Hennepin County files lawsuit against U.S. government over teen pregnancy prevention program funding

Hennepin County, Minnesota has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the agency’s decision to terminate its teen pregnancy prevention program funding ahead of schedule. 

The lawsuit alleges HHS unlawfully terminated Hennepin County’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grant two years early. Hennepin County is currently completing the third year of their five-year grant, which has funded sex education programs and clinic outreach. The $1.5 million annual grant is now set to expire on June 30, 2018, rather than June 30, 2020. 

“HHS’ premature termination of Hennepin County’s grant means that thousands of youth in the county’s communities with the highest teen birth rates and social and racial disparities will not receive evidence-based sexual health education, and that approximately $3 million in federal funds will not go to support community-based health educators over the next two years,” the lawsuit states. “Hennepin County estimates that approximately 20 of these health educators will face layoffs as a result of the early grant termination.” 

The Hennepin County lawsuit is the eighth lawsuit filed against HHS in recent weeks. District courts in Baltimore, Spokane, Wash. and Washington, D.C. ruled in April that the federal government violated the law by terminating the local grants early.

Hennepin County cites a 645 percent reduction in teen birth rates since 2007, attributed to concentrated work in the communities of Brooklyn Center, north Minneapolis, central Minneapolis, Richfield and Robbinsdale -- areas that experience the highest rates of teen pregnancy and poverty disparities in the county.

In 2007, the Hennepin County program recorded 1,152 teen mother between the ages of 15 and 19. In 2016, the most recent data year, that number had fallen to 418 new teen moms. 

“Hennepin County’s teen pregnancy prevention efforts are working,” the lawsuit states.

Hennepin County’s lawsuit seeks to recover the teen pregnancy program funding through 2020.