President Trump’s Health Department has abruptly slashed millions of dollars in funding from a nationwide Obama-era teen pregnancy prevention program that many health officials have linked to the country’s historically low teen pregnancy rates.
The Department of Health and Human Services informed 81 institutions across the U.S. that their five-year grants were being changed to three-year grants, meaning their programs would end next year rather than in 2020, a cut of about $200 million over two years.
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, established under former President Barack Obama, provided funding to organizations that work to stem teen pregnancy, including one ran by the Baltimore City Health Department.
“There was no communication about the reason. The notice of the award just stated that instead of a five-year grant, it is now a three year grant,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told The Hill.
Baltimore’s program aims to decrease the overall teen birth rate there, which is three times higher than the national average.
But the program will now lose $3.5 million in grant funding over two years, meaning 20,000 fewer students will have access to reproductive health education and other services.
“We don’t have another way to fill this deficit. This will leave a huge hole in our ability to deliver health education,” she said.
HHS had “offered up very little explanation” for the change, according to Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington, D.C.
Grantees were informed that the Trump administration was looking for something that was a “better fit for its priorities, but those were not specified,” Albert said.
Mark Vafiades, a spokesman for HHS’s office of the assistant secretary for health, explained that the program was defunded because there is little evidence they have had a positive impact.
“Given the very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs, the Trump administration, in its FY 2018 budget proposal did not recommend continued funding for the TPP program,” he said in a statement to The Hill.
“Current TPP grantees were given a project end date of June 30, 2018.”