Trump Administration Officials Have Tried To Illegally Defund Scientific, Evidence-Based Programs That Help Nearly a Million Teens
Democracy Forward’s Actions Secured Wins for Baltimore, King County, Multnomah County, and Healthy Teen Network
Democracy Forward Exposed Political Aides Who Sidelined Career Officials to Push Radical Abstinence-Only Agenda
Other Fights Remain as Administration Plods On
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Democracy Forward marks one year of successful battles against the Trump administration’s unlawful attempts to cut funds for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program and reshape it towards an anti-evidence, abstinence-only agenda. Representing four cities, counties, and non-profit organizations in three federal court victories across the country, Democracy Forward has helped protect $100 million in 2018 federal funding for the TPP Program and prevented these monies from being unlawfully diverted. Despite being repeatedly rebuffed in the federal courts over the last year, the fight continues as the administration may again be expending TPP Program funds unlawfully. Two days ago the government indicated it intends to continue to pursue a similar approach.
“The Trump administration has repeatedly broken the law to further an extreme agenda that endangers teen health and well-being by ignoring science and evidence,” said Democracy Forward Legal Director Javier Guzman. “Each time the administration has flouted the law to undermine a successful, bipartisan-backed program that helps a million teens across the country, we have taken them to court and won, and we will continue to fight back to stop the administration from trying to end run court orders and congressional requirements.”
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is an evidence-based sexual education program which funds grants to replicate successful models and provides teens with the services and resources that have helped reduce the teen pregnancy rate and instances of sexually transmitted diseases nationwide. In Baltimore, for example, the TPP Program helped decrease the city’s teen pregnancy rate by 44 percent and its HIV rate by 35 percent. In the last year, Democracy Forward has fought to protect the program against the administration’s unlawful efforts:
In 2017, HHS illegally terminated every TPP Program grant, cutting off approximately $100 million in FY 2018 funding to municipalities and non-profit groups. In early 2018, Democracy Forward filed suit against the terminations on behalf of King County, Washington, Baltimore, Maryland and Healthy Teen Network. In April and May, federal courts in Maryland and Washington State reversed the unlawful terminations. In fact, in the cases brought by Democracy Forward and in separate cases brought on behalf of the other grantees, federal judges uniformly ruled that the grant terminations were unlawful. One federal judge found that “HHS’s failure to articulate any explanation for its action, much less a reasoned one based on relevant factors, exemplifies arbitrary and capricious agency action meriting reversal.” In each case the Department of Justice dropped its appeal.
In June 2018, Democracy Forward filed suit on behalf of Multnomah County, Oregon after the Trump administration again tried to flout congressional mandates and politicize the TPP Program grants by applying new criteria for prospective grantees that prioritized unproven abstinence-only approaches. Twenty Members of Congress filed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit and in August 2018, a federal court ruled that the administration’s actions were unlawful. The government has filed a notice of appeal. On February 13, 2019 the government published a new competition for TPP Program funds. While acknowledging the federal courts’ rulings that its previous criteria were unlawful, the government stated it “continues to intend to pursue a similar approach.”
In January 2019, Democracy Forward again took the administration to court for stonewalling the release of records that could show whether HHS unlawfully expended TPP Program funds yet again. Available information indicates that HHS may have again violated the statutory requirements in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, as well as the orders of federal courts in Oregon and New York. In a letter to HHS Secretary Azar, members of Congress expressed concern that the administration may be bypassing court orders by using a third-party government contractor to direct federal funds toward abstinence programs.
Through a separate Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, records were uncovered that exposed that the efforts to undermine the TPP Program were driven by political appointees with anti-science, anti-evidence backgrounds. These appointees had targeted the elimination of the TPP Program and removal of key staff by boxing out long-term program management experts, even telling them to “get in line.”
Earlier this week, Democracy Forward, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Public Citizen Litigation Group, was awarded the Sarah S. Brown Award by Power to Decide in recognition of their collective efforts to defend the TPP Program.
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.