NEW YORK CITY (NewsNation) — Controversy is growing in New York over a proposal to pay for health care for sex workers with taxpayer dollars.
The state health department has awarded $1 million for the program, the New York Post reported.
Through the program, sex workers would get primary, mental health and dental care. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says it will improve the quality of life for sex workers who face health risks.
The program did not get approval from the legislature and critics say it will encourage prostitution.
Under New York state law, prostitution is still illegal. However, in New York City, police officers have been accused of looking the other way when it comes to stopping it.
In fact, in 2021, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office stopped prosecuting prostitution cases.
Now, Hochul is being criticized for allegedly trying to decriminalize the illegal profession by providing free health care for sex workers.
Hochul is implementing the $1 million pilot program without going through the state legislature.
The state’s Department of Health has contracted with two health care agencies to carry out the program.
They will each be given $250,000 a year for two years to provide health care for sex workers in New York City and western New York. It’s unclear exactly how many people will be served through the program, but it is taxpayer funded.
Supporters of the program say sex workers face discrimination within the health care community, which limits their access to quality health care.
The state’s Department of Health said this in a statement to the New York Post:
“Individuals participating in this program often experience discrimination, violence and threats to their emotional well-being. They are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections yet lack access to quality routine screening.”
But critics of the program, among them many Republican state lawmakers, say the governor is supporting a program that is morally wrong and fiscally irresponsible. They claim it will do more harm than good and they’re hoping Hochul will scrap the program while it’s still in the early stages.
In Nevada, where sex work is legal, licensed prostitutes are considered independent contractors, so they’re able to get free health care under the Affordable Care Act.