Agency officials are eliminating sex-education grants created by former President Barack Obama because the grants did not lower teen birth rates, says a senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Trump administration is asking Congress to end funding for the TPP grants in the 2018 budget, while it renews funding for Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education, also known as abstinence-based education. Huber is the former co-founder, president, and CEO of Ascend, which promotes abstinence-based sex education.
In contrast, Obama did not request any funding for abstinence-based education in his 2017 budget. In fact, Obama’s final versions of TPP grants require training students to believe the new gender ideology which claims that a person’s biological sex is subordinate to the person’s self-declared “gender.” That ideology attempts to undermine the science-based civic understanding that there are only two equal and complementary biological sexes – male and female.
“The determination to ask for the elimination of this [TPP] program in the president’s budget came about for two reasons,” Huber says, explaining:
Number one, because they said actually in the budget that there is no proof to suggest that the TPP program was responsible for the drop in teen birth rates. And, that is despite the insistence of advocates that the teen pregnancy and teen birth rates had dropped precipitously in the last eight years, and certainly it must be because of the new TPP program, which also stood up in those very same eight years.
The second reason that we took this step, however, is because the research for this program is more than disappointing. It shows that this program has been ineffective. And, in fact, more than 70 percent of the program showed no impact or negative impact – which means that the communities that implemented these programs were promised that, if you implement these evidence-based programs, you can expect to achieve similar positive results in your community. And, so, in good faith a lot of these communities did just that – implemented them. And then – five years later – the research comes out and it shows – despite the promises, despite the narrative surrounding this program – it didn’t deliver.
Just prior to her appointment to her current post, Huber’s group Ascend noted that Trump’s proposed budget calls for “a dramatic change in federal sex education policy.”
Research has shown, the organization said, that more than 80% of students in the Obama-era TPP either fared worse or no better than their peers.
Additionally, Ascend observed, the numerous studies supporting Comprehensive Sex Education have produced results that “are not as compelling as they first appear.”
The group cites weaknesses in the research, as well as flawed metrics and ignorance of common research protocols.
“Currently, only 10 cents of every federal sex education dollar is devoted to SRA education,” Huber – still as Ascend’s president – said upon release of Trump’s budget. “With the elimination of the TPP program and maintenance of the Sexual Risk Avoidance Education Program, about 20 cents of every dollar will be devoted to SRA education.”
“The majority of teens have not had sex, far fewer than 25 years ago,” she added at the time.
In her new post, Huber acknowledges the nation has seen unprecedented decreases in teen birth rates, but states “those rates began their steep decline before the TPP program began.”
In addition to that, even if it began at the very same time and even if the TPP programs were shown to be 100 percent effective – which, of course, we know is not the case – but let’s assume for a moment they were. They still could not claim credit for this and it’s because the program serves so few students – between .15 percent and – being very, very generous – we’ll say 1 percent of youth are served in this program. You can neither take the blame or the credit for any population-wide change like that, particularly when you’re serving such a small percentage of that targeted population.
Huber notes that, despite her expertise in the area of sex education, the decision to end the grants for TPP was not made by just one person at HHS.
“We here at HHS looked at the evidence and saw that this program [TPP] was not delivering as promised,” she explained. “And, rather than continuing these grants to their completion – which would be a full five years – we notified the grantees that their July 1 grants would go forward, but for only one year, rather than for three more years. And that permits them, then, to prepare for and actually bring about a shutdown of that grant.”
Huber explains the history of TPP:
TPP was begun in 2010. President Obama’s first budget that he sent to Congress asked that the community-based abstinence education program – which was funded at over $100 million – be defunded and that those funds be diverted to this new program that he wanted to begin – the TPP. And Congress consented and, as a result, the Obama administration cut off – midstream – just under 175 programs from the community-based abstinence education program.
Our critics insist that our cutting the TPP grants short by two years was unprecedented, and that it had never occurred before, when, in fact, the TPP was begun by eliminating another program.
With Obama as a longstanding supporter of Planned Parenthood, and former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius an abortion advocate, it comes as no surprise that America’s largest provider of abortions and champion of artificial contraception received a significant number of grants to implement TPP.
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) June 11, 2017
In 2014, for example, Planned Parenthood announced that 15 of its affiliates across the country were awarded grants of some $19 million and were “recognized as leaders in teen pregnancy prevention” when they were selected by HHS “to receive new grant funding as part of President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative.”
“As the oldest, largest and most trusted provider of sex education and pregnancy prevention in the country, we are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with the Office of Adolescent Health, states, health departments and community based organizations to make sure young people get high-quality programs that work,” said Dr. Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
— Leslie Kantor, PhD (@LeslieKantor) August 27, 2017
Kantor, who is also assistant professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, actually told the Daily Mail last week that abstinence-based sex ed programs violate human rights.
“Young people have a right to sex education that gives them the information and skills they need to stay safe and healthy,” Kantor said. “Withholding critical health information from young people is a violation of their rights.”
“Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs leave all young people unprepared and are particularly harmful to young people who are sexually active, who are LGBTQ, or have experienced sexual abuse,” she added.
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) August 27, 2017
Kantor’s Planned Parenthood, however, may not impress some as the standard-bearer for human rights. The organization faces possible elimination of much of its taxpayer funds following years of scandals, including Medicaid fraud, allegations of child sex abuse cover-up, and, most recently, alleged profiteering from the sale of body parts of babies aborted in its clinics.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood’s own annual report shows that its abortions and profits have increased while its total number of patients and many of its non-abortion services – including contraception, prenatal care, and cancer screenings – have decreased.
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) August 26, 2017
Kantor co-authored a paper that condemned abstinence-based sex-ed programs with Dr. John Santelli – also of Columbia University – in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“The weight of scientific evidence shows these programs do not help young people delay initiation of sexual intercourse,’ Santelli said, reports the Daily Mail. “While abstinence is theoretically effective, in actual practice, intentions to abstain from sexual activity often fail.”
“These programs simply do not prepare young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases,” he added.
Santelli’s bias regarding abstinence-based sex education, however, was on display in April of 2008, when Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) asked panelists – among them Santelli – at a congressional hearing about conditions for funding abstinence-based education.
“I have one other question I’d like to ask you and I just want a yes or no answer from each member of the panel,” Foxx said. “If provided evidence abstinence education programs are as – or more – effective than comprehensive sex education, would you support optional federal funding for such programs?”
Santelli was among those panelists who responded, “No.”
“To me, I think this shows the situation that we’re dealing with here,” Foxx concluded.
Huber states that HHS intends to ensure parents are included in its sex ed model program. Currently, TPP or CSE programs often provide a cursory mention of parental involvement in sex education, but most of the proponents of these programs also advocate in favor of teen confidentiality for contraception and abortion, and against parental consent laws.
“We realize that, for years, surveys of youth return with the same answer when asked, ‘Who do you want to learn information regarding dating or sex or related issues from? Where do you want to learn that?’” Huber explains, adding:
Time and time again, the response is “parents.” Parents are number one, more than peers, more than any other group. And, among younger teens, it’s even more pronounced than it is for older teens, though it’s still the majority.
So, it stands to reason then, that if we want to affect positive behavior change among those who are making unhealthy choices, or reinforce healthy decisions already underway in others, we need to engage and involve parents.
“That is currently not a meaningful piece in the TPP program, and it should be,” she asserts. “Now, what that looks like exactly, we don’t know, but we want to learn, and, so, these intervening months are going to help us answer those questions, so that we’ll be better prepared to genuinely help America’s youth with this program should Congress choose to continue it.”
“And, if they defund it, this will not be research that is wasted,” Huber adds. “We can take the lessons learned and apply them across the board to the youth-serving programs here at HHS.”
Huber addresses the criticism that, by ending the TPP grants, HHS is doing an end-run around Congress:
Some would say HHS is circumventing Congress, and only Congress can end this program. And, of course, we agree. We’re ending this grant, we’re not ending the program. And, of course, the president’s budget asks for it to be defunded. But should Congress choose to continue to fund this program, then, of course, we will continue the program, but it will not look like it currently looks. A program that is compromising the health and well-being of youth should not continue in its current form. And, so, we’re using this intervening year to look at the evidence, to assess where the problem lies in this program, why it has had such poor results, and exactly what is being taught to our young people.
We want to look at the broad scope of social science research that will help to inform a restructuring within the congressional mandate for this program, should it continue, and do all we can to make sure that young people receive not only the information, but the skills and encouragement to avoid risk and to successfully navigate adolescence into adulthood.
“And we know we have much to learn, but we know that the current course is not the way that is going to improve their opportunity to achieve that,” Huber concludes.