An Assault on Efforts to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy


Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

With flimsy justification, and in small type buried in routine documents, the Trump administration has informed 81 local governments and health groups that it will end grants they have received to run teen pregnancy prevention programs, two years before the grants are scheduled to end. The decision is unsettling even by the disquieting standards of this anti-science administration.

The rate at which teenagers have babies in the United States fell by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2015, though it is still higher than in other industrialized countries. A lot of the credit for the decline belongs to health and education officials who have been coming up with new approaches to educate young people about sex and get them to make better decisions. One such effort was the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, created by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration in 2010. It provides five-year grants, in annual distributions, to cities, counties and health organizations to operate and evaluate public health programs aimed at teenagers. Funding for a second round of grants began in 2015, but it will now expire in 2018 instead of 2020.

The department that runs the program, Health and Human Services, made no effort initially to explain its decision, which was tucked into a routine grant letter earlier this summer. The decision came before Congress has even voted on appropriations for the next fiscal year, which begins in October. By cutting the grants short, the department is depriving recipients of about $200 million.

None of this was entirely surprising given the ideological inclinations of the people at the top of the department. Its leader is Tom Price, a far-right conservative who as a member of the House voted to end Title X, a federal family planning program, and opposed an Obama-era rule that requires insurers to cover contraception at no cost. The chief of staff to the assistant secretary responsible for adolescent health programs, including teenage pregnancy prevention grants, is Valerie Huber, who previously ran an abstinence advocacy group. Ms. Huber criticized the grant program in an opinion article published in March.

The department said in a statement that it “hit the pause button” on the grants because the “very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs…

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