Federal judge rules HHS unlawfully ended teen pregnancy prevention grant funding

A fifth federal judge has ruled against the Department of Health of Human Services’ decision to end a grant program aimed at curbing teen pregnancy.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday decided in favor of the plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the agency.

The suit was filed in April by Healthy Futures of Texas, a nonprofit that aims to reduce teen and unplanned pregnancies, on behalf of itself and 61 other “similarly situated” organizations. All of the organizations had received five-year program grants from HHS’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, but were informed last summer that their funding would end two years early on June 30, 2018.

Jackson ruled that HHS’s early termination of the funding was unlawful and ordered the department to proceed “as if the agency had not undertaken to shorten these grantees’ federal awards.”

“With this decision, our youth now have the chance for better health, educational attainment and economic opportunities that will change their lives,” Evelyn Delgado, the president and CEO of Healthy Futures of Texas, said in a statement.

Brown’s decision is the fifth such ruling against HHS on the issue, coming on the heels of a ruling out of Washington state earlier this week. The five district court decisions mean that virtually all of the 84 grant recipients will have their funding restored.

“There’s really no legal action left at the district court level,” Sean Sherman, an attorney for Public Citizen Litigation Group who represented the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, told CNN. “All of the courts have now said unanimously that all of these terminations were unlawful.”

HHS did not immediately reply to a CNN request for comment on the latest decision or on whether the agency plans to appeal any of the rulings.

Last summer, the Trump administration decided to end grant funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. In an August statement, the department said it was reviewing best approaches after evaluating the first round of initiatives from the grant funding. The program was created by a congressional directive in 2010 to fund youth-focused programs and study their effectiveness in curbing adolescent pregnancy.