After Stonewalling by Trump Administration, Lawsuit Probes Political Motives In Cutting $213 Million From Evidence-Based Programs
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Democracy Forward filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) after the Trump Administration refused to disclose documents related to the sudden termination of nearly $213 million in evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (“TPP”) Program grants. In particular, the suit seeks to uncover the role Valerie Huber—an abstinence-only advocate and senior HHS official appointed by President Trump—played in reducing access to sexual health education.
The suit follows a series of recent incidents in which the Trump Administration has prioritized politics over the health and wellbeing of women and girls. In the last month alone, the Trump Administration attempted to block a 17-year-old immigrant from receiving an abortion and dramatically curtailed women’s access to birth control, and President Trump himself suggested that the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore might not disqualify him from his race for the United States Senate.
“The Trump Administration’s abrupt decision to strip funding from teen pregnancy prevention programs shown to be effective was made by President Trump’s political appointees over the objections of independent experts and the medical community,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “By jeopardizing teen pregnancy prevention programs throughout the country, the Trump Administration continues to put the health of women and girls at risk.”
The TPP Program is overseen by the Office of Adolescent Health within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and provides funding for educating young adults on sexual health and pregnancy prevention, training healthcare professionals and community-based organizations, and conducting research on the issue of teen pregnancy. The program has been widely recognized as playing a key role in reducing teen pregnancies, and lauded as a “poster child” for evidence-based public policy.
Democracy Forward originally submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to HHS on August 14, 2017. HHS has failed to produce any documents. At one point, the agency attributed its failure to respond to the fact that any release of information would need to be reviewed by a political appointee.
Among other records requested, Democracy Forward sought:
- Communications by or on behalf of Valerie Huber, a proponent of strict abstinence-only education.
- Records related to the relevant HHS legal authority for the termination of TPP grants; and
- Records related to the use or reprogramming of funding designated for TPP grants;
On November 3, 2017, HHS announced a new $10 million teen pregnancy prevention and “sexual risk avoidance” research and evaluation initiative and a second teen pregnancy prevention research program of an undisclosed expenditure. HHS has not stated what the source of existing funding is for these new initiatives.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Read the full lawsuit here.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy area,s represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.