(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Trump Administration officials with extreme anti-science beliefs unlawfully terminated the Congressionally-mandated Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program, despite the success of the program and bipartisan support from Congress. In July of 2017, Department political appointees, including Valerie Huber, Teresa Manning, and Steven Valentine—all of whom are opponents of scientific and evidence-based programs and are committed to advancing abstinence-only-until-marriage ideology—terminated all 81 grants from the TPP Program two years early, without any explanation, and in violation of the Department’s regulations.
Terminating the TPP Program grants en masse would have denied nearly one million young people nationwide the services and resources that have helped reduce the teen pregnancy rate. The grants funded both existing evidence-based programs that had already been proven effective, like that in Baltimore, and sought to expand the evidence base to include innovative teen pregnancy interventions, like the FLASH (Family Life and Sexual Health) curriculum in King County and a new bilingual English/Spanish mobile app being studied by non-profit Healthy Teen Network. Following the TPP Program’s creation, Baltimore’s teen pregnancy rate decreased by 44 percent and its HIV diagnosis rate dropped 35 percent.
We began by filing a Freedom of Information Act suit to uncover the reasons for the terminations. The documents we obtained were telling; they revealed that political appointees drove the termination decisions, intentionally excluding experienced career officials from the process.
We then filed two lawsuits to stop the Administration from terminating the grants and to restore funding to our clients, King County, WA, the City of Baltimore, MD (co-counseling with the City Solicitor’s Office), and Healthy Teen Network. Relying on documents obtained through the FOIA litigation, the lawsuits argued that cutting the grants without cause and for no reason whatsoever was contrary to the Department’s own regulations and arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
We won. Federal courts in Maryland and Washington State held that the Administration acted unlawfully and ordered the Department to review and process our clients’ continuation applications, which they did, ultimately restoring funding to King County, the City of Baltimore, and Healthy Teen Network. The Department dropped its appeals in both cases without contesting the Courts’ thorough opinions. Our victory, combined with those of other grantees who mounted similar challenges, means the entire $100 million federal program was saved for 2018.
November 17, 2017
We filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Our suit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, sought to uncover the true reasons for the cancellation of the TPP Program grants, including the role played by anti-science, abstinence-only advocates appointed by President Trump.
February 15, 2018
We filed suit on behalf of King County and Healthy Teen Network to challenge the grant terminations.
The cases were filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, respectively.
March 22, 2018
We amended our complaint on behalf of Healthy Teen Network.
Our Amended Complaint reflected that the City of Baltimore joined the suit.
March 22, 2018
The government agreed to preserve King County’s grant funds through August 31, 2018.
The preservation agreement preserved a remedy to give the Court time to decide the case.
March 26, 2018
The government similarly agreed to preserve funding for Baltimore and Healthy Teen Network.
March 27, 2018
We moved for a preliminary and permanent injunction in Maryland.
We argued that our clients were being irrevocably harmed by the termination of their grants and that we were likely to--and ultimately would--succeed on the merits. Our filings featured documents turned over in the FOIA litigation that revealed that political appointees drove the termination decisions, sidelining career experts.
March 29, 2018
We moved for preliminary and permanent relief in Washington.
April 25, 2018
The District Court in Baltimore entered judgment in our favor.
The Court found that HHS acted unlawfully in terminating the grants and ordered the agency to process Baltimore and Health Teen Network’s year-four non-competing continuation applications, which the agency then did. Our victory means that 200,000 students in 100 Baltimore City schools will continue receiving services. It also means that Healthy Teen Network will be able to continue work on its randomized control trial to test the effects of Pulse, the bilingual mobile app that provides medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information through text and graphics, self-assessments, and racially diverse videos and films that promote birth control use, clinic utilization, and communication with a partner.
May 29, 2018
The District Court in Seattle entered judgment in our favor.
The Court found that HHS acted unlawfully in terminating King County’s grant and ordered the agency to accept and process the County’s year-four non-competing continuation application as if HHS had not terminated King County’s grant award, which the agency then did. Our victory means that King County will be able to continue its work on the first scientifically rigorous study of High School FLASH’s effectiveness on sexual and reproductive health behaviors.
September 18, 2018
After initially appealing these district court decisions to the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, the government dismissed its appeals.
The government’s decision, in conjunction with victories obtained by plaintiffs in other cases, means that the entire $100 million program was saved for 2018.
In the news
NPR / February 15, 2018
Washington Post / February 15, 2018
News One / February 16, 2018
- King County v. HHS Complaint As Filed (2/15/18) (pdf / 216 KB)
- Healthy Teen Network v. HHS Complaint As Filed (2/15/18) (pdf / 203 KB)
- Baltimore City, Healthy Teen Network v. HHS Amended Complaint As Filed (3/22/18) (pdf / 651 KB)
- Fund Preservation Consent Agreement, King County (pdf / 71 KB)
- Fund Preservation Consent Agreement, Baltimore, Healthy Teen Network (pdf / 123 KB)
- Baltimore City, Healthy Teen Network Prelim Injunction Motion As Filed (3/27/18) (pdf / 126 KB)
- King County Prelim and Perm Injunction Motion As Filed (3/29/18) (pdf / 199 KB)
- Summary Judgment Decision_Baltimore City, Healthy Teen Network As Entered (4/25/18) (pdf / 331 KB)
- King County Ruling (5/29/18) (pdf / 385 KB)
Jeffrey DubnerManaging Senior Counsel
Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.Read the Bio
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