Washington, D.C. — Today, the Trump-Pence administration announced that it would radically remake the successful Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) to push ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programming. The announcement, made through two newly released funding opportunity announcements (FOAs), clearly lays out an agenda that stigmatizes teens who have sex and stacks the deck against young people by promoting abstinence-only programs rather than a wide range of programs that are sex education that is proven to help young people stay healthy.
With this announcement, the administration has dramatically shifted how it would administer the program. Prior to these new FOAs, grantees were required to replicate evidence-based programs that have already been proven effective through rigorous scientific evaluation, or develop and implement new, innovative approaches to reducing teen pregnancy. With the new FOAs, HHS has removed the focus on evidenced-based programs completely, requiring instead that all participants emphasize an abstinence-only approach. By requiring grantees to meaningfully incorporate ineffective abstinence-only (which the Trump-Pence administration labels “sexual risk avoidance”) approaches into every program component, HHS is dictating a single and ineffective approach to teen pregnancy prevention. The announcement also completely erases any mention of LGBTQ youth.
Abstinence-only programs are the same harmful programs that often blame survivors for their own sexual assaults, peddle fear, and ignore the needs of LGBTQ teens. Here is just a sample of the language employed by “sexual risk avoidance” programs:
- “Sex is like fire. Inside the appropriate boundaries of marriage, sex can be a great thing! Outside of marriage, sex can be dangerous!” (Heritage Keepers, Abstinence Education I)
- “[A sexually active teen] may turn inward, fail to develop healthy interests and relationships, fail to develop a personal, independent identity, experience feelings of betrayal that can lead to rage.” (Choosing the Best Life (Upper Middle School-8th Grade) Leader Guide)
- “How do some people say NO with their words, but YES with their actions and clothing?” (Choosing the Best Way (Lower Middle School- 6th Grade) Leader Guide)
Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
The Trump-Pence administration is remaking an effective program in order to peddle its radical ideology to young people — and it’s endangering our teenagers’ health as a result. This single-minded agenda promotes an abstinence-only approach and erases LGBTQ youth entirely. This could undermine young people’s understanding of sex and relationships. All of the evidence shows that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do not work and put our young people at risk. This administration is already using the nation’s program for affordable birth control to push women toward abstinence — now they’re trying to remake the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program to do the same thing. It’s time for the Trump-Pence administration to stop putting our health and lives at risk.
Now, the Trump-Pence administration is trying to turn back that progress, ignoring science and the needs of young people, all to push its coercive and ideological agenda. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been deemed ineffective by medical journals and denounced by leading medical professional organizations because they go against the basic principles of science and medical ethics. Continuing to push the same practices with a new name cannot change that.
The Trump-Pence administration has pushed its abstinence-only-until-marriage agenda by:
- Putting Valerie Huber, who most recently served as president and CEO of Ascend, formerly called “National Abstinence Education Association,” in charge of the TPPP program and Title X, the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care.
- Presenting an extreme agenda to the the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women on abortion, contraception, and sexual education. The U.S.’s anti-women’s health agenda was so extreme that was more conservative that it was “further to the right than those expressed by most other countries present, including Russia and the representative for the Arab states.”
- Favoring health care providers that push patients to return to a “sexually risk free status”and promoting abstinence only until marriage in the Title X FOA that was released in February.
- Abruptly ending prior grants for TPPP.
- Outlining priorities in the TPPP funding announcement that require program participants to emphasize priorities that that emphasize “sexual risk avoidance” (also known as abstinence only until marriage) and “cessation support” for adolescents who are sexually active.
Congress funded the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program for the FY18 fiscal year with bipartisan support, despite the administration's efforts to abruptly and arbitrarily end the TPPP grant agreements last year. The program was projected to serve 1.2 million young people and families and funds a wide range of programs that have been proven to reduce unintended pregnancy by helping young people to postpone sex and use condoms and other birth control methods when they do become sexually active.
Earlier this week, a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled, in one of four cases brought against HHS, that the Trump-Pence administration’s efforts to terminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants of the four plaintiffs in that case were unlawful. Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a separate case, which has a hearing on April 245 in Spokane, WA.
Shifting funds from a wide range of evidence-based programs to focus exclusively on programs that emphasize abstinence -only will disproportionately harm young people, including survivors of sexual violence, LGBTQ teens, youth of color, families in rural communities, and youth who already face significant barriers when trying to access information or health care.
Sex education is widely supported in the United States. In fact, over 90 percent% of parents support sex education in both middle and high school. And the vast majority of parents, including Democrats and Republicans, want this education to include topics like birth control, healthy relationships, abstinence, and sexual orientation.
As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood works in schools and communities across the country to provide quality sex education programs. Planned Parenthood is proud to provide sex education and health services that help teens plan their future and prevent both unintended pregnancies and STDs. We work every day to reach teens with education about sexual health, communication skills, and relationships so they can make healthy decisions.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.