New York City plans to offer free abortion pills at four sexual health clinics as early as Wednesday, a city-funded expansion that seeks to break down barriers to abortion in low-income communities, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday.
“New York City has always been a beacon of leadership in this nation, and we're going to continue to lead,” said Adams during a wide-ranging speech on women’s health at City Hall.
Unlike hospitals, the city-run health clinics do not ask patients about their insurance status and have traditionally sought to provide health care to the most marginalized.
The four clinics could potentially deliver up to 10,000 abortion pills a year, according to health officials.
The first rollout will occur Wednesday at a sexual health clinic in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. Three other city-run clinics in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens are slated to dispense the medication by the end of the year as part of a $1.2 million package that includes a broader array of health care services, city officials said during a news conference following the mayor’s address.
Currently, the city offers abortion pills — which are used in more than half of all U.S. abortions — at its 11 public hospitals. But those hospitals, which are run separately from the city’s health department, typically seek to bill Medicaid or insurance companies.
The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said part of the reason the rollout would take up to a year was due to federally mandated training for health care workers who distribute abortion pills.
“We're going to build upon the access to care that we have in our public hospital system,” Vasan said. “We're going to supplant that with our public clinics — our truly public clinics — that are walk-up, all access.”
Dr. Jay Varma, a former senior health advisor for Mayor Bill de Blasio who previously oversaw the revitalization of the city’s sexual health clinics, praised New York City for “serving as a leader in ensuring access to abortion medications.”
He added: “As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, local health agencies must be ready to step in when the federal government is not able to ensure access to essential medications and services to protect health,” he said.