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ICYMI, nine organizations including Planned Parenthood, King County Health Department in Seattle, and the Healthy Teen Network are suing the Trump-Pence administration for illegally cutting the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) — an evidence-based, science-based program that serves more than a million young people. Instead, Trump wants to expand the role of dangerous and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs.

The administration’s decision to end TPPP instantly jeopardizes the health and education of people like Julie Liles and her teenage daughter, Emily. They live in Shelton, a small town in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.

Julie and Emily recently participated in a TPPP program called Linking Families and Teens, or “LiFT.” Aimed at high schoolers and their parents or guardians in rural communities, LiFT teaches families how to have productive conversations about sex and healthy relationships. If it weren’t for TPPP, the tiny community of Shelton wouldn’t have a program like LiFT.

Julie joined us to explain why LiFT is so irreplaceable. Read on.


 

I was two months shy of my 15th birthday when I gave birth to my daughter, Emily. I remember being young and scared, without access to information or resources to make decisions about my own body.

So when Emily learned about LiFT at school and asked me to join, I jumped at the chance. As a former teen mom myself, I had concerns about my own teenage daughter. I had had two babies at a young age, so what would prevent Emily from doing the same? It terrified me to think she could be going through the same experience. I wanted to ensure that she felt comfortable turning to me for answers.

That’s where LiFT came in. LiFT is a family connection program for high school teens and their guardians living in rural communities like mine. It includes a workshop and consistent interaction with educators. Participants are empowered to share family values, build the family bond, and talk about sexual health and healthy relationships.  

In Shelton, there aren’t many resources for talking about these types of issues. LiFT may be the only resource like this in our community. I can’t imagine what my family would’ve done without this program.

Since enrolling in LiFT, I have seen a marked difference in the way Emily and I communicate. It has empowered me to ask the tough questions. My daughter and I trust each other to have difficult conversations. And ultimately, our relationship is stronger and healthier. What’s more, it’s brought my husband into the conversation after seeing the way Emily and I interact. Our entire family has a new way of communicating that wasn’t there before.

I am so grateful that my daughter decided to take action and learn more about how to have control over her body and talk candidly about sex and healthy relationships. But all of that is suddenly being put at risk.

By eliminating funding for these programs, we will set progress and families back decades, especially for families in rural communities like mine. Here, resources are limited. Similar programs, like family counseling, are unaffordable or inaccessible.

Young people like Emily deserve better than to be the victims of an ideological agenda at the highest levels of our government. We stand behind the dozens of educators who are fighting for our rights and opportunities to make informed decisions about our bodies.

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