NYC Rejects Federal Funds Over Abortion Doctors' ‘Gag Rule’

(Bloomberg) -- New York City’s public hospital system will reject $1.3 million in federal funds after President Donald Trump’s administration imposed a “gag rule” preventing doctors and nurses from giving their patients information and counseling about abortion, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

The rule, upheld in a June 20 decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit, allows the Trump administration to enforce a rule finalized earlier this year that would take away federal funds from any clinic that provides abortions or abortion referrals. The ruling surprised city lawyers who thought the judges would strike down the law, de Blasio said.

The mayor, who is among those seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential race, said Trump had imposed the rule to appeal to anti-abortion activists in his political base.

Twenty-two New York City-based health-care providers receive Title X funding to operate more than 50 centers throughout the city that receive a total of $6.8 million under the program. That includes 10 clinics in the city’s public hospital system that get $1.3 million. The money helped provide care between 2012 and 2015 to 150,000 people, who received a full range of gynecological services, including breast- and cervical-cancer screenings, the mayor’s office said in a news release.

“Our public hospitals will continue to give full reproductive care; no public hospital will be prohibited from giving full truthful advice to their patients,” de Blasio said during a news conference at Bellevue Medical Center, the oldest continuously operating hospital in the U.S., founded in 1736. “There’s no city that turns down federal money lightly. We’re not going to accept this gag rule in New York City. We’re going to make sure that women’s reproductive health rights are honored. We have to make sure nonprofits are made whole as well.”

De Blasio said the administration is playing politics by deciding "that it’s better to take away funding for health care rather than respect the rights of women.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has said the new rules are necessary to prevent “commingling” of federal funds for contraception and preventive care with separate funding for abortion, for which there have been longstanding restrictions on using federal money. The Hyde Amendment in 1976 barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save a woman’s life or when a pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest. The 9th Circuit of Appeals panel, comprised of three Republican-appointed judges, said the administration’s concern was compelling enough to justify promulgation of the rule.

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