JUST IN: Trump cuts Obama teen pregnancy program

The Trump administration has left multiple groups scrambling for funds this week after it abruptly announced that five-year grants they were awarded would be cut two years short.

The Department of Health and Human Services notified 81 institutions across the US that the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) created under Obama in 2010 would be coming to an end. The program was geared toward providing funds to organizations working to reduce and prevent teen pregnancy, with an emphasis on reaching places in dire need.

The TPPP has funded initiatives in 39 states, and the two-year cut represents $200 million less that organizations will have.

“There was no communication about the reason. The notice of the award just stated that instead of a five-year grant, it is now a three-year grant,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

Baltimore has a teen birth rate three times higher than the national average; Wen is concerned this will put a stop to her commission’s working to change that. The Baltimore program will now lose $3.5 million in funding, leaving 20,000 students without access to reproductive health education and other services.

“We don’t have another way to fill this deficit. This will leave a huge hole in our ability to deliver health education,” she said.

Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington, D.C., said the HHS had “offered up very little explanation” for the change.

But Trump’s new budget proposal didn’t contain funds for the program and the new administration has made it clear they plan on attacking the issue in a different way. Trump isn’t shy about slashing Obama-era legislation.

Trump’s administration is wrought with social conservatives, including HHS Secretary Tom Price. Valerie Huber, a prominent national abstinence education advocate, was recently named the chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health and wrote in an op-ed piece for The Hill her vision of teen pregnancy prevention.

“The healthiest message for youth is one that gives youth the skills and information to avoid the risks of teen sex, not merely reduce them,” Huber wrote. “Policymakers finally have an opportunity to give American youth the reinforcement they need to continue to make healthy choices — and to normalize sexual delay for all teens and especially for those teens who currently feel pressured to have sex by social media, their favorite music — or their sex education classes.”

But city officials are incensed at the abruptness of the cuts. The Big Cities Health Coalition, which is made up of health officials from 28 major cities, called on Price on Wednesday to reconsider the decision to cut the funds and shorten the project period.

“Ending what was intended to be five-year TPPP grants two years early is highly disruptive to ongoing work in localities across the country. These cuts will negatively affect the lives of young people currently participating in these programs, and will mean fewer project jobs, fewer trained professionals, and reduced community partnerships,” the officials wrote in a letter to Price. “Cutting TPPP funding and shortening the project period will not only reverse historic gains made in the U.S. in reducing teen pregnancy rates but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective in our communities across the nation.”

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