counties. “Our doors are open today and will continue to be open,” Russell said.

“This strains the scarce resources in states like New York,” Russell said. “However, states like New York understand the value of providing complete information and all options to family planning services so all individuals have access to care.” 

‘Forced to subsidize’

Title X, implemented during the Nixon administration, provides grants to medical providers to ensure care for poor people who lack insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid. The federal funding helps provide birth control, sex education and preventive health screenings and treatment, including for STDs, HIV, and cervical cancer.

Health-care providers were already banned from using Title X for abortion care.

Federal enforcement of the new Title X rules begins in September.

Jaffee doesn’t want the state to wait: “Now is the time to tell the Trump administration here in New York we have women’s backs.”

But Sen. Robert Ortt blasted the state allocation of money to make up for Title X losses.

“New York taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize Planned Parenthood’s abortion practices,” the North Tonawanda Repubican said. “For decades, we have heard that Planned Parenthood is about more than abortions, yet they have shown their true colors by choosing to turn down $60 (million) in funding in order to stay in the abortion industry — at New York taxpayers’ expense.”

‘Reproductive sanctuary state’

Some health-care providers have said they may have to implement small fees for services they used to offer for free.

They fear that could cause patients to skip checkups, which could quickly increase the risk or delayed treatment of STDs or cervical cancer. Less access to birth control could mean more unintended pregnancies. 

The current scenario is why Biaggi sponsored a bill to establish a family planning program in the state Department of Health. The bill passed the Senate during the 2019 session but not the Assembly.

This year, New York’s leaders focused on reproductive health access amid a wave of abortion restrictions in other states and Trump’s talk of creating a Supreme Court that could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined abortion access in the U.S. 

That included the 2019 Women’s Reproductive Act, which was designed to modernize New York’s abortion laws, which predated Roe.

Passage of the RHA caused sharp criticism, including by Trump, who claimed in his 2019 State of the Union speech that the act would “allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.” The New York law specifies abortion as legal before 24 weeks; if there is a lack of “fetal viability”; or to protect the patient’s life or health.

“New York is a reproductive sanctuary state for so many women,” Biaggi said. “We can’t have clinics shutting down or not providing services that are clearly necessary. We want to make sure this state is a safe place for women.”

Nancy Cutler writes about People & Policy for the USA Today Network Northeast. Reach her at ncutler@lohud.com. Twitter: @nancyrockland

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