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Women’s health funding in NYC faces challenge

With the U.S.

Department of Health and Human Services issuing a final rule denying Title X funding to family-planning programs that offer abortion services, the future of the program’s sprawling reach in New York City is being challenged.

Funding through Title X, a federal grant program enacted in 1970 as part of the Public Health Service Act, provides sexual and reproductive health care to millions of low-income individuals, male and female, and those without health insurance.

That care includes screening for certain types of cancer and sexually transmitted infections. The recent ruling to deny funds stems from political outcry over whether the government should help pay for abortion services.

New York City organizations including Planned Parenthood and NYC Health and Hospitals receive about $7 million in Title X funding. The money provides services to about 150,000 city residents each year, most of whom are young women with a low income and no health insurance.

In fact, many of the women who use Title X–funded services locally consider the providers their primary sources of health care and could go without medical attention if they were not available, according to a July letter city Comptroller Scott Stringer wrote to federal officials.

“It is utilized throughout the system, and it would be a significant loss for us,” said Dr.

Machelle Allen, chief medical officer at Health and Hospitals. “It would impair our ability to offer all options to our patients.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, recently called the rule “a massive political incursion into the provision of health care in this country over the shouts and screams of medical providers.”

With the rule slated to take effect in less than 60 days, some organizations may have to scale back services or even close, said Lisa David, president and CEO of Public Health Solutions, which, along with the state Department of Health, is a grantee of Title X funds.

“Shifting funding away from such providers, who are a lifeline to thousands of New Yorkers, would only disrupt and limit access to needed services, not bolster compliance,” Stringer wrote.