Two more federal judges have ordered the Trump administration to restore funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs that were abruptly eliminated.
U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ decision was “arbitrary and capricious” when it axed $5 million in funding for the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore nonprofit Healthy Teen Network.
Another federal judge issued a similar order last week, ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services unlawfully cut the funding of four other programs. And on Tuesday, a judge ordered the department to restore the funding of three Planned Parenthood teen pregnancy programs that had filed suit.
In July, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting reported that after the high-level appointment of Valerie Huber, an abstinence-only advocate, the administration axed $213.6 million nationwide for the last two years of five-year grants.
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants had been awarded to 81 institutions and groups that target many high-risk teens. Some 1.2 million teenagers in 39 states received education and services, mainly through public schools.
In her ruling, Blake wrote, “HHS may have had a sufficient, lawful reason, for terminating the plaintiffs’ project period early, but because it failed to provide a reason in this case, or to meaningfully explain the factors it considered relevant to its decision, it is impossible to determine what was motivating the agency and whether that motivation was relevant at all. HHS’s decision was, therefore, arbitrary and capricious.”
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said the judge’s decision means that “we will be able to continue our work in reducing teen birth rates, which fell 61 percent in Baltimore City from 2000 to 2016.” She said the grants ensure teens receive “evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention education delivered by teachers specially trained.”
The Department of Health and Human Services expressed disappointment in the rulings and countered that the programs are not successful in reducing teen pregnancies.
“Continuing the program in its current state does a disservice to the youth it serves and to the taxpayers who fund it,” the department said in a statement. “Communities deserve better, and we are considering our next steps.”
Federal health officials have declined to say whether the funds would be restored to only the nine plaintiffs or whether it would restore all 81 grant holders.
On Friday, the department announced a new set of grants meant to replace the ones it had tried to eliminate. These grants will focus on programs stressing abstinence-only, with no specific requirements for providing evidence that the programs work.