Political appointees spearheaded cuts to HHS teen pregnancy prevention program: 6 things to know

Documents show political appointees at HHS played a key role in the decision to cut funding for the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention program established under former President Barack Obama, according to The Hill.

Here are six things to know.

1. The political appointees' actions came to light in internal emails and memos obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request issued by nonprofit group Democracy Forward.

2. The documents indicate the three appointees decided to end grants for the program two years early, despite objections by career officials, according to the report. The appointees are Valerie Huber, who was appointed chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health at HHS and previously was president and CEO of Ascend, which promotes abstinence among teens; anti-abortion activist Teresa Manning, who abruptly resigned from her role as head of HHS' family planning programs in January; and Steven Valentine, Ms. Huber's deputy chief of staff who previously worked for Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

3. Five-year grants designed to help prevent teen pregnancy are now slated to end June 30 instead of 2020 as initially expected, according to the report. The move affects more than 80 U.S. institutions, which received notification from the federal government. The Hill reports lost funding due to the decision totals about $200 million.

4. Evelyn Kappeler, a career official and director of the HHS Office of Adolescent Health, claims in memos she and other career staff didn't find out the grants were being cancelled until "last minute." In the memos, Ms. Kappeler also claims an HHS official became angry when she asked about the funding, and that career staff in her office were not encouraged to make recommendations related to the TPP program, according to the report. Additionally, Ms. Kappeler claims she was not involved in the decision to cancel the grants.

5. The TPP program, established in 2010, funds 84 grants to communities in various categories, including implementing evidence-based programs targeting teen pregnancy prevention, according to the HHS website. According to the report, the program primarily focuses on safe sex, which has sparked criticism from abstinence proponents.

6. An HHS spokesperson in a previous interview with The Hill attributed the program funding cuts to "very weak evidence" of positive effect. According to the report, some organizations have legally challenged the cuts.

Read the full report here.


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