Brooklyn Boro

NY Contraceptive Deserts Hurt Women Most in Need

April 20, 2021 By Jenna Bimbi
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In 2019, then-President Donald Trump reinstated the “domestic gag rule,” a regulation that prevents health centers receiving Title X funding from providing patients with complete information about abortion care, and cut services for individuals who need it most. While the regulation has been utilized as a political football, repealed and reinstated at the whim of a president’s party allegiance, its impact to peoples’ reproductive health care is real.

As a result of the gag rule, 90 percent of New York’s counties lost some or all of their Title X resources and 165 clinics within those 56 counties lost Title X resources. Clinics receiving Title X funding were forced to make the difficult decision to decline funding in order to be able to fully inform patients about their options and provide onsite abortions.

This isn’t just about abortion access, health centers rely on this funding to provide a whole range of health and reproductive care, including access to birth control. In New York, an estimated 1.2 million women living at or below 250 percent of the poverty level live in counties in which there is no reasonable access to a health center offering the full range of contraceptive methods, areas commonly known as “contraceptive deserts.” Stripping federal Title X Family Planning Program funding harms New Yorkers seeking to prevent pregnancy.

New York State has not let the federal government’s action or lack of action impact contraception access for people who need it most. The state has taken steps to protect birth control access through state legislation and regulation. In 2020, the state passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA), which went further than reproductive health regulations in the Affordable Care Act, by requiring insurers to cover a 12-month supply of birth control at once.

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New York can go further still. Implementation of the CCCA has been uneven at best—in April 2020, New York Attorney General Letitia James demanded that three health insurance companies immediately comply with the law after receiving complaints that these companies were unaware of their obligations under the law. And New York can ensure coverage for telehealth visits as well as follow the lead of 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have expanded contraceptive access by allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraception.

We are encouraged that soon the new administration will reverse the harmful domestic gag rule, allowing more women in need to access reproductive health care. In New York, we will continue to fight for reproductive rights and access to ensure birth control access for every New Yorker who wants and needs it to live their best lives.

Jenna Bimbi is the Executive Director of the New York Birth Control Access Project. 

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