In adverse times such as these, we often feel like we’re fighting an uphill battle. From members of our community being detained by ICE, to allies being killed or hurt for standing up and doing the right thing, our community and others like us face bigotry and fear everyday. And, unfortunately, our national government often reflects this intolerance.
At Latino Network, we will continue to fight for equality, choose love over hate, and stand up for our community - regardless of the circumstance.
On July 14, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified the Multnomah County Health Department that it will cut the last two years of a five-year Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), even though the federal budget for fiscal year 2018 has not been finalized. This program has the dual goal of reducing rates of unintended pregnancy and STIs among African American, Latino, and Native American young people.
Latino Network was one of 5 local organizations to receive the news that this funding - a total of $6.25 million over five years - will come to an end two years early. The program, called Adolescents and Communities Together (ACT - the local TPPP for Multnomah County), provides culturally relevant comprehensive sexuality education to approximately 3000 young people and 200 parents each year in Multnomah County.
So, how will funding cuts affect the program and its participants? The answer is unsettling: Latino Network and our partner organizations need to find alternative funding in order to make ACT possible.
ACT is a crucial program for our community: Comprehensive sexuality education provides young people with the tools to make informed decisions and build healthy relationships, and encourages healthy family communication about sexuality.
Cuts to programs like ACT will take this away from thousands of young people and families across the country, including those in our own community in Portland.
The future of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs (TPPP) like ACT is still unclear. Many lawmakers from the Pacific Northwest - including Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Earl Blumenaeur (D-OR), and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) - have openly condemned this preemptive decision, saying that it will put young people and women at risk and that it goes against evidence-based policymaking.
Needless to say, although many lawmakers are fighting to keep TPPP in the national budget, Latino Network and our partners are nonetheless taking the steps to prepare for the worst and search for funding elsewhere. We remain committed to this work because the science and evidence for programs like ACT are clear: Providing young people with comprehensive sexuality education and access to birth control does not increase sexual behaviors. Rather, it empowers young people to make healthy and responsible decisions for when they do become sexually active.
Comprehensive sexuality education is a basic human right. And although we are devastated about this recent setback, we will continue to fight to make programs like these possible for all young people and families in our community. We will also continue to inform you - our familia - about updates regarding sexuality education funding.