By Elizabeth Marcellino
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors denounced cuts to federal funding to prevent teen pregnancies.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended sending a letter to the acting secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the county’s representatives in Congress in opposition to ending a five-year, $10 million teen pregnancy prevention program two years early.
“The federal government found $1.4 trillion for a tax cut for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, but now they want to cut $4 million to end a successful health education program that helps underserved youth make responsible decisions with their lives,” Solis said.
In July, the Trump administration cut $213.6 million in funding for 80-plus organizations managing teen pregnancy prevention.
Asked to explain the changes, DHHS ultimately issued a statement saying the “very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs stands in stark contrast to the promised results, jeopardizing the youth who were served.”
Some opponents of the cuts viewed them as a move by officials with a conservative political agenda to limit access to birth control for teens and rely on abstinence-only sex education. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy called the cuts “contrary to science, common sense, and to the realities of young people in our country.”
In November, DHHS announced a $10 million research project “to support and improve teen pregnancy prevention and sexual risk avoidance programs” by seeking “scientific and data-driven answers.”
Teen pregnancy rates are at record lows, with births down by nearly two-thirds since a peak in 1990, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, rebranded as Power to Decide.
Advocates of prevention programs said those numbers are low precisely because efforts to educate teens are working. If education comes to a halt, taxpayers will end up paying more, they say. A 2011 study by the Brookings Institution found that taxpayers spend roughly $12 billion annually on unintended pregnancies through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Locally, the “Keeping It Real Together” program is run by the county’s Department of Public Health and the University of Southern California.
Solis said 23 to 55 middle schools in the Los Angeles and Compton unified school districts would be hurt by the cuts.
Organizations were given until June of this year to find other resources. Adjustments could still come as part of the federal budget.
DHS will report back in 60 days on other potential sources of funding for KIRT, which also aims to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, which are at an all-time high.