Tuesday, April 20, 2021

New York Saves Stopgap Funding for Reproductive and Sexual Health Clinics Waiting in Limbo for Title X Fixes

By Fallon Parker (April 20, 2021)

The final 2021-2022 New York State budget passed by the NY Senate earlier this month included great news for Brooklynites in need of low cost reproductive health care. The budget restored $1.8 million in funding to two Brooklyn clinics run by Public Health Solutions  The clinics primarily serve low-income Black and Latino women and offer low or no-cost reproductive care, including midwife-led prenatal care and referrals for adoption and abortion.

The New York State Legislature allocated the $1.8 million to PHS as a part of a $16 million package to replace federal Title X family planning funds. In 2019, President Trump’s “domestic gag rule” banned organizations receiving Title X funds from providing abortions or even referring for them.  Because of the restriction, 25% of Title X clinics left the program, including the majority of clinics in New York. While President Biden is moving to reverse the rule and largely restore prior Title X requirements, clinics supported by grantees that left the program during the Trump Administration will have to reapply under Biden’s new regulations, creating a delay in allocating funds. PHS CEO Lisa David said their clinics would not be able to survive until Title X is fully restored without the $1.8 million in stopgap funding from New York.

The Title X program has existed since 1970, but the regulations implementing the program can fluctuate based on the politics of the current president. Given the increasingly partisan political atmosphere and the rise of the “defund Planned Parenthood” movement, it’s possible that the whiplash of Trump’s domestic gag rule could become more common. In order to protect providers, experts like the Guttmacher Institute are recommending HHS include provider nondiscrimination protections in all Title X regulations and work to ensure the relationship between Title X grantee (the entity that administers the grant, sometimes a state health department) and subrecipient (clinic that contracts with grantee to provide services) is not politicized.

In light of the politicization of the funding, New York’s decision to fund PHS’ clinics through FY 2022 is encouraging. In addition to New York, at least ten other states implemented some form of stopgap funding to support organizations that were forced to leave the Title X program during the Trump administration. Of these ten states, Maine, Oregon, and Washington lost 100% of their Title X clinics. However, in the wake of COVID-19 and a declining economy experts are unsure about the sustainability of stopgap state funding.  

PHS serves 3,500 Brooklyn patients, and it clinics fill an important role in the family planning health center network, says Dr. Herminia Palacio, CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. Dr. Palacio notes that clinics like PHS are especially important for people who may experience implicit and explicit bias at private medical offices, in particular Black women, who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy and birth than white women. Given the crucial role reproductive and sexual health clinics play for pregnant people and families, it’s worth considering how New York can continue to proactively mitigate future federal cuts to services so reproductive health services remains accessible and affordable, regardless of who controls the White House.




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