Healthcare

Trump admin announces abstinence-focused overhaul of teen pregnancy program

The Trump administration will shift federal funding aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates to programs that teach abstinence. 

 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday the availability of grants through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, (TPPP) a grant program created under former President Obama that funds organizations and programs working to reduce teen pregnancy rates. 

 

Trump's HHS announced, however, that unlike under the Obama administration, grants will be geared toward organizations that teach abstinence education to teens instead of the comprehensive sex ed approach the previous administration supported. 

 

In a funding announcement released Friday, the administration announced two tiers of funds for the TPP program. 

 

In the first, grantees would have to follow one of two abstinence programs to receive funding. 

 

One of the programs uses a "sexual risk reduction model," which is designed to reduce sexual risk behaviors. 

 

The other program uses a "sexual risk avoidance model," which teaches teens to avoid sex completely. 

 

"Projects will clearly communicate that teen sex is a risk behavior for both the physical consequences of pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections; as well as sociological, economic and other related risks," the funding announcement reads. "Both risk avoidance and risk reduction approaches can and should include skills associated with helping youth delay sex as well as skills to help those youth already engaged in sexual risk to return toward risk-free choices in the future." 

 

In total, tier one will award up to $61 million in funds, ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 per year. 

 

The second tier solicits applications to develop and test "new and innovative strategies" to prevent teen pregnancy while improving adolescent health and addressing "youth sexual risk holistically by focusing on protective factors." 

 

The changes represent a major change to the way the federal government treats teen pregnancy. 

 

The Obama administration mostly awarded TPP grants to organizations that taught comprehensive sex education, which can include teaching teens about contraception and abstinence. 

 

But the Trump administration has been shifting toward abstinence programs since hiring several HHS employees who support the approach, including Valerie Huber, the chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, which oversees the TPP program. 

Prior to coming to HHS, Huber led Ascend, a national abstinence education advocacy group. 

 

The administration cut short grants for 81 TPP grantees last summer, arguing the programs, which focused mostly on comprehensive sex ed, were ineffective at curbing teen pregnancy rates. 

 

Those grantees would be able to receive funding if they shifted the focus of their programs toward abstinence. 

 

Democrats argue the changes are ideological and will jeopardize record-low teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. 

"Both Democrats and Republicans have supported investing in evidence-based approaches to preventing teen pregnancy, so it is disappointing - and deeply concerning - that the Trump-Pence Administration is doing everything it can to undermine these investments in ways that take us in the absolutely wrong direction on this issue," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee. "These changes show yet again that the Trump-Pence Administration's priority is imposing its extreme, backwards ideology, no matter what that means for women, families, and communities."

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