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HHS Sued Over Unlawful Termination of Grants Implementing Evidence-Based Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy

Feb. 15, 2018

HHS Sued Over Unlawful Termination of Grants Implementing Evidence-Based Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy

Three Nonprofits and a Research Organization Challenge HHS Action

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 (TPPP) two years ahead of schedule, four grant recipients said in a lawsuit filed today by lawyers at Public Citizen.

“The Trump administration is attempting to unlawfully terminate a successful program to reduce teen pregnancy based on an ideologically driven crusade,” said Sean Sherman, the lead Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program was created by Congress in 2010 to fund a wide range of evidence-based programs to prevent teen pregnancy. The plaintiffs – Policy and Research, LLC, Project Vida Health Center, Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens (NC) and the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy – are among the recipients of 81 five-year grants awarded in 2015 by HHS that were designed to continue through June 2020.

In May 2017, HHS announced that it wanted to terminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in the next fiscal year. HHS later informed all TPPP grantees, without any explanation, that their grants would be terminated effective June 2018, two years early. Despite HHS’ request to eliminate funding, Congress has not canceled the program.

“The termination of these grants in the middle of their five-year programs violates the Administrative Procedure Act and will cause substantial unnecessary harm to the communities these organizations serve,” Sherman said.

Policy and Research, LLC, which operates under the name the Policy & Research Group, is the recipient of two five-year grants to implement two new and innovative pregnancy prevention programs and to conduct individual randomized control studies of the two programs. “The action derails years of preparation and will terminate data collection. It seriously degrades our ability to assess the efficacy of two promising programs that were designed to reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy for populations who are disproportionately at risk,” said Dr. Eric Jenner, director of research at the Policy and Research Group.

Project Vida Health Center is a Texas-based recipient of a five-year grant to implement three evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs in middle schools, high schools, communities and faith settings. Project Vida Health Center’s programs reach 1,600 young people annually in two communities in southeast El Paso County. “The school district had asked for an expansion of the program to additional schools after seeing the positive impact and the response from teachers, students and their families.  Shutting down the program means no final evaluation, and cuts the planned and promised expansion,” said CEO Bill Schlesinger.

Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens (NC) is the recipient of two five-year grants to replicate evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs and build capacity for prevention programming for youth in foster care and juvenile detention. “Our state has made great progress reducing teen pregnancy rates. Ending these programs early undermines that progress and punishes young people, their parents and the teachers, doctors, social workers and other adults who serve them,” said CEO Traci L. Baird.

The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy also received two five-year grants to implement evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs in three counties in South Carolina and to build capacity to deliver such programs to youth in juvenile justice and foster care. “Since our organization’s inception, we have remained fully engaged in preventing teen pregnancy in our state. Teen pregnancy prevention funding has allowed South Carolina to make tremendous strides in reducing the teen birth rate by 67 percent since the early 90’s. A sizeable portion of that support comes through grant awards at the federal level. The proven success of these prevention programs have shown that teens can make the best decisions for their futures,” said CEO E.A. “Beth” De Santis.

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the plaintiffs ask the court to find that HHS’ termination of the plaintiffs’ grants was unlawful and to order HHS to reinstate the grants for the awarded five-year grant period.

Five other grantees also sued HHS today in three separate cases filed in Washington state and Maryland, seeking similar relief.

For more information, visit the case page.