BALTIMORE, MD — On Thursday, April 19, 2018, the City of Baltimore and Healthy Teen Network, represented by the Baltimore City Solicitor’s Office and Democracy Forward Foundation, will appear in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore in Courtroom 7D at 101 West Lombard Street at 2 P.M. for oral arguments in their suit against the Trump Administration’s unlawful termination of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (“TPP Program”) grants.
The Trump Administration has moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims despite failing to dispute the harm suffered by program grantees. On April 11, the City of Baltimore and Healthy Teen Network filed a brief opposing the government’s motion, disputing among other assertions that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has unfettered discretion to cancel previously awarded funding grants.
Last month, through a Freedom of Information Act request, Democracy Forward obtained HHS records and communications showing that Trump Administration appointees who oppose the existence of the TPP Program drove the premature grant terminations and boxed out career officials in the process. These records further support the claims made by the City of Baltimore and Healthy Teen Network that the premature and abrupt termination of the grants was unlawful and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
Mayor Catherine Pugh stated, “It’s unfortunate that we have to go to court to get the federal government to follow through on its commitments to essential health education and teen pregnancy prevention programs for Baltimore City youth. At a time when we are focused on empowering our young people and creating pathways for their success, it’s imperative that we also equip them with the knowledge and informative resources that will enable them to make the right decisions for their future. We strongly object to eliminating evidence-based curricula on such critical matters for our young people who generally need more, not less, in the way of education and direction in life choices.”
Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, added, “This cut will slash educational attainment and economic opportunities for our young people, increase costs for our City and for our country, and adversely affect health outcomes for our most vulnerable mothers and children. We have made significant progress in reducing teen birth rates, and the last thing that should happen is to roll back the gains that have been made.”
Following the TPP Program’s creation, Baltimore’s teen pregnancy rate decreased by 44 percent and the city’s HIV diagnosis rate dropped 35 percent. Yet as a result of HHS’s unlawful termination of the TPP Program grants, Baltimore is slated to lose more than $3.5 million over the next two years for educational programs that were aimed at decreasing unintended teen pregnancies.
Healthy Teen Network will lose nearly $1.5 million, funding needed to complete evaluation of a new web-based, bilingual English/Spanish mobile app that provides medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information. The Administration’s unlawful defunding has forced Healthy Teen Network to abandon the evaluation of the Spanish-language portion of their project. Nationwide, the cuts in TPP Program funding could deprive more than 1.2 million youth throughout the country of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention services.
Healthy Teen Network President Dr. Patricia Paluzzi said, “We joined this lawsuit because despite the success of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, the Trump administration unlawfully terminated it. We will not remain silent when attacks are made on young people’s right to access the education and services critical to leading healthy and fulfilling lives. Public health issues shouldn’t be political issues. This administration is undoing over a decade of hard-won efforts because of a disproven, and harmful belief that teaching about safe sex encourages unsafe sex. Instead, they want to deprive our youth of the information and tools that will keep them safe.”
“Cutting these effective Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs was unlawful, period,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “As a result of ideologically motivated actions by President Trump’s political appointees, people who rely on these programs are suffering irreparable harm.”
In total, 10 TPP Program grantees, including local governments, health care, and other non-profit organizations, are suing to reinstate their TPP Program funding. The cases filed are Healthy Teen Network v. HHS (1:18-cv-00468-CCB) (D. Md); King County v. Azar (2:18-cv-00242-JCC) (W.D. Wash); Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho et al v. HHS (2:18-cv-00055-TOR) (E.D. Wash.); and Policy and Research, LLC, et al v. HHS (1:18-cv-00346) (D.D.C.).
Each plaintiff provides and/or facilitates the provision of sex education, youth development, abstinence education, and health service-related resources to youth and families.
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.
Baltimore City Health Department
Mona M. Rock
Baltimore City Health Department
James E. Bentley II
Office of the Mayor, City of Baltimore