April 27, 2018
Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against HHS Over Unlawful Termination of Grants for Evidence-Based Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy
Nonprofit Challenges HHS Action on Behalf of All Grantees
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) illegally terminated five-year grants awarded under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program two years ahead of schedule, Healthy Futures of Texas said in a class-action lawsuit (PDF) filed today by Public Citizen lawyers. The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the agency’s unlawful termination of dozens of teen pregnancy prevention grants.
Over the past week, three courts have held that HHS illegally terminated five-year grants awarded under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. Healthy Futures of Texas, a grant recipient represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group, filed the class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to order HHS to continue the grants awarded to it and the remaining 61 recipients.
Congress created the program in 2010 to fund a wide range of evidence-based programs to prevent teen pregnancy. Healthy Futures of Texas is among the recipients of 81 five-year grants awarded by HHS in 2015 that were designed to continue through June 2020.
In May 2017, HHS announced its intention to terminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in the next fiscal year. HHS then informed all program grantees that their grants would be terminated effective June 2018, two years early. Nonetheless, Congress has continue to fund the program.
“The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program has been a model of using science to address important public health problems – and it has been an important part of the recent dramatic reductions in teen pregnancy in our country,” said Evelyn Delgado, president and CEO of Healthy Futures of Texas, which is using the grant money to implement a health education curriculum called Big Decisions for youth ages 13–17 in rural school districts in Texas. “The early termination of our Big Decisions study will prevent us from determining whether it produces meaningful results.”
In February and March 2018, Public Citizen and several other organizations filed four suits on behalf of 10 grantees in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Washington state, seeking to set aside the unlawful termination of their grants. Three of those courts have now concluded that the termination of the grants was unlawful. The fourth court has not yet ruled.
Despite the decisions holding HHS’ termination unlawful, HHS has not indicated that it will reinstate the five-year project periods for the remaining 62 grant recipients. Instead, it has indicated that it intends to use the funding for new grants with a different focus.
“HHS has conceded that it made a program-wide decision to terminate these grants, and courts have unanimously concluded that the agency’s decision was unlawful,” said Sean Sherman, the lead Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney representing the plaintiff. “Because HHS is not willing to reinstate the remaining grants based on the unanimous view of three federal courts, we are seeking an order requiring it to do so.”