Oregon county sues Trump administration over sex ed funding
By TOM JAMES
Jun. 09, 2018
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Officials in Oregon's most populous county have filed a lawsuit against the administration of President Donald Trump, saying they aim to protect funding for sex education programs.
The lawsuit, filed Friday by Multnomah County in U.S. District Court, seeks to broadly block new guidelines from being used to distribute federal sex education funds, alleging they promote abstinence-based programs in violation of federal and state laws requiring funding go to programs proven to work.
If successful, the lawsuit could result in an injunction blocking the new guidelines nationwide, stopping them from being applied to any county or group asking for money from the program's main funding source, said Charisma Troiano, a representative for the attorneys representing the county.
The funds are part of the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention program, a $100 million initiative passed by Congress in 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services distributes the funds, and is the main target of the lawsuit. About $75 million of that money would be subject to the new guidelines.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but a statement on the agency's website said the new guidelines would help fund more programs, and "(ensure) all youth understand that teen sex is a risk behavior and that they always have the opportunity to make healthier choices in the future."
Multnomah County's receives about $1.25 million per year in funding delivered through program, which goes to both the county itself and nonprofits including Planned Parenthood.
Multnomah County's funding from the program was supposed to last through 2020, but the federal agency terminated it early, effective this year, and required the county to re-apply under new guidelines. In Friday's lawsuit, attorneys for the county say the new selection process prioritizes abstinence-based sex education.
The county said the emphasis on abstinence in the new guidelines would force county staff to violate state law requiring abstinence information be presented alongside information about contraceptives like condoms and birth control pills as well as how to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
A federal judge in April blocked the agency from cutting Teen Pregnancy Prevention funding given to Baltimore, and said Congress had required the agency to give out the funds based on programs' success in reducing teen pregnancy.
In their complaint Friday, Multnomah County's attorneys made a similar argument.
The suit also specifically targets Trump appointee Valerie Huber, chief of staff for the Office of Assistant Secretary of Health.
Before joining HHS, Huber headed Ascend, an advocacy group previously called the National Abstinence Education Association.
That organization opposes comprehensive sex education and advocates that adolescents be urged to practice "sexual risk avoidance" — a concept promoted in new federal guidelines.