July 26, 2017 In The News, Media

Teen Vogue: Congressman Marc Veasey Denounces Trump’s Grant Cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

In this op-ed, Congressman Marc Veasey’s outlines how the Trump Administration’s grant cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program are detrimental to future generations of young women and men.

As a parent, I share some basic goals for my son Adam as many parents do — I want my child to be safe, healthy, and have every tool he needs to build a bright future.

One of those tools is comprehensive sex education and access to family planning. For decades, these services have helped teens stay safe and healthy — and we have the numbers to prove it. Rates of unintended pregnancy among teens in the U.S. have reached a historic low, and more young people are delaying sexual activity and using birth control when they do have sex. This progress was not made by chance or by withholding accurate, lifesaving information from young people.

So why would the Trump administration take steps to roll back progress we have made as a country and cut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) with no explanation? Why is this administration setting young people up to fail?

In Dallas and Tarrant county, I’ve seen how education about sexual health, communication skills, and relationships can empower teens to make healthy decisions. Isaiah Merritt, from Dallas, spent more than 150 hours as a volunteer peer educator with Planned Parenthood, learning the facts about birth control and STDs so that he could educate his peers about ‘the real things kids in high school face.’ For students like Diane at Tarrant County College, information from Planned Parenthood helped her access affordable STD and pregnancy tests, receive counseling after being a victim of sexual abuse, and find the resources she needed to schedule an abortion through a non-related clinic. Stories like Isaiah and Diane’s aren’t unique. They can be heard all across the nation from young people who voluntarily look for reliable information and support when it comes to their own personal health.

Every young person deserves to be armed with accurate information about how to protect themselves and build healthy relationships. They shouldn’t have to rely on hearsay or the dark corners of the internet when they have questions. They should have the support they need from their families, schools, and health care experts in their communities to set goals for their future and decide for themselves if and when they want to become a parent.

Decades of studies have shown that not only does sex education work, but it’s popular. Sex education is supported by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — and by a majority of Americans, including more than 90 percent of parents.

Yet, the administration just abruptly cut off $213 million in TPPP funds. These cuts create uncertainty that can impact the effectiveness and viability of sex education and reproductive health care programs that people depend on. ​ And the House Republicans Labor, Health and Human Services, Education funding bill proposes to completely eliminate the program for fiscal year 2018.​

Even more alarming is that the administration is cutting funding for evidence-based programs while funneling $277 million in taxpayer money to ineffective abstinence-only programs. Time and time again, studies have shown that programs telling young people to not have sex does not work.

Abstinence-only programs withhold critical information about birth control and condoms, and worse, often distort the facts. These programs leave teens at risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In particular, young people who are sexually active have an immediate need for accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health and how to protect themselves.

These attacks on sex education come as this administration has targeted access to family planning and reproductive health care at every turn —targeting the Title X family planning program, attacking health care at Planned Parenthood, eliminating maternity care for women and new moms under Trumpcare, and now the Trump administration is coming after the very programs that provide young people with the knowledge and tools to reach their goals.

These attacks hurt marginalized communities — like people of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes — the most. Young people of color not only have worse access to reproductive health care — they also have worse health outcomes as well as higher rates of unintended pregnancy.

The young people in my district cannot afford these political games. Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation. The Dallas area, for example, had teen pregnancy rates 50 percent above the national average. This results in significant costs to the state: in 2010, the public cost of teen childbearing in Texas was $1.1 billion. Therefore, it is imperative that this program continue so that young people are empowered to make the best decisions based off their personal beliefs and have the agency to start a family on their own terms.

Evidence-based sex education programs like those made possible by the TPPP can help teens delay sex, as well as use condoms and birth control when they do have sex. Information about and access to birth control is critical to helping young people achieve their goals.

The administration is playing a political game with taxpayer money. The people who will pay the price are our children.

Congressman Marc Veasey proudly represents Texas’ Congressional District 33 in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Tonya, live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area and have an 11-year-old son, Adam.