HHS’ Funding Changes Undermine States’ Efforts to Reduce Teen Pregnancy by Shifting Focus to Abstinence-Only Programs
HARRISBURG —Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that Pennsylvania led a coalition of 21 Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief supporting Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ change to the funding structure of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) grant program.
The case, Planned Parenthood v HHS, is one of three lawsuits challenging two Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) issued by HHS in 2018 for the TPP program, which Congress created to fund evidence-based programs proven effective in reducing teen pregnancy. The 2018 FOAs changed the requirements for the program by shifting the focus to abstinence-only education, rather than evidence-based programs shown to be effective.
“The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program is designed to support evidence-based programs proven to reduce teenage pregnancies and their associated costs, and the Trump Administration’s actions threaten its success by promoting abstinence-only education,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The TPP program works—in Pennsylvania, we have seen a 50 percent reduction in teen pregnancies. These funding changes undermine those efforts, ignore scientific evidence, and jeopardize the health and well-being of teens in Pennsylvania and across the country. I’m proud to stand with Planned Parenthood and my colleagues in support of medically accurate, evidence-based plans.”
Since its creation in 2009, the TPP Program has provided nearly $1 billion for state, local, and community programs that have been proven to reduce rates of teenage pregnancy. Those programs reached half a million teens from 2010-2014, and are anticipated to reach 1.2 million more from 2015-2019. The program puts an intentional focus on communities with the greatest need and most vulnerable youth, including those of color, in foster care, or in rural areas. The TPP Program is an indispensable component of State efforts to reduce the physical and medical risks of teenage pregnancy, as well as associated emotional, social, and financial costs.
Pennsylvania has received a total of $5,539,211 of TPP Program funding to support initiatives such as sexual behavior intervention for high-risk female adolescents, contraception education for African American and Latina teenagers, and awareness intervention for African American young men. In Pennsylvania, the number of teenage pregnancies decreased by more than 50% from 2013 to 2016, down from 14,680 to 6,385. Efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy in Pennsylvania averted approximately 12,000 teenage births in 2015 alone, based on the decline in the state’s teenage birth rate since 1991.
As of 2015, 43 percent of teenagers nationwide had engaged in sex at least once. In Pennsylvania, the number was 36.3 percent. These statistics demonstrate that, for some teenagers, programs must go beyond abstinence-only principles to effectively prevent teenage pregnancies.
The Attorneys General argue that the 2018 FOAs threaten to frustrate the design of the TPP Program and undermine the States’ efforts to reduce teen pregnancies. The FOAs would shift the focus of the grant process to rewarding programs that promote a particular “abstinence-only” ideology, rather than following Congress’ mandate to fund programs that are medically accurate and have been proven to work through rigorous evaluation.
If the FOAs are allowed to stand, federal funds will be directed to less-effective or medically inaccurate programs, while other programs that have been proven to work will languish. As a result, more teens will be at risk of becoming pregnant, imposing significant additional costs on the States and their residents.
In two similar cases, Planned Parenthood of NYC v. HHS and Multnomah County v. Azar, the District Court found that HHS had acted unlawfully and vacated or enjoined one of the FOAs. However, the district court dismissed the case at hand for lack of standing. Planned Parenthood appealed to the Ninth Circuit to reverse the District Court’s decision and to direct the District Court to enter summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Attorneys General filed this amicus brief in support of that request.
The coalition was led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and included state attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
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