Trump-Pence administration can’t ignore science — we’re here to stop them
Last week, courts sent the Trump-Pence administration a clear message: It can’t ignore science and the needs of young people to push its ideological agenda.
Three Planned Parenthood affiliates — including Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland — filed suit challenging the Trump-Pence administration’s early termination of federal grants that fund comprehensive, evidence-based sex ed, known as the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP).
We won on behalf of the people and communities we serve. People like Julie Liles and her daughter Emily, who attended a sex ed program together in Shelton, Wash., called LiFT, or Linking Families and Teens, which was funded by the TPPP.
Julie, who had Emily at the age of 14, says the program improved communication between her and her daughter, allowing them to speak openly and productively about sex, health, birth control and healthy relationships. LiFT has already been proven effective.
Young people who have completed the program report greater confidence in their ability to prevent an unintended pregnancy and are more likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control.
Those are the kinds of programs we should be investing in. Right now in our country, we’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy and an all-time low for pregnancy among teens. The Trump-Pence administration’s attacks on TPPP threaten to reverse that progress.
Young people like Emily exist across the country. Under the Trump-Pence administration, their family’s income level and ZIP code could determine their access to sex ed. Many LGBTQ youth could be forced to endure sex ed that doesn’t address their specific questions and denies them the resources they need to be happy and healthy.
We’ve seen the impact sex-ed has had on our communities and denying young people these resources is unethical and wrong.
Our victory over the Trump-Pence administration’s dangerous ideology is important. But we have a long road ahead of us in the fight to make sure all young people and their families have access to sex ed that is factual, comprehensive and meets their needs.
The administration has laid out a plan to dramatically remake the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program by requiring grantees to push ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage (which the administration labels “sexual risk avoidance”) approaches into every program that gets funding, instead of effective programs that have been proven to reduce unintended pregnancy. The announcement also erased any mention of LGBTQ youth and other marginalized youth completely.
This single-minded, ideological agenda could undermine young people’s understanding of sex and relationships and lead to unintended pregnancies among teens.
The purpose of the TPPP, as outlined by Congress, is to decrease rates of unintended pregnancy among teenagers by developing new programs or replicating evidence-based programs that have already been proven effective through rigorous scientific evaluation.
Scientific evidence has shown that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are actually ineffective in delaying sexual intercourse or changing other sexual behaviors and these programs have been denounced by leading medical professional organizations. But sex ed that’s evidence-based and delivered by trained professionals, like Planned Parenthood’s sex educators, is extremely effective and widely supported in our country.
Right now, if you look on the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) website you’ll find a page dedicated to Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Clearly, while the the Trump-Pence administration’s HHS may appear to raise awareness about teen pregnancy prevention, it’s done nothing but attack the nation’s program for preventing teen pregnancy.
If the Trump-Pence administration really cares about Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, they need to put their words into action and put the health of American families like Julie and Emily above ideology.
Carole Miller is the chief learning officer for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. Rachel Todd is the director Of education for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.