Yet many providers are bracing for cuts. They say GOP-led legislatures are likely to shift the focus of teen pregnancy-prevention to abstinence-only sex education. “Certainly when we've had Republicans in the White House and Republican-controlled houses of Congress there's been more support for abstinence-only programs,” said Nicole Cushman, executive director for Answer, a national organization that trains teachers and other professionals to provide sex education for youth.
GOP majorities in the House and Senate routinely proposed funding cuts to programs that provide contraception and screening for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Only a threatened veto from President Obama saved the programs. More than 4 million low-income and uninsured individuals received services under the programs during the Obama years.
It is still unclear where the Trump administration will take the issue. According to the New York Times, the president-elect plans to delegate responsibility for reproductive health issues to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the conservative governor of Indiana.
Last March Pence signed an anti-abortion law in Indiana that makes it a criminal act to seek an abortion based on the fetus being diagnosed with a genetic disorder. Pence has also sought to defund Planned Parenthood, which resulted in the closing of a number of clinics in the state and the loss of preventive health services such as access to contraception for low-income individuals.
“The same lawmakers that tend to support restrictions on reproductive rights and access to abortion also have tended to favor abstinence-only programs and to oppose more comprehensive approaches to sex education,” Cushman said.
Indeed, that's exactly what advocates for abstinence-only education expect from the new administration. “We are hoping that the Trump administration gives the sexual risk-avoidance approach, also known as abstinence education, a stronger acceptance in both the policy and the funding levels than the past administration has offered,” said Mary Anne Mosack, national director of state initiatives for Ascend, formerly known as the National Abstinence Education Association.
Mosack said the launch of Obama's TPPI effectively ended more than two decades of bipartisan support for sexual risk-avoidance education. There were 169 such programs prior to 2010, she said.
Of course, no one knows what impact returning to that approach will have on teen pregnancy rates. England in Arizona believes greater awareness of the unfavorable economics of teen pregnancy and a culture shift away from early childbearing had a greater impact on reducing the rate of teen childbirths than reproductive health education.
“What will happen if these programs get defunded is we will have a large national experiment, and we'll see what the impact was,” England said.