For a year now, we’ve repeatedly taken President Trump and his administration to court for illegally diverting funds from the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program that helps nearly a million teens, as part of the administration’s push for a radical anti-science, abstinence-only agenda.
In the cases brought by Democracy Forward, and in separate cases brought on behalf of other grantees, four federal judges ruled five consecutive times that the grant terminations were unlawful.
The TPP Program is an evidence-based sexual education program enacted by Congress with bipartisan support that funds grants to research and replicate successful models developed by school districts and adolescent health experts, and it 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% and its HIV rate by 35%.
When the Trump administration took over, though, political appointees with anti-science, anti-evidence backgrounds tried to undermine the program. These appointees targeted the elimination of the TPP Program by boxing out long-term, career program management experts, even telling them to “get in line” with these unlawful efforts. In 2017, HHS illegally terminated over 80 TPP Program grants nationwide, cutting off approximately $100 million in funding to municipalities and non-profit groups.
A year ago, we sued on behalf of King County, Washington (co-counseling with Pacifica Law Group); Baltimore, Maryland (co-counseling with the City Solicitor); and Healthy Teen Network. The TPP Program has helped each of our plaintiffs’ communities, and losing these grants meant the loss of programs like the one Baltimore had been effectively using.
In April and May, federal courts in Maryland and Washington State reversed the administration’s unlawful grant terminations.
As one federal judge put it:
“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 of those cases the Department of Justice has dropped its appeal.
With this first round of lawsuits, we helped protect the entire $100 million of TPP Program grants. You’d think the administration’s attempt to subvert the program would have stopped there, but it didn’t.
The day after their first court loss, the Trump administration again tried to flout congressional mandates and politicize the grants by applying new criteria for prospective grantees that prioritized unproven abstinence-only approaches.
To stop this new attack, we filed suit on behalf of Multnomah County, Oregon. Twenty Members of Congress filed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit and in August 2018, a federal court in Oregon ruled that the administration’s actions were unlawful.
Now, we suspect the administration is unlawfully expending TPP Program funds yet again. 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. We’re taking the administration to court for stonewalling the release of records that could reveal the truth.
And just days ago, the government announced 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.”
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.