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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


King County sues federal government to restore funding for science-based teen pregnancy prevention

Summary

King County is challenging a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services decision to cancel federal teen pregnancy prevention grants that fund sexual health education developed by Public Health—Seattle & King County. The lawsuit is part of a national effort to push back against the politicization of public health initiatives.

Story

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court requests an injunction to block the administration from terminating the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants two years early – and to restrain federal officials from applying an ideological bias to deny science-based projects that have been rigorously vetted and already funded by Congress.

The federal grants have traditionally supported science-based approaches to health and sex education, including a five-year, $5 million competitive award for King County’s FLASH sex education curriculum. FLASH research is underway in schools in the Midwest and rural South, testing the impact on students' ability to delay sexual activity and to protect themselves from pregnancy and STD's.

In July, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced it was immediately cancelling the program two years early, cutting $2 million from King County, and effectively gutting the research – and ignoring the mandate of Congress, which has continually funded the program for nearly a decade.

The abrupt and early end to the teen pregnancy prevention funding makes it impossible to complete a vital evaluation of FLASH. The evaluation would objectively confirm whether the curriculum increases the number of students who are delaying sex and increases the use of birth control and condoms for those who choose to be sexually active.

An evidence-based curriculum helps local school boards justify the use of FLASH when there is growing pressure in some areas to use unproven and harmful ideological-based curriculum.

“The Trump administration had no legal right to eliminate the teen pregnancy prevention grants and block us from completing our research,” said Executive Constantine. “King County created FLASH, one of the most respected sexual health education programs in the nation. Pulling back the funding completely disregards science and evidence in favor of right-wing ideology that is out of touch with reality. We are fighting back to protect women’s and young people’s health, and to continue effective programs that meet our common goals.”

Teen pregnancy rates in King County are among the lowest in the nation – thanks in part to the widespread use of the FLASH curriculum. The teen birth rate has fallen from 21.5 per 1,000 in 2008 to a remarkably low 8.0 in 2016 – a 63 percent decline.

“This is a huge blow to our project, to all of the other teen pregnancy evaluations, and to the evidence base for sex education nationwide,” said Public Health Director Patty Hayes. “Our goal with FLASH is to improve the quality of what happens in classrooms across the nation and to protect our most vulnerable youth.”

In August, King County filed an appeal of the decision to cut the grant with HHS. To date, King County has received no response from HHS.

King County is represented in this suit by the national non-profit legal organization Democracy Forward. Information about other TPPP legal actions can be found here.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands also filed lawsuits today to preserve their teen pregnancy grants.

“This administration has a reckless disregard for science and data,” said Carole Miller, chief learning officer at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands.

“By eliminating funding for evidence-based programming and redirecting funds to abstinence only programs, we are setting ourselves up for failure. TPPP is popular; it does good work, and it has helped millions of young people stay safe and healthy. We are going to fight this in the court every step of the way because more than a million people benefit from these tools and resources, often in places where there are no other programs that help young people and families make smart decisions about their future.”


Relevant links


Quotes

The Trump administration had no legal right to eliminate the teen pregnancy prevention grants and block us from completing our research. King County created FLASH, one of the most respected sexual health education programs in the nation. Pulling back the funding completely disregards science and evidence in favor of right-wing ideology that is out of touch with reality. We are fighting back to protect women’s and young people’s health, and to continue effective programs that meet our common goals.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

This is a huge blow to our project, to all of the other teen pregnancy evaluations, and to the evidence base for sex education nationwide. Our goal with FLASH is to improve the quality of what happens in classrooms across the nation and to protect our most vulnerable youth.

Patty Hayes, director, Public Health - Seattle & King County 

This administration has a reckless disregard for science and data. By eliminating funding for evidence-based programming and redirecting funds to abstinence only programs, we are setting ourselves up for failure. TPPP is popular; it does good work, and it has helped millions of young people stay safe and healthy. We are going to fight this in the court every step of the way because more than a million people benefit from these tools and resources, often in places where there are no other programs that help young people and families make smart decisions about their future.

Carole Miller, chief learning officer, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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