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By Stephen Wynne, ChurchMilitant, April 23, 2018
WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) – The Trump administration is plotting a new course for an Obama-era sex-ed funding mechanism.
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a major reorientation of its Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program toward abstinence-focused education.
Designed to “give youth the information and skills that will enable them to prevent pregnancy and related risks, in order to successfully navigate from adolescence into adulthood,” TPP funnels federal funds to programs targeting teen pregnancy.
Since its 2010 launch under President Obama, the program has lavished hundreds of millions of dollars on schools and communities promoting “comprehensive sex-education” programs.
But in the waning days of Obama’s presidency, an HHS five-year assessment revealed that most TPP-funded initiatives generated no statistically significant changes in adolescent sexual behavior and some even sparked increases in the very behaviors they were designed to prevent.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar
In August 2017, HHS issued a press statement on its findings, declaring that “of the 37 funded and evaluated projects, 73 percent either had no impact or had a negative impact on teen behavior, with some teens more likely to begin having sex, to engage in unprotected sex or to become pregnant.”
“Very few positive results were sustained over time,” it noted.
The statement observed that “Of greatest interest are the 18-funded projects that replicated curricula found on the TPP program’s approved list and for which the TPP program promised positive results.”
“Fourteen of the 18 projects (78 percent) produced no impact or negative impact on teen behavior, three had mixed results, and only one showed sustained positive effect,” it added.
Health and Human Services noted that the rate of decline in teen pregnancy began in 1992, “prior to the start of the TPP program.”
“Further, the TPP program only serves between 0.15 percent and 1 percent of the teen population,” it added. “In other words, even if the program were proven effective, at least 99 percent of the teen population is not served by the TPP program.”
The statement summarized the department’s findings unreservedly: “The TPP program is not working.”
“Given the strong evidence of negative impact or no impact for these programs, continuing the TPP program in its current state is not a reasonable option,” it declared. “The evidence stands in stark contrast to the promised results, jeopardizing the youth who were served, while also proving to be a poor use of more than $800 million in taxpayer dollars.”
Projects will clearly communicate that teen sex is a risk behavior for both the physical consequences of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; as well as sociological, economic and other related risks.
The omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2018 earmarks more than $100 million for TPP.
Last week’s announcement requires TPP recipients to follow one of two abstinence-themed programs: one using a “sexual risk reduction model” designed to reduce risk behaviors and another using a “sexual risk avoidance model” teaching adolescents to avoid sex completely.
“Projects will clearly communicate that teen sex is a risk behavior for both the physical consequences of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as well as sociological, economic and other related risks,” HHS declared Friday.
In his first year as president, Trump appointed dedicated pro-life advocates to HHS, including Valerie Huber, a longstanding advocate of value-based sex education, as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health for HHS; Charmaine Yoest, former president of Americans United for Life, as assistant secretary of public affairs for HHS; and Teresa Manning, former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee and legislative analyst for the Family Research Council, as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs.
Since then, the department has undergone a major philosophical shift.
Last October, for example, HHS recognized that life begins at conception — a major break with Obama-era policy. That same month, Trump exempted religious groups from the Obamacare contraception mandate, an HHS rule requiring all employers to pay for employees’ contraceptives and abortifacients.
In January, HHS announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, charged with protecting the rights of health care providers refusing to perform, accommodate or assist in sterilizations, abortions, assisted suicide, euthanasia and other procedures that violate their religious beliefs.