HAWAII ATTORNEY GENERAL DEFENDS EVIDENCE BASED TEEN PREGNANCY PREVENTION PROGRAM
News Release from Hawaii Attorney General, Mar 21, 2019
HONOLULU – Today, a coalition of 21 Attorneys General filed an amicus brief supporting Planned Parenthood in their legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ change to the funding structure of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) grant program. The case, Planned Parenthood v HHS, is one of three lawsuits challenging two Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) issued by HHS in 2018 for the TPP program, which Congress created to fund evidence-based programs proven effective in reducing teen pregnancy. The 2018 FOAs changed the requirements for the program by shifting the focus to abstinence-only education, rather than evidence-based programs shown to be effective.
Since its creation in 2009, the TPP Program has provided nearly $1 billion for state, local, and community programs that have been proven to reduce rates of teenage pregnancy. Those programs reached half a million teens from 2010-2014, and are anticipated to reach 1.2 million more from 2015-2019. The program puts an intentional focus on communities with the greatest need and most vulnerable youth, including those of color, in foster care, or in rural areas. The TPP Program is an indispensable component of State efforts to reduce the physical and medical risks of teenage pregnancy, as well as associated emotional, social, and financial costs.
The Attorneys General argue that the 2018 FOAs threaten to frustrate the design of the TPP Program and undermine the States’ efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The FOAs would shift the focus of the grant process to rewarding programs that promote a particular “abstinence-only” ideology, rather than following Congress’ mandate to fund programs that are medically accurate and have been proven to work through rigorous evaluation.
If the FOAs are allowed to stand, federal funds will be directed to less-effective or medically inaccurate programs, while other programs that have been proven to work will languish. As a result, more teens will be at risk of becoming pregnant, imposing significant additional costs on the States and their residents.
“We stand today with other states in opposition to the recent federal efforts to frustrate the Congressionally directed design of the TPP Program,” said Attorney General Clare E. Connors. “The federal TPP Program provides vital funding for state, local, and community programs that have been shown to reduce rates of teen pregnancy. By promoting abstinence-only education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s 2018 grant funding criteria threatens funding to the medically approved, evidence-based programs that have demonstrated effectiveness in achieving this important goal.”
In two similar cases, Planned Parenthood of NYC v. HHS and Multnomah County v. Azar, the District Court found that HHS had acted unlawfully and vacated or enjoined one of the FOAs. However, the district court dismissed the case at hand for lack of standing. Planned Parenthood appealed to the Ninth Circuit to reverse the District Court’s decision and to direct the District Court to enter summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Attorneys General filed this amicus brief in support of that request.
The coalition was led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and included state attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
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