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NYC Hospitals Reject Abortion “Gag Rule” – Refuse to Take Federal Funds

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Mount Sinai downtown hospital. Shutterstock

NYC Hospitals Reject Abortion “Gag Rule” – Refuse to Take Federal Funds

By: Howard Riell

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is saying no to federal money.

DeBlasio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio, and President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitchell Katz announced the City’s public health system will cease participating in the federal Title X program for as long as the “gag rule” is in effect. The rule prevents medical providers from sharing information and counseling about abortion to their patients.

In a directive to all NYC Health + Hospitals personnel, Katz instructed doctors and nurses to support patients on whatever pathway they choose, including providing referrals to abortion and reproductive health services.

“The doctors and nurses at the heart of New York City’s public hospital system took an oath to protect and serve patients, and we will do whatever’s necessary to ensure they are able to provide the best medical treatment,” said Blasio in a statement. “Our decision to reject Title X funds sends a clear message – we will not stand by while the Trump Administration tries to censor our providers and prevent them from giving patients information about abortions.”

In February 2019, the Trump Administration issued the federal “gag rule,” which bars health care providers who receive federal Title X funding from referring or counseling patients about their abortion options. A federal lawsuit – for which New York City filed an amicus brief – had been blocking the gag rule from taking effect.

Last week, according to the mayor’s office, the Federal Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit vacated this injunction, allowing the gag rule to take effect immediately across the country. This would force doctors and medical providers who receive these federal funds for sexual and reproductive health to withhold information about safe, legal abortions from their patients.

Rather than censor providers, NYC Health + Hospitals will reject $1.3 million in federal funding from the Title X program — which funds a range of family planning and related preventive health services — until the gag rule is lifted. The City said it will cover the lost Title X funds, and NYC Health + Hospitals will direct doctors and nurses to continue providing referrals to abortion and reproductive health services. NYC Health + Hospitals remains committed to providing patients comprehensive reproductive health options and services the system has always offered, without interruption.

“This rule is unconscionable and an affront to the professional ethics of all doctors,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “Physicians must have the freedom to provide accurate and unbiased medical information to their patients, and this rule runs counter to that basic fact. In refusing Title X funds, NYC Health + Hospitals reaffirms its commitment to protecting reproductive care rights – our doctors will not be silenced, and our patients will continue to receive the best care possible.”

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