New York City is now offering free abortion pills in public clinics, becoming the first city in the country to do so.
The free pills will be available at four public clinics across the city, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday, just days before the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision granting a constitutional right to abortion. A Bronx clinic was the first to offer the pills on Wednesday, and they will be available in clinics in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens by the end of the year.
The city already offers medical abortions at its 11 public hospitals. The new program expands access to the four clinics and offers people the opportunity to access the procedure for free.
“No other city in the country or in the world has a public health department that offers medical abortions,” Adams said. “We are the first.”
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The program is funded through a $1.2 million sexual health services package, the city’s health department said.
Once the medical abortion programs are up and running, the four clinics will be able to perform up to 10,000 medical abortions annually, Ashwin Vasan, the city’s commissioner for health and mental health, said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Vasan said the clinics will allow scheduled appointments and walk-ins, and that medical abortion treatment will be “open to everyone,” whether they’re from New York City or not. The city also offers abortion treatments to everyone, regardless of immigration status, Vasan said.
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Mayor Eric Adams announces vision for women’s health
Free medical abortions are part of Adam’s vision of a “New York City Women’s Health Agenda,” he said at Tuesday’s news conference. The initiative aims to “reduce decades of systemic inequality that have negatively impacted women’s health across the five counties,” according to a statement from his office.
Adams cited several examples of women’s health inequalities and said the average maternal mortality rate among black pregnant women was more than nine times that of white pregnant women.
“For too long health and healthcare has focused on men, but today that’s changing,” Adams said. “We’ve stood on the sidelines of women’s health for too long, and I’ve personally witnessed the health care system let our women down. It’s long overdue that we break taboos and make New York City a model for the future of women’s health. We will build a city that is for all women and girls.”
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Wendy Stark, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, called the program “crucial … to our physical autonomy and our basic human rights.”
“A healthier New York City requires intentional investment in reducing health care inequalities that systematically disadvantage Black, Latinx and marginalized communities,” Stark said in a statement. “This includes ensuring equal access to sexual and reproductive health services and compassionate abortion treatment.”
In a statement, Dr. Herminia Palacio, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization promoting abortion rights, described the program as a step “to prioritize the health, well-being and reproductive autonomy of our women and girls.”
“New York City can only be as strong as the health of the millions of women and girls who live and work here, making this place the ever-resilient and thriving urban center that we are,” said Palacio, who is also a former New Yorker is the city’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.
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NYC programs target abortion access
The drug abortion effort is one of several New York programs launched after the Roe v. Wade were started.
In March, Adams announced a citywide expansion of doula services, a midwifery initiative, and a maternal health program. In August, he signed the NYC Abortion Rights Act into law, strengthening abortion protections and paving the way for free medical abortions. And in November, the city launched the Abortion Access Hub, which confidentially connects women seeking abortion treatment with providers across the city, as well as financial assistance, transportation and housing services.
What are the other parts of Adams’ women’s health initiative?
Other components of Adams’ “Model for the Future of Women’s Health in New York City” include:
- Reintroduced a sex education task force specifically targeting young New Yorkers and school workers
- Tracking cancer rates, mental illness, heart disease and other conditions, as well as life expectancy and key indicators differentiated by age and race
- Calling women’s health leaders to a Women’s History Month summit in March
- Launched a campaign focused on supporting New Yorkers with hypertension and diabetes, particularly in Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods that experience health and other socioeconomic disparities.
- Launch of a family-based substance use disorder program
- Expanding access to pelvic floor physiotherapy