The Trump administration has quietly cut $213 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs.
The reductions will reportedly affect more than 80 institutions across the country.
The administration made the cuts by ending the final two years of five-year grants awarded to the organizations by the Obama administration to research ways to help teenagers make healthy decisions to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
There were no congressional hearings or White House announcements about the program reductions.
The move was instead reported last week by The Center for Investigative Reporting, Mother Jones, and other outlets.
White House officials did not respond to a Healthline request for an interview for this story.
An executive with an organization for abstinence education said they support the cuts because “teen pregnancy prevention programs are ineffective.”
Supporters of those programs, however, expressed anger over the funding reductions.
“This is yet another anti-women policy that kills women,” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), told Healthline. “It is really awful and it is very, very dangerous.”
Outrage at the decision
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that teen pregnancy in the United States had hit an all-time low.
At the time, CDC officials told Healthline a major reason for the reduction was teen use of birth control.
O’Neill said the teen pregnancy programs that are being cut not only provide birth control, but also educate teens about sexual activity as well as healthy relationships and other vital topics.
Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, a pediatrician who is chair of the Committee on Adolescence of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agreed.
“It’s not just about teen pregnancy prevention,” she told Healthline.
Breuner said the information and services teens receive at the prevention programs help them lead healthier and more successful lives.
She said that under the programs’ guidance teens stay in school, obtain good jobs, and develop healthy relationships.
“This is such a short-sighted slash of a budget item,” she said.
O’Neill added that teen pregnancy prevention programs are actually the programs that are “authoritatively pro-life.”
She added the cuts are a waste of taxpayer money because the research done under the first three years of the five-year grants will not be finished.
O’Neill and Breuner said they believe the cuts were made not because of the programs’ effectiveness but because of the Trump administration’s opposition to birth control.
They said that’s why the grant reductions were done secretly and without public fanfare.
“They did it this way because they know this is not what people want,” said O’Neill. “They had to do it in the dark of night.”
Support for the cuts
The Trump administration cuts are in stark contrast to what happened during the Obama presidency.
In his 2017 federal budget proposal unveiled last year, President Obama eliminated all funding for abstinence-only education programs.
Funding for teen pregnancy prevention also increased during the Obama presidency.
During that time, Obama administration officials cited the success of teen pregnancy prevention efforts as well as the lack of scientific evidence that abstinence-only education programs work.
Scott Phelps, executive director of The Abstinence & Marriage Education Partnership, thinks the opposite is true.
Phelps cited an Obama administration report that concluded 80 percent of teens in pregnancy prevention programs fared worse or no better than their counterparts who weren’t in such programs.
That report is no longer on the White House website, but it is mentioned in a number of conservative online columns.
Phelps also noted a study released last month in England concluded teen pregnancy rates there actually decreased after pregnancy prevention program funding was cut.
“You can’t assume that teen prevention programs equate with lower teen pregnancies,” Phelps told Healthline.
Phelps said the reason teen pregnancy rates are so low in the United States is because fewer teens are having sex. He credited abstinence programs for this success.
Phelps acknowledged the Trump administration cuts were done quietly, but he said the Obama administration did the same thing.
He agreed with O’Neill and Breuner that this is not the best way to develop budget priorities. Like O’Neill and Breuner, he would prefer to have the issue publically debated.
“Otherwise, you are at the beck and call of whoever is in power,” he said.