Six months into the Trump administration, the president has outlined his spending priorities with a proposed budget for the nation’s next fiscal year. While the budget still has a ways to go before it’s officially authorized by Congress, priorities outlined in the president’s proposal are filtering down to the state and local level—including community health centers.
Cutting the Cord on Teen Pregnancy Programs
Back in 2010, the Obama administration boldly funded 102 programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy. These projects were funded with five-year grants. Over that span, according to the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH), “there were 102 grantees who reached about half a million youth, trained more than 6,800 professionals, and established partnerships with over 3,800 community-based organizations across the U.S.” In 2015, impressed by these numbers, the OAH had even more ambitious goals for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, hoping to reach 1.2 million teens over the next five years. Now it appears that the Trump administration is reducing the length of these programs to three—instead of five—years. Reveal, a publication from the Center for Investigative Reporting, noted that 81 projects received five-year grants in 2015. In early July, Reveal obtained the annual grant award letters sent to these groups. While funding will remain intact for this coming fiscal year, the letters noted: “This award also shortens the project period to end June 30, 2018, at the end of this budget year.” “In years past,” Reveal explained, “the award letters said the project period would end June 30, 2020.”
The Affected Organizations
Perhaps it’s not surprising that a handful of the organizations losing this funding are affiliated with Planned Parenthood, a group that receives a great deal of criticism for providing abortion services in a small number of their clinics. As Reveal noted, abortion counseling wasn’t part of any of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs. Others set to lose funding include Native American tribal organizations, state-level departments of Health and Human Services (even in Republican states), prestigious research universities, and urban and rural health centers. To complicate matters further, Reveal reports that a $2.9 million annual grant split among five organizations was cut immediately. This makes things even more challenging, as these groups helped other grant holders with necessary resources such as communications and training. In other words, not only are these 81 organizations having their grant time reduced by 40 percent, but they’re immediately losing access to the organizations that helped to coordinate that work. As Reveal reports, those five groups were told in their letters that their funding was “cut was due to changing program priorities and that the projects were no longer in the federal government’s best interest.”
The Trump administration isn’t completely moving away from talking to teens about the risks of pregnancy. They are, instead, proposing a huge increase in funding the questionable practice of abstinence-only education. A line in President Trump’s proposed budget suggests ramping up spending to “Extend Abstinence Education and Personal Responsibility Education Program.” Over the next seven years, this budget proposes spending $277 million on this cause, more than $200 million of which is earmarked for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. Many are attributing this shift in priorities to Valerie Huber, the Trump-appointed chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health. The Los Angeles Times describes Huber as having previously led Ascend, an organization that advocates for abstinence-only sex ed. Fortunately, teen pregnancies have been on the decline for the past decade. Hopefully these proposed changes from the Trump administration don’t reverse that trend.