While the world was busy watching the Russia controversy unfold, the Trump administration cut millions in federal funding aimed at preventing teen pregnancy.
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Since taking office, the Trump administration has made several policy changes that put serious pressure on women's health rights: access to affordable birth control and life-saving screenings and treatments are at the top of that list. And now, their latest move is cutting $213 million in federal funding for research aimed at preventing teen pregnancy.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just declared an end to grants issued by the Obama administration specifically designed to research scientifically proven ways of preventing teen pregnancy, according to Reveal , an investigative journalism organization. The decision cuts funding from some 80 programs around the country, including those at Johns Hopkins University, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, and the Chicago Department of Public Health. The programs focused on issues such as teaching parents how to talk to teens about sex, and testing for sexually transmitted infections, reports Reveal. For the record, none of the programs dealt with abortion.
Teen pregnancy rates are currently at an all-time low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why? As you might have inferred, research suggests that teens are delaying sexual activity and using birth control more often. So, it's no surprise that the CDC says it "supports the implementation of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs that have been shown, in at least one program evaluation, to have a positive effect on preventing teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, or sexual risk behaviors." However, it's these very programs that took the hit from these budget cutbacks.
"We took decades of research on how to effectively approach prevention and have applied it on a large scale nationally," Luanne Rohrbach, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Southern California, and director of a now-defunded program researching sexual education strategies in Los Angeles middle schools, told Reveal. "We're not out there doing what feels good. We're doing what we know is effective. There are a lot of data from the program to show that it works."
The administration's newest cuts could have huge implications on teen pregnancy rates, which have seen steady declines in the past several years. Plus, the news comes midway through five-year grants, which means not only will these researchers not be able to continue their work, but what they have collected during the first half of their research could be useless unless they have the ability to analyze that data and test theories.
Meanwhile, ob-gyns aren't optimistic about what it will mean for women if the Trump administration continues to pursue its efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. Not only do doctors predict a rise in teen pregnancy, they worry about a rise in illegal abortions, lack of care for low-income women, an increase in death from preventable diseases such as cervical cancer, lack of treatment for STIs, risks to the health of newborn babies, and IUDs becoming less and less accessible. All of that sure sounds like it's worth some federal funding to us.