Washington, DC — Twenty members of Congress have filed a ‘friend of the court’ amicus brief in support of Multnomah County in its lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful funding criteria for the successful Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program. The new brief emphasizes that the Administration’s new criteria defy Congress’ intent to fund programs scientifically proven to reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and prioritize unproven abstinence-only content. It was filed ahead of a hearing on the suit next week.
“We are pleased that these representatives have chosen to stand for teen health and for the faithful implementation of the law,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy.
In 2009, in order to “maximize the impact of federal dollars,” Congress created the TPP Program to fund medically accurate and age appropriate programs, dedicating 75% of grant funding to replicate programs that have been proven effective to, among other results, delay teenage sexual activity or reduce teen pregnancies, with the other 25% committed to develop and test additional innovative strategies for preventing unwanted teen pregnancies. Congress has reauthorized the program on an annual basis using the same evidence-based approach ever since.
Despite Congress’ “unambiguous intent” in reauthorizing the program that funding go to programs that have been proven effective through testing, the Trump Administration’s new TPP Program funding criteria included in its 2018 funding announcement violate the law because they do not require replication of programs proven effective. For potential applicants, including Multnomah County, the Administration’s unlawful approach would instead require them to prioritize the use of unproven content in their programs.
“[There is] no doubt that Congress intended to fund programs scientifically proven to be effective,” the twenty-member coalition said in their brief, citing an intentional shift away from prior approaches to teen pregnancy prevention, which had focused on unproven programs.
The lawsuit was filed in June 2018 on behalf of Multnomah County, Oregon by Pacifica Law Group and Democracy Forward, a nonprofit legal organization that won challenges against the Administration for unlawfully stripping TPP Program funding from King County, Washington, the City of Baltimore, Maryland, and Healthy Teen Network, a Baltimore-based national non-profit. Records obtained in a separate Freedom of Information Act suit against HHS have revealed that political appointees who have called the evidence-based approach to teen pregnancy prevention a “sham” were directly involved in the unlawful grant terminations, sidelining career experts.
Multnomah County was the first to challenge the Administration’s attempt to end-run both judicial and Congressional directives. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday, August 13, at 1pm EST.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.
December 7, 2018