City Council unanimously passes Queens lawmaker’s women’s health bills

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Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office

The City Council celebrated the first day of Women’s History Month by unanimously passing three bills introduced by Glendale‘s local councilwoman aimed at improving and protecting women’s health and reproductive rights including addressing vaccination rates for the human papillomaviruses (HPV), long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) and maternal mortality.

Late last year, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley introduced the three bills (Introduction 1161, Introduction 1162, and Introduction 1172) to the City Council’s Committee on Health, in hopes of protecting women’s reproductive rights, as many feel those rights are in danger under the current president’s administration. The bills were passed during the City Council’s stated meeting on Wednesday, March 1.

“First, it’s important to emphasize the fact that all over the country, women’s health and reproductive rights are being attacked,” Crowley said. “These bills on health are necessary for this city to protect those rights, and better understand the utilization rates of women’s health services, which so many of our local communities need better access to. Women’s health is family health and family health is community health.”

The first bill introduced by Crowley — Introduction 1161 — requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to provide an annual report to the Council on HPV vaccination rates for all New York City residents, both men and women.

HPV is most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the country. The disease has infected nearly 79 million people nationwide and affects 14 million more each year, with half of these new infections affecting those aged 15-24. In NYC, an average of 2,375 people are diagnosed with HPV-related cancer each year, nearly two-thirds of who are women.

The data collected from this bill can be used to determine how effectively DOHMH is at reaching target groups and to determine where early prevention resources are most needed.

Crowley’s Introduction 1162 requires the DOHMH to report on the use of LARCs by New York City residents, including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, which are some of the most effective forms of reversible birth control. Due to high costs and misinformation, however, most women chose another form of birth control.

Introduction 1172 requires the DOHMH to report maternal mortality rates annual to the City Council Speaker. The report would include the number of deaths by women who were pregnant or recently pregnant at the time of death, the rate of these deaths per 100,000 births, the leading causes and recommendations regarding actions the city can take to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality.

Currently, the Mayor’s Management Report does not report on the rates of maternal mortality, Crowley said. Instead, the Department of Health issues a report every five years. Having the information annual would provide the insight needed to ultimately have fewer maternal deaths in New York City.

“From vaccinations for cancer-causing viruses, to utilizing more effective forms of birth control, to improving maternal health, we as City need to better know who these programs are reaching and where the Department of Health and community health facilities can improve,” Crowley said. “When we have more comprehensive information on how effectively the City is reaching target groups, we can work more effectively on building a healthier City.”