Federal cuts to teen pregnancy prevention hit local organizations

FILE - Pregnant woman and her doctor (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Pregnant woman and her doctor (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Millions of dollars in federal funding cut from the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is impacting organizations like EngenderHealth, based in Austin. In Travis County, the teen pregnancy rate exceeds the state’s.

KXAN met with the organization to learn what toll this will take on its sexual health programs.

“We’ve never seen this happen before,” Jenifer DeAtley, the country director for EngenderHealth‘s U.S. Programs Office told KXAN, saying the cut came without warning. “Without these funds, these young people who are the most vulnerable are not getting the services they need.”

EngenderHealth will lose $4.6 million over the next four years, grant funding that benefits Central Texas programs. Another $8.6 million will be lost across the state.

“So it’s a pretty drastic realization that not only are we having to close programs but organizations will not be able to continue to sustain themselves moving forward,” DeAtley said, leaving organizations like EngenderHealth scrambling to figure out a game plan.

“We really don’t know where the funding cuts are coming from and why they’re happening,” she said. “We’ve been given an official statement from the Office of Adolescent Health that the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is not a priority of the administration moving forward.”

But it’s a priority for DeAtley and countless others baffled by the decision.

“As a mother myself with two school-aged children in the Austin school district, it’s really important for me that the community steps up and talks about how we really need to educate and prepare our youth for their future,” she said, talking about the importance of sexual health education to make informed decisions.

In Travis County, health officials are particularly concerned about the percentage of teenage births among Hispanics. A 2017 report found its 10 times higher than the percentage of teen births among Whites. Last year, KXAN reported similar research prompted the Austin Travis County Health Department to increase prevention efforts in 10 zip codes:

  • 78758
  • 78753
  • 78724
  • 78723
  • 78721
  • 78741
  • 78617
  • 78744
  • 78745
  • 78748

It was such a concern, six of the areas even have childcare specifically for teenagers with babies, some inside high schools.

On Friday, city, county and community organizations plan to come together in Austin for a strategic planning meeting on teen pregnancy prevention.

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