March 20, 2019

The Trump administration Tuesday dropped its appeal of an Oregon federal court ruling that found it unlawfully pulled money from effective and evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants and spent it on unproven, abstinence-only programs instead.

“This is great news. We don’t have to waste any more time fighting in court, and can get on with the important work we have to do,” said Kim Toevs, Multnomah County’s director of Youth Sexual Health Equity.

Kim Toevs, director of Youth Sexual Health Equity, announces the lawsuit to protect sex ed

County program staff worked with community partners on the lawsuit, brought last June by Democracy Forward and Pacifica Law Group on behalf of the County. A federal court ruled two months later that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flouted congressional mandates by issuing unlawful new criteria for prospective grant recipients. The Trump Administration vowed to challenge the order, but dropped its appeal Tuesday.

Toevs thanked her staff, community partners and the legal teams that volunteered their time. She said they did it to protect kids across the country.

“We all understood that nationally it was really important to hold the line,” she said, “that if Congress appropriates money for science-based approaches to public health problems, that the administration can’t override that with a moral slant.”

Democracy Forward has brought multiple cases against the Trump administration to protect the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which serves more than 1 million teens across America. In each case, the administration has lost and agreed to drop all appeals.

“This is another victory for the health of America’s teens and for evidence-based public policy,” said Anne Harkavy, executive director of Democracy Forward. “We remain concerned that the administration will keep trying to divert funds to abstinence-only programs, but these rulings are a flashing sign saying, ‘Stop trying to skirt the law.’”

Despite the court rulings and the government’s decision not to appeal, advocates worry the administration will continue to surreptitiously and unlawfully spend Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program funds. In a December letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Azar, members of Congress expressed concern that the administration may be bypassing court orders by using a third-party government contractor to direct federal funds toward abstinence-only programs.

In January 2019, Democracy Forward took the administration to court for stonewalling in releasing records that could show whether HHS unlawfully expended TPP Program funds yet again.