Evidence shows that teen pregnancy rates fall when kids have access to comprehensive sex education, yet this week, the Trump administration cut over $200 million in funds for teen pregnancy prevention programs.
Under the Obama administration, five-year grants were awarded in 2015 to organizations that provided evidence-based programming or conducted researching into preventing teen pregnancy. One program, for example, offered by the Chicago Department of Public Health, provided STI testing and counseling services to teens. These programs were focused on real, scientifically valid ways to help teenagers avoid pregnancy — not programs focused entirely on abstinence.
But this week, the federal Office of Adolescent Health sent letters to those 81 organizations informing them that their funding would end in 2018 — two years early.
For many groups, that means necessary research studies will be foreshortened, and fewer youth will be served.
The organizations received funding under the Obama-era Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which was first established in 2010. The goal of the project was to decrease the number of teen pregnancies by increasing kids’ access to comprehensive sex ed — and the program proved effective. By 2014, the birth rate for teenagers between 15 and 17 was down 72% since 1991.
Trump, though, wants to fund abstinence-only programs — to the tune of $277 million — despite the fact that teen pregnancy rates are highest in states that teach abstinence-only, and the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world.
Even though we know that talking to teens about birth control and sexual choices is much more effective than pushing abstinence, the Trump administration is turning back the clock — for puritanical and unscientific reasons. We know that teens are going to have sex. They always have. That’s why these budget cuts are so harrowing.
Without the budget for research and outreach, the teen pregnancy numbers are likely to spike back up, and that’s not great for anyone.