CHICAGO — An effort by city health officials to find the best ways to help teens avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases will end two years early after the Trump administration moved to end an Obama-era program, costing the city $2 million.
Ending the program early will mean the effort to figure out the best way to stop Chicago Public Schools students from experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted infection or engaging in risky sexual behavior will end, and the work already completed will be useless for scientific study, officials said.
"Though [the Chicago Department of Health] will continue to provide the same services, this move severely undermines our ability to ensure our programs are the most effective they can be and in turn could reverse the historic gains our young people have made," said Anel Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the Health Department.
In May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office touted the success of the effort, which officials dubbed the CHAT Program, for helping to push teen birth rates to an historic low in Chicago.
In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 32 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 in Chicago, more than a 62 percent drop from the 85.2 rate in 1999, officials said.
Nationally, about 25 percent of U.S. girls become pregnant by age 20, which is much higher than in other industrialized nations, especially in among poor and minority teens.
The CHAT Program has provided sexual health education to more than 32,000 youths and screened more than 18,000 youths in high schools, colleges and community-based organizations, according to the city.
The program focuses on expectant and parenting teens; lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer teens; as well as black and Latino teens. The grant — originally set to be $5 million over five years — also evaluated the impact of one-on-one counseling sessions at schools as well as disease screenings and referrals to additional services.
The grant to Chicago was included in a $213.6 million program designed to reduce teen pregnancy that funded programs at more than 80 institutions around the country. The decision by the Trump administration to end the program two years early was first reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
The Department of Health and Human Services refused to comment on the move in the center's initial report. But HHS Secretary Tom Price has a long record of opposing the use of taxpayer funds to pay for any form of birth control and pushing abstinence-only programs to combat teen pregnancies.