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Elections Have Consequences: Sex Education Edition


Jane Kay, of the Center for Investigative Reporting, reports that the Department of Health and Human Services has abruptly cancelled funding for a number of ongoing scientific studies and programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy.

The Trump administration has quietly axed $213.6 million in teen pregnancy prevention programs and research at more than 80 institutions around the country, including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University.

The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will end five-year grants awarded by the Obama administration that were designed to find scientifically valid ways to help teenagers make healthy decisions that avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and other top Trump appointees are outspoken opponents of federal funding for birth control, advocating abstinence rather than contraceptives to control teen pregnancies.

Among the programs that lost their funding: the Choctaw Nation’s efforts to combat teen pregnancy in Oklahoma, Johns Hopkins’ work with adolescent Apaches in Arizona, the University of Texas’ guidance for youth in foster care, the Chicago Department of Public Health’s counseling and testing for sexually transmitted infections and the University of Southern California’s workshops for teaching parents how to talk to middle school kids about delaying sexual activity.

During the Bush Administration, shifting resources into abstinence-only education was one of the ways that the White House rewarded its Christian conservative base. The Obama Administration shifted toward an evidence-based approach to teen health and pregnancy, which required programs to meet scientific standards. By the end of the Obama presidency, the result was a proposal to eliminate funding abstinence-only programs entirely. It should come as no surprise that the Trump Administration wants to undo not simply programs that involve contraception, but efforts focused on producing sound policy interventions. Nor that it views this area as one to give its base free reign. Kay again:

In May, Congress approved $101 million for the third year of the 81 grants. But Trump’s proposed budget did not include any funding for fiscal year 2018.

Huber, the new chief of staff for the office of the assistant secretary for health, previously was the president of Ascend, which used to be named the National Abstinence Education Association.

In a 2014 paper on the history of sex education, Huber criticized Obama for creating comprehensive sex education programs at the expense of focusing on abstinence.

“Pro-sex organizations used every opportunity to attack abstinence education,” Huber wrote with co-author Michael Firmin. “This agenda was (and is) at least as much about destroying abstinence education as it is about supporting ‘comprehensive’ sex education. … The current Obama administration has used its fiscal scalpel to eliminate the growth of abstinence education within America’s school systems.”

Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon who was a U.S. representative from Georgia, was confirmed by Congress as health secretary in February. He has been vehemently opposed to federal programs involving contraception.

DHHS intends to return to failed policies while reducing the ability of the government to assess what makes interventions successful. In the process, it will waste millions of dollars on programs on pseudo-scientific programs. Indeed, the abstinence-only industry often looks like, swims like, and quacks like conservative rent-seeking, and it’s likely to get a lot more of your money going forward.





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