Trump Quietly Cuts Millions From Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

The Trump administration, with tellingly little fanfare, has cut over $213 million in grants funding programs working to prevent teen pregnancy.

With little warning, the Trump administration eliminated over $213 million from teen pregnancy prevention and research programs across the United States.

The move will reportedly affect more than 80 institutions around the country, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of young women they serve.

The Center for Investigative Reporting was able to obtain grant letters that organizations like Johns Hopkins University and Children's Hospital of Los Angeles receive annually. According to the letters sent from the Office of Adolescent Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, funding for the five year grants put into effect by the Obama administration will stop two years early on June 30, 2018. It's expected that the repercussions will be swift and serious.

"We're just reeling. We're not sure how we'll adapt," said Jennifer Hettema, an associate research professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center told Reveal, the site for The Center for Investigative Reporting. Hettema's work focuses around helping doctors educate Latino and indigenous teens on pregnancy prevention and is one of the programs that will be severely impacted the Trump administration's decision.

In the U.S. one in 19 girls becomes pregnant before she reaches the age of 20. This statistic comes after a steep decline in teen pregnancy over the last three decades.

The number of teen pregnancies in the U.S. remains considerably higher than other developed nations and is particularly staggering in minority communities and in areas struggling with poverty. Many teen pregnancy prevention centers devote their limited resources to these unfortunately high-risk populations, and so when the funding cuts go into affect these girls will be hit the hardest.

The programs the Trump administration is going after with this new decision focus their attention on the importance of using contraceptives and making sure birth control options are accessible to young people. This tactic does not jive with the views of many in the current administration. The president himself has made it clear he is no friend to accessible birth control and Secretary of HHS Tom Price has a voting record which indicates that the health and happiness of women is the antithesis of his agenda. 

However, Reveal reports that it is Valerie Huber's name that some are linking to this recent funding cut. Huber is a formidable figure in America's abstinence-until-marriage movement and was recently promoted to chief of staff for Brett Giroir, nominee for assistant secretary of health. Her foothold in the administration could spell more bad news coming down the pike for teen pregnancy prevention programs that implement their care based on decades of research.

Numerous studies have found that abstinence only education simply does not work and the strides forward in preventing teen pregnancy have been thanks to organizations that promote healthy, safe sex.

Quite the opposite is true of programs that advocate for abstinence, as they not only fail at delaying when a teen has sex, but also create an environment of secrecy and ignorance that increases a teens chance of getting pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Yet, President Donald Trump has filled his administration with individuals whose personal prejudices and lack of foresight show they haven't read a single one of these studies.

Pat Paluzzi of the Baltimore-based organization the Healthy Teen Network Pat told Reveal that the massive elimination of grants are “part and parcel of the shift to abstinence-only dollars.” Her project, an app that would help teen girls more easily ask questions and receive quality answers about sex, may not survive the spending cuts.

“They don’t like to deal with the sexual reproductive health of teens,” Paluzzi explained to Reveal. “They frame it in this country as moral issues. Public health issues shouldn’t be political issues.”

Banner/thumbnail credit: Wikimedia Commons

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