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Virginia Politics
Posted at 12:36 PM ET, 01/16/2012

McDonnell proposes eliminating Virginia funding for teen pregnancy centers

We know about the big proposals in Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s budget — shifting millions of dollars from public schools and health care to pension reform, higher education and transportation.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has proposed eliminating funding for a program that offers sex education and birth control to teenagers. (Tracy A. Woodward - The Washington Post)

But there are thousands of other recommendations — big and small — in the $85 billion two-year budget.

Here’s one abortion rights activists don’t much like:

McDonnell (R) wants to eliminate funding — $455,000 — for pregnancy prevention programs across the state that offer sex education and birth control to teenagers.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative funds programs at schools and clinics in seven health districts, including Alexandria, which have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the state.
McDonnell’s administration says that the money is being discontinued because the initiative has not worked — and that the localities continue to experience pregnancy rates above the state average.

Although Virginia’s teen pregnancy rate is below the national average, 28 cities and counties are above the national average. In 2010, 10,970 teen pregnancies were reported in Virginia.

“The elimination of this long-standing health program could have serious consequences for women and girls’ health,” said Katherine Greenier, director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia. “Teens need good information and services to make informed, healthy choices. To ensure a decline in teen pregnancy rates continue we must provide teens with the necessary information, education and resources.’’

The program worked with 4,642 teens in fiscal 2010, including those at the Teen Wellness Center at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, which serves youths 12 to 19.

Alexandria officials, who are also concerned, are lobbying to have the money restored. Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria) has introduce an amendment to the budget to restore the money statewide.

McDonnell’s office says the state Department of Health has recently been awarded several federal grants that promote maternal and child health, including $3.7 million to pay for home visits in certain communities and $4.5 million to support pregnant and parenting student services at participating colleges and universities.

Other programs that address maternal and child health include those that provide health information to pregnant women and new mothers and that train student peer counselors at colleges to develop community-based projects to reduce infant mortality.

 “This administration is focused on making state government more efficient and effective,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. “That means looking at every state program to determine if it is actually a wise and prudent use of limited state resources. Given this program’s failure to change teen pregnancy rates in the respective communities, and the lack of a strong ongoing program evaluation, the administration believes there is a better use for these monies and other evidence-based methods that may find greater success. We are focused on ensuring that state funding is provided for programs that are proven to work. In these tough economic times, we must make sure that limited state dollars are used on programs and policies that are successful and effective.”

The General Assembly will consider McDonnell’s budget recommendations during its 60-day session, which started last week. Legislators have the power to overhaul or ignore his 483-page plan.

In fiscal 2010, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative money was reduced by $155,000, according to the state. The next year, funding fell an additional $237,000.

By  |  12:36 PM ET, 01/16/2012

 
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