Democratic members of Congress are demanding answers after the Trump administration quietly slashed funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs by more than $200 million earlier this month. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, House Democrats derided the move to end an Obama-era pregnancy prevention initiative as "a blow to bipartisan efforts to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies" and demanded an explanation of the decision.
"The negative impacts of this unnecessary decision cannot be overstated," the letter states. "At a time when young people are most in need of information and education to protect their sexual and reproductive health, this Administration is denying evidence and science. Young people deserve better."
The 148 Democratic members of Congress who signed the letter warned that pulling funding from the Health and Human Services's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program early, while work was still ongoing, would "have a ripple effect across communities."
They argued the decision would not only hurt the teens currently participating in TPPP-funded programs, but also "the 600,000 young people who would have been served through the remaining years of the projects." They also argued that ending funding for TPPP-supported programs would "mean fewer jobs, fewer trained professionals," and a reduction in the number of partnerships aimed at reducing the rate of teen pregnancy in communities across the country.
Earlier this month, an exclusive report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that 81 institutions had received letters from the federal Office of Adolescent Health notifying them of cuts to the five-year grants they had been awarded by the Obama administration in 2015. According to the letters, the grants would be cut by two years' worth of funding as the end date of the project period was brought up to June 30, 2018. Previous award letters had noted the end of the grant period as June 30, 2020. According to Reveal, the cuts would amount to $213.6 million.
House Democrats expressed confusion over the Trump administration's decision to pull funding, which had already been approved and allocated by Congress. "It is puzzling why this Administration has chosen to disrupt the progress of the existing five-year cooperative agreement projects." They classified TPPP-supported programs as "critical" for supporting young people given the "absence of consistent, quality, foundational K-12 school-based sex education."
In their demand for an explanation, House Democrats asked Secretary Price to address five specific questions, including when the decision to shorten TPPP cooperative agreements by two years had been made, who had made it, why it have been carried out before Congress had determined appropriations for the 2018 fiscal year, and how HHS' decision took into consideration the potential burden and adverse impact on young people, professionals, and partnerships.
"It is our collective responsibility to ensure the health of our nation's most marginalized youth," the 148 House Democrats wrote. "Sadly, this recent action runs counter to our shared responsibility."