Trump Administration Continues Unlawful Effort to Dismantle the Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program – A Backgrounder on the Litigation to Prevent the Administration’s Illegal Actions
Across the country, local government, health care, youth-serving and legal non-profit organizations are challenging the Trump Administration’s efforts to politicize the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program, and have gained significant success in court already, with new litigation under way. Four federal judges have ruled five consecutive times that the Trump Administration unlawfully cut the funding for TPP Program grantees, whose programs serve 1.2 million young people across the United States.
But the Administration has nonetheless persisted. Anti-science, anti-evidence ideologues appointed by Trump are trying to divert funding away from the rigorously evaluated, evidence-based programs required by Congress, seeking to recompete — under unlawful terms — the very funds for the grants that courts have ruled were illegally terminated. On June 8, 2018, Multnomah County, OR, represented by the Democracy Forward Foundation and Pacifica Law Group, became the first to challenge the Administration’s attempt to end-run both judicial and Congressional directives through HHS’s new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Funding Opportunity Announcement, an effort spearheaded by political appointees who have called the evidence-based approach to teen pregnancy prevention a “sham.”
This memo summarizes the current posture of litigation against the Trump Administration’s attacks on the TPP Program1. As one of the organizations representing plaintiffs in these legal cases, Democracy Forward Foundation will continue fighting to prevent the Administration’s unlawful actions.
HHS Sued Over Early Termination of TPP Program Grants
- Freedom of Information Act Suit Filed Seeking Information on Unlawful Grant Terminations
November 2017: Democracy Forward Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against HHS to uncover the reasons for HHS’s unexplained termination of the TPP Program grants en masse in July 2017, three years into the five-year grant program. Documents, which are still being produced as part of the FOIA litigation, have revealed that political appointees who have long opposed both the TPP Program and evidence-based sexual education were directly involved in the grant terminations, sidelining career experts.
- First Suits Filed by Ten Grantees in Four Courts – Each Court Ruled in Grantees’ Favor
February/March 2018: Ten local government, health care, and legal non-profit organizations filed four lawsuits in federal district courts in Washington, Maryland, and the District of Columbia challenging the Trump Administration for unlawfully terminating the TPP Program grants. The suits, among other things, challenged the unexplained early terminations as contrary to HHS’s regulations and arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Grantees were represented in separate suits by Arnold & Porter, the Baltimore City Law Department, Democracy Forward Foundation, Pacifica Law Group, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Public Citizen Litigation Group.2
April/May 2018: Federal judges in all four initial cases ruled that the Trump Administration illegally terminated the TPP Program grants and HHS was ordered to accept and process these grantees’ year-four funding application in accordance with the law. “[The Administration has] attempted to convince multiple courts of their position with no success,”3 wrote one federal judge who further 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.”4 Another federal judge wrote, “[B]ecause HHS terminated Plaintiffs’ grant funding within the meaning of the HHS regulations without any explanation and in contravention of its own regulations, HHS’s action easily qualifies as an arbitrary and capricious act under the APA.”5
As of June 25, 2018, the government has filed notices of appeal in three of the four initial cases. It has not yet docketed an appeal in King County v. Azar. Information will be updated as it becomes available.
- Class Action Filed, Seeking Relief for Remaining Grant Recipients – Court Ruled in Grantees’ Favor
April/May/June 2018: Following these rulings, Public Citizen Litigation Group filed a class-action lawsuit requesting a court declare unlawful HHS’s termination of all remaining TPP Program grants that were ended in July 2017 and order HHS to accept and process year-four applications for these grantees.6 On June 1, 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of the grant recipients in the class action and against HHS.7 Consistent with the four prior decisions, the federal judge ruled that the Administration’s terminations were illegal and ordered HHS to accept and process the applications for grantees included in the class action.
New Lawsuit Filed As HHS Continues Efforts to Dismantle TPP Program, Seeks to Recompete Very Funds Courts have Ruled were Illegally Terminated
Despite five consecutive rulings that the Trump Administration’s termination of the TPP Program grants was illegal, HHS is now trying to divert funding away from the rigorously evaluated, evidence-based programs required by Congress towards untested programs supported by the anti-science, anti-evidence ideologues appointed by Trump. The day after the first court ruled that the Administration’s terminations were illegal, the Trump Administration issued two new Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA), attempting to repurpose the TPP Program funding and the illegally terminated grants to, among other things, fund particular content, rather than programs shown to be effective through rigorous evaluation.
On June 8, 2018, Multnomah County (OR) filed suit against the Trump Administration over these politicized changes to the TPP Program, claiming that the new grant criteria violate Congressional requirements for rigorously evaluated, proven effective programs and instead substitute an anti-science, ideologically-driven approach that privileges abstinence-only content.8 Multnomah County is represented by Democracy Forward Foundation and Pacifica Law Group.
On June 21 and June 22, 2018, Planned Parenthood affiliates filed suit against the Trump Administration, challenging both FOAs released in April, 2018. The cases were filed in Spokane, Washington and New York City, New York.9 Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC), Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI), Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH), and Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho (PPGWNI) are represented in these suits by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Arnold & Porter.
1 This document focuses on the legal challenges to HHS’s actions in the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. Other challenges to HHS’s ideological and anti-evidence actions are not discussed in this document.
2 Healthy Teen Network v. Azar, No. 1:18-cv-00468 (D. Md. Apr. 25, 2018); King Cnty. v. Azar, No. 2:18-cv-00242 (W.D. Wash. May 29, 2018); Planned Parenthood of Greater Wash. & N. Idaho v. HHS, No. 2:18-cv-00055 (E.D. Wash. Apr. 24, 2018); Policy & Research, LLC v. HHS, No. 1:18-cv-00346 (D.D.C. May 11, 2018).
3 Order at 5, King Cnty. v. Azar, No. 2:18-cv-00242 (W.D. Wash. May 29, 2018).
4 Id. at 13.
5 Memorandum Opinion at 3-4, Policy & Research, LLC v. HHS, No. 1:18-cv-00346 (D.D.C. May 11, 2018).
6 Healthy Futures of Tex. v. HHS, No. 1:18-cv-00992 (D.D.C. June 1, 2018).
7 Several additional suits were filed on behalf of other grantees that were ultimately included in the class.
8 Complaint, Multnomah Cnty. v. Azar, No. 3:18-cv-01015 (D. Or. June 8, 2018).
9Planned Parenthood of Greater Wash. & N. Idaho v. U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., No. 18-cv-207 (E.D. Wash. June 21, 2018); Planned Parenthood of N.Y.C., Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., No. 18-cv-5680 (S.D.N.Y. June 22, 2018).