WASHINGTON, D.C.— On behalf of plaintiffs Baltimore City, Maryland; King County, Washington; and Healthy Teen Network, Democracy Forward filed motions seeking to require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award them their annual funding for evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program grants unlawfully terminated by the Trump Administration. Together, the motions seek reinstatement of the plaintiffs year-four funding, which totals more than $3 million.
The new court filings follow HHS’s release of records and communications suggesting that Trump Administration appointees who are opponents of the TPP Program drove the premature grant terminations. The newly-released documents reveal that the termination decision was made hastily, without any record of reasoned decision-making, and without regard to the concerns of subject matter experts at HHS.
The TPP Program provides funding in the form of five-year grants to study and/or implement evidence-based and innovative teen pregnancy prevention interventions. The TPP Program has been praised as the poster child for evidence-based policy and has been credited by medical experts and HHS itself as contributing positively to the reduction in teen pregnancy rates across the country.
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. King County has incorporated its FLASH (Family Life and Sexual Health) curriculum in every school district in the county, and since 2008 the county has experienced a 63 percent reduction in teen pregnancy rates. Yet as a result of HHS’s unlawful termination of the TPP Program grants, Baltimore will lose over $3.5 million over the next two years for educational programs that were aimed at decreasing unintended teen pregnancies; and King County will lose approximately $2 million in funding over two years, which would otherwise be used to complete the first-ever scientifically rigorous study of the effectiveness of its curriculum.
“The termination of our grant is shocking and unprecedented. It creates a huge gap in our ability to provide services to our residents,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner. “We should be doing everything we can to empower youth to succeed and to thrive. We have made significant progress to reduce teen birth rates, and the last thing that should happen is to roll back the gains that have been made.”
“This is a huge blow to our project, to all of the other teen pregnancy evaluations, and to the evidence base for sex education nationwide,” said Public Health – Seattle & King County Director Patty Hayes. “Our goal with FLASH is to improve the quality of what happens in classrooms across the nation and to protect our most vulnerable youth.”
Healthy Teen Network will lose nearly $1.5 million, funding needed to complete evaluation of the 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 Spanish-language portion of their project.
“This loss of funding prevents us from testing the Spanish language version of an app that has been proven effective to promote healthy behaviors among young girls,” said Pat Paluzzi President and CEO, Healthy Teen Network This is a shame because the Latinx population has the highest rate of teen pregnancy and essentially no resources to address this issue. Healthy Teen Network is a part of this suit because we believe that the ideology of a few should not rule funding decisions for our young people.
“Despite an explicit directive from Congress to fund the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs, the Trump Administration chose to put its extreme agenda ahead of the health and wellbeing of America’s youth,”said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “If President Trump will not listen to Congress to reverse course and fund this highly effective program, we will continue to fight this in court.”
The plaintiffs join seven other organizations—including health care and advocacy organizations—that are suing HHS for abruptly and unlawfully terminating the TPP Program grants they had been awarded by HHS. The cases filed are Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho et al v. HHS (2:18-cv-00055-TOR); King County v. Azar (2:18-cv-00242-JCC) Healthy Teen Network v. HHS (1:18-cv-00468-CCB); and Policy and Research, LLC v. HHS (1:18-cv-00346).
Each plaintiff in the series of legal challenges provides and/or facilitates the provision of health-service related resources to youth and families, including sex education, youth development, and abstinence education.