Donald Trump has silently gutted $213.6 million in funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs and research in larger efforts to push for abstinence-only education nationally.
Eighty-one programs that received five year grants from the Obama Administration in 2015 were recently notified by the Office of Adolescent Health that their grants would be cut short by two years. They explained that the new administration had shifting priorities and that these grant-dependent programs and research projects would stop receiving funds through June 2018.
Although teen birth rates in the U.S. were at a record-low in 2014, the national rate still remains the highest among industrialized nations, especially among teens of color.
The abrupt cuts are no surprise when considering that the head of the Office of Adolescent Health, Valerie Huber, is a fierce supporter of abstinence-only education. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has also previously voted to defund Planned Parenthood and against healthcare measures that would require insurance to cover contraceptives.
According to Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, health officials say that the sudden cuts in the middle of long-term research projects is “highly unusual and wasteful” because it invalidates any of their findings. Researchers ultimately won’t have the funds to adequately analyze their data or incorporate it into tangible resources.
The affected programs are a part of the Obama-era Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, created to conduct and utilize research to help teens make healthy decisions to avoid unplanned pregnancies, which disproportionately affects teens of color.
How might these cuts affect teens of color?
Teen birth rates are falling, and among teens of color, they’re dropping at an even faster rate. While the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy suggests that access to convenient and easier to use birth control methods is contributing to the decreasing rates, state and federal programs can also be credited in curbing unplanned teen pregnancies.
According to the National Campaign’s Chief Program Officer Bill Albert in a HuffPost article, Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative has been successful in helping decrease birth rates since it “funds programs that have been proven to work.”
But although pregnancy and birth rates for Black and Latina teens have dropped significantly in the past two decades, both groups remain almost twice as likely to become pregnant between ages 15 and 19 than White teens.
According to the National Campaign To Prevent Teen And Unplanned Pregnancy, teens of color are more likely to become pregnant because of factors such as socioeconomic status and education access. Teens of color may not be able to afford contraceptives to prevent STDs and pregnancy or understand how to use them.
The Trump Administration could ultimately hinder progress that has been made in curbing the teen pregnancy and birth rate. Research has continuously shown that abstinence-only education is ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy, yet the administration still plans to dedicate $277 million to abstinence-only programs.
Along with continued GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and coverage of contraceptives, the outcome could be most problematic for teens of color, who have largely benefited from prevention programs.
The Center for Disease Control’s Division Of Reproductive Health emphasizes how important it is that teen pregnancy prevention programs are targeted to audiences of diverse background in order to better resonate with them. But without funding for these type of programs, teens of color, who already disproportionately experience teen pregnancy, may be affected the most.