SPOKANE, Wash. – Several affiliates of Planned Parenthood sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday over its efforts to impose an abstinence-only focus on its Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program that has served more than 1 million young people.
The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in New York City and Spokane, Washington, by four different Planned Parenthood affiliates covering New York City and the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska and Washington.
Planned Parenthood says the lawsuits are intended to protect the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program from what they termed ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculums.
“Young people have the right to the information and skills they need to protect their health,” Dawn Laguens said in a press release, vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The Trump-Pence administration is trying to impose their abstinence-only agenda on young people across the country.”
Evidence shows such programs do not work, Laguens said.
An email sent to the Health and Human Services public relations office was not immediately answered on Friday.
In previous court documents, the agency has said it has the right to change its funding priorities.
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program has served about 1.2 million teens in 39 states since it started in 2010. The Trump administration in April announced it would remake the program to push abstinence-only counseling.
Last year, the agency informed recipients of 81 teen pregnancy prevention grants that it would terminate their grant agreements two years early, meaning this year. That decision was made after President Trump appointed Valerie Huber as chief of staff for the Office of Assistant Secretary of Health.
After her appointment, Huber wrote an article decrying the lack of federal funding for abstinence education and questioned the effectiveness of teen pregnancy prevention grants.
In April, a federal judge in Spokane blocked the Trump administration from cutting the grants. Judges in Seattle, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., have made similar rulings.
Supporters of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program credit it with helping to lower the teen pregnancy rate 41 percent since 2010. But the agency has issued past statements calling the program ineffective.
Congress created the $110 million program in 2010 to support and develop evidence-based ways to reduce teen pregnancy. In 2015, HHS awarded the 81 grants that were to last five years.
The lawsuits were filed by Planned Parenthood of New York City; Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands; Planned Parenthood of the Heartland; and Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.
They contend that abstinence-only programs can contain false and misleading information and stigmatize teens who have sex.
“Most people have had sex by the time they’re 18,” Planned Parenthood said in a press release.
In addition to the agency, the lawsuits name as defendants HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Huber.