Hochul facing criticism over new health care program for sex workers: ‘Magnet for more prostitutes’
2023/07/23

Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration is going to bat for the "world's oldest profession" by launching a free health care program for sex workers — a move critics are slamming as encouraging a campaign to decriminalize prostitution, The Post has learned.

The state Health Department of Health has awarded $1 million in public funds combined over two years to two contractors as part of the new "sex worker health pilot program."

Under the initiative, sex workers in New York City and western New York will be provided with primary, sexual and behavioral health care, as well as dental care.

But some rapped the Hochul administration over the taxpayer-funded program — which is launching without approval of the state Legislature — saying it encourages vice.

"The Democrats in New York are pushing everything that is antithetical to the norms of society," said state Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo (R-Staten Island).

"What are they going to have, a prostitution card? This is a 100 percent step in the direction to decriminalize prostitution," said Pirozzolo, adding the goal should be to discourage, not encourage, prostitution.

Bills have been introduced in recent years to decriminalize sex work.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, bashed Hochul over her crime policies and the homelessness crisis, adding: "Now she wants the taxpayers to fund health care for street prostitutes, the likely outcome of which will be to destroy the quality of life for New Yorkers. "

"This policy will act like a magnet for more prostitutes, and will undoubtedly attract a host of new deviants to work with them. And no one in his right mind believes this will be a 'pilot program' — this is just the beginning. It doesn't get more irresponsible than this," said Donohue.

As part of the program, each of the contracted firms — Callen Lorde and EHS Inc./Evergreen Health — will receive $250,000 a year for two years to provide sex workers access to medical care via the Health Department's AIDS Institute.

"The Health Department remains committed to providing affirming, compassionate support and quality services to all residents without stigma and discrimination. Access to comprehensive sexual health services improves the quality of life for everyone," a DOH spokesperson said.

"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," the statement added.

New York City-based Callen Lorde — which currently provides health services to sex workers and the LGBTQ community — had no immediate comment.

On its website, Callen-Lorde endorses the decriminalization of sex work.

"Callen-Lorde firmly and without reservation supports the health, rights, and dignity of sex workers. We are opposed to laws that disproportionately regulate and criminalize bodily autonomy, sexuality and sexual and reproductive health and rights. We support the total decriminalization of sex work as an important step to protect and respect the human rights of all sex workers," the website states.

"We understand the gray area between sex work and sex trafficking and want our services to be available to anyone in the sex industry, regardless of their level of agency in their work," it adds. "We pledge to promote the rights of sex workers and to create a safe space for sex workers to obtain healthcare without judgment, fear, or stigmatization."

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