On Wednesday, June 28th, Students for Life of America and the Reading pro-life community were once again out in front of the Reading school district building to voice our concerns regarding the AccessMatters proposal to establish a Planned Parenthood sexual health counseling center inside Reading High School.
Last week, SFLA and Reading pro-lifers found ourselves alone on the sidewalks — 80 passionate pro-life witnesses and zero pro-choice advocates. This week was different. Having seen our protest on local media, Berks Teens Matter and Planned Parenthood supporters mobilized to form a counter protest. The two pro-choice groups mobilized about 35 people to support their effort.
Two Sides Face Off
Pro-life and pro-choice community members showed up to the Reading school district building around 4:30pm. The early evening was quiet, with both sides holding signs and waiting for the meeting at 7pm. Our team unrolled our large “We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood” banner, and pro-life supporters held Vote “NO” to Planned Parenthood in R.S.D.! signs.
Around 6pm, a Planned Parenthood group came marching down the streets wearing pink “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” shirts and carrying their pink signs. Chants from Planned Parenthood supporters focused on the usual rally chants. The crowd repeated slogans like “What do we want healthcare, when do we want it now” and “No justice / No peace.” While some supporters insisted that their support wasn’t about abortion, there were the chants of “My body, my choice.” Others complained that students needed to know about sexual assault (*which we agree on!); however, they tried to yell over our facts about Planned Parenthood’s continued failures (in Pennsylvania and nationwide) to protect women and children from sexual violence, abuse, and trafficking.
Here are some of the facts that we shared over our megaphone to directly respond to these PP supporters concerns:
- PP’s business is ABORTION: Pennsylvanian Planned Parenthood affiliates have reported zero adoption reports on their annual reports. Even while statewide abortions are decreasing, they have increased abortion services. They provide over 55% of the state’s abortions, and yet none of their PA affiliates offer prenatal care (despite falsely advertising such services).
- PP fails to report statutory rape and child abuse: On August 29, 2013, the PA health department discovered that the state’s largest Planned Parenthood facility had a policy stating that statutory rape was not a mandated reportable incident (despite the fact that PA law lists statutory rape as a mandated reportable incident). In another investigation, calls were made to 25 Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood facilities with the caller posing as a 14-year-old seeking an abortion with her 22-year-old boyfriend. There were no attempts to report this criminal activity.
- PP promotes sexual violence: In 2014, Planned Parenthood employees at multiple locations across the country were caught counseling children as young as 15 in disturbing sexual violence practices (e.g. BDSM, asphyxiation, defecation, torture). The employees even referred girls to local sex shops (which they were legally not old enough to enter) to further explore these violent sexual practices.
- PP covers up sex trafficking: Planned Parenthood employees have been caught on video aiding and abetting sex trafficking. Instead of training employees to identify and report incidences of possible sex trafficking, staff members, like former PP director Ramona Trevino, were trained to identify undercover investigators and how to avoid getting caught.
- Local PP centers offer unsanitary, unsafe services: Planned Parenthood’s Allentown Medical Center (one of the local affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Keystone regional office) failed PA health department inspections from 2013 to 2015 for such reasons as improperly disposing aborted babies, using dirty equipment, and dangerously providing anesthesia without properly weighing clients.
- PP pursues illegal harvesting and selling of baby body parts: On September 15, 2015, a Planned Parenthood Keystone administrator (Vanessa Russo) was caught on one of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos promoting and seeking to profit from the sales of aborted baby body parts.
Our message was clear. Reading teenagers and their families deserve better than healthcare advice from Planned Parenthood, a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business. They cannot be trusted with our children. Planned Parenthood betrays women and children by failing to report statutory rape, covering up abuse and sex trafficking, and fighting against parent’s right to be involved in their children’s education and healthcare decisions.
Inside the Meeting
The Reading school district building opened around 6:30pm to welcome the growing line outside. Inside the school district building, pro-life community members and Planned Parenthood supporters gathered to voice their opinions on the matter. About 45 community members were allowed into the meeting room, while others waited outside to listen and be present to the meeting proceedings. While the outside rallies were energized, inside the school district building was a different story. Community members were relaxed, quiet, and somber. Another faction of about 15 pro-lifers remained on the sidewalk outside of the school district building to continue to bear witness to the Reading community.
Community members were encouraged to sign up for public comment. About 10 people stood before the board to present both sides of the issue.
From the pro-life side, we had local leaders like Bishop Robert Brookins, a concerned parent, and even a young Reading HS teenager (Stephanie Sanchez).
Pro-choice advocates repeated familiar themes like “We need to reduce teen pregnancy. We need education to do that.” Pro-lifers shared personal and factual testimonies of why Planned Parenthood was not appropriate for the school community.
The school board confirmed that the vote on this AccessMatters/Planned Parenthood proposal will not be held until August. While no specific date was mentioned, we expect it to again be on a Wednesday evening, around 7pm.
We ask that our pro-life supporters continue to email the Reading school board:
- Abraham Cepeda, Esq. (President): CepedaA@readingsd.org
- Bernardo Carbajal, Esq. (Vice President): CarbajalB@readingsd.org
- Dr. Brian Buerke: BuerkeB@readingsd.org
- Robin Costenbader-Jacobson (Past President), Costenbader-JacobsonR@readingsd.org
- Manuel Guzman: GuzmanM@readingsd.org
- Jean Kelleher: KelleherJ@readingsd.org
- Leo Martinez: MartinezJ@readingsd.org
- David A. MCCoy: MccoyD@readingsd.org
- Eddie Moran: MoranEd@readingsd.org
(In your email, you can use our talking points listed above.)
Local Reading community members are encouraged to pay attention for the upcoming meeting and to invite your friends, families, and church communities to join in the next efforts.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our effort to keep Planned Parenthood out of high schools! Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute and Council, Concerned Citizens for Reading, Berks County Republican Women, and the passionate pro-lifers of Reading!
This post has been contributed by Beth Rahal, SFLA’s National Pregnant on Campus Director and a concerned resident of Pennsylvania. If you would like to support our efforts in Reading, please contact Michele Hendrickson, East Coast Regional Director, for information about our efforts in this city.