By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – Planned Parenthood, other organizations and a Washington state county filed lawsuits on Thursday challenging a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to defund more than $200 million in teen pregnancy prevention programs.
The four lawsuits in federal courts in Washington state, Maryland and the District of Columbia seek to have funding reinstated for programs that the groups say serve 1.2 million young people.
Those suing include affiliates of Planned Parenthood; Washington’s King County, which includes Seattle and its suburbs; and Baltimore-based Healthy Teen Network.
The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuits center on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which Congress created in 2010 during the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama. It provides grants for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.
HHS currently funds 84 grants. Since the program’s inception, the teen birth rate in the United States has fallen 41 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to one of the lawsuits.
But in July, the department under the Republican Trump’s administration told recipients of 81 of the five-year grants that it would be terminating their agreements two years early. The remaining three were terminated in September, the groups say.
Affiliates of Planned Parenthood, a non-profit that provides contraception, health screenings and abortions, in their lawsuit called the decision part of the Trump’s administration’s “broader political agenda against sexual and reproductive health and evidence-based and science-based programs.”
The lawsuit said the early termination equals a loss of more than $200 million in funding and will mean depriving thousands of teenagers of information and education that could help them make decisions about their health.
The lawsuits seek injunctions barring the grants from being terminated based on claims the department failed to follow proper administrative procedures and that it violated the U.S. Constitution by endorsing religion.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)