New York City becomes first US city to offer free abortion pills at sexual health clinics

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New York City is now offering free abortion pills at public clinics, 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 that granted a constitutional right to abortion. On Wednesday, a Bronx clinic became the first to offer the pills, and they will be available at clinics in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens by the end of the year.

The city already offers medication abortions at its 11 public hospitals. The new program expands access to the four clinics and provides a way for people to access the procedure for free.

"No other city in the nation or in the world has a public health department that is providing medication abortion," Adams said. "We are the first."

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What are the details on New York's free abortion pills program?

The program is funded by a $1.2 million package for sexual health services, the city's health department said.

Once the medication abortion programs are up and running, the four clinics will be able to provide up to 10,000 medication abortions annually, Ashwin Vasan, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner, said at a Tuesday news conference.

Vasan said the clinics allow scheduled appointments and walk-ins, and medication abortion care will be "open to anyone," whether they are from New York City or not. The city also provides abortion care to anyone regardless of immigration status, Vasan said.

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Mayor Eric Adams announces vision for women's health

Free medication abortions are part of Adams' vision for a "New York City Women's Health Agenda," he said at the news conference Tuesday. The initiative is "aimed at dismantling decades of systemic inequity that have negatively impacted the health of women across the five boroughs," according to a statement from his office.

Adams cited several examples of inequities in women's health and said the average maternal mortality rate among Black pregnant people is more than nine times the rate of white pregnant people.

"For too long, health and health care has been centered around men, but that changes today," Adams said. "We have been standing on the sidelines of women’s health for too long, and I have personally seen firsthand how the health system is letting our women down. It is long overdue that we break taboos and make New York City a model for the future of women’s health care. We are going to build a city that is here for all women and girls."

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Abortion access advocates laud medication abortion program

Wendy Stark, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, called the program "critical ... to our bodily autonomy and basic human rights."

"A healthier New York City requires intentional investments in reducing health care disparities 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 care."

In a statement, Dr. Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights, applauded 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 and make this place the ever-resilient and thriving urban center we are," said Palacio, who is also a former New York City deputy mayor for health and human services.

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NYC programs target abortion access

The medication abortion effort is one of several New York City programs launched after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

In March, Adams announced a citywide expansion of doula services, a midwifery initiative and a maternal health services program. In August, he signed the NYC Abortion Rights Act legislative package, strengthening abortion protections and paving the way to free medication abortions. And in November, the city launched the Abortion Access Hub, which confidentially connects women seeking abortion care to providers across the city, as well as services for financial support, transportation and lodging.

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:

  • Relaunching a sexual education task force, especially targeting young New Yorkers and school staff members.

  • Tracking rates of cancer, mental health conditions, heart disease and other conditions, as well as life expectancy and key indicators differentiated by age and race.

  • Convening women's health leaders for a Women's History Month summit in March.

  • Launching a campaign focusing on supporting New Yorkers with hypertension and diabetes, especially targeting neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan that experience health and other socioeconomic disparities.

  • Launching a family-based substance use disorder program.

  • Expanding access to pelvic floor physical therapy.

Contact Christine Fernando at or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New York City now offers free abortion pills at sexual health clinics