READING HIGH SCHOOL VICTORY!

After months of heated debate, the board members of Reading School District struck down the proposed “Health Resource Center” last night in a close 5-4 vote.

In theory, supporting a Health Resource Center sounds like a worthy cause, especially in a low-income area like inner-city Reading.  Unfortunately, the organization recommended to facilitate the program would be none other than Planned Parenthood.  This center was proposed by AccessMatters in May 2017, and it would have been facilitated by Planned Parenthood’s regional office, Planned Parenthood Keystone.  A Planned Parenthood counselor would have been able operate from within the school, giving Planned Parenthood direct access to their target clientele (i.e. young, vulnerable students). While parents could have been given the option to “opt out” of the controversial program (which included condom distribution), thousands of Reading students would be exposed to Planned Parenthood’s agenda.

THOSE IN FAVOR?

Board member Robin Costenbader-Jacobson shared that she was in favor of the center because of what she saw as benefits for the students, “What about the students — the human beings, the individuals that would gain knowledge?”

Yes!  We care about our young people!  Yes!  Our students deserve access to healthy and safe education about their bodies- which is why we would never want to refer students to unsanitary, untrustworthy centers.

Planned Parenthoods across the country have failed inspectionsfailed to report criminal activity (e.g. statutory rape), and failed our communities. The Allentown Medical Center (a center within the Planned Parenthood Keystone network) is a prime example. This center failed inspections 3 years in a row due to use of dirty medical instruments, improper disposal of aborted baby body parts, and failure to evaluate patients prior to administering anesthesia.

Manuel Gauzman, a school board member in favor of the center, explained, “I believe it is our moral responsibility as a school board to give access to this information. Put the politics aside. … This is about providing pathways out of poverty.”

We agree – politics should be set aside.  Planned Parenthood, however, is our nation’s leader in abortion politics, spending millions on elections (e.g. $30+ million in 2016 elections, including $1.3 million in PA in ads against Pat Toomey) and lobbying efforts for extreme abortion policies.  Planned Parenthood also has a long track record of aggressively fighting against legislation that protects parent involvement in their children’s health decisions (e.g. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky federal lawsuit in 2017).

Keyara Hunt, Berks Teens Matter Ambassador, spoke during the public comments and spent several minutes talking with us outside after the vote.  She attends the I-LEAD Charter school that already has this program. “I know that Berks county has three times the national rate in teen pregnancies.  A Health Resource Center could provide better education and information on how to be abstinent, use birth control methods, and how to communicate with a trusted adult on their health.”

We are so thankful that Keyara is aware of the issues that affect her generation.  Sadly, Planned Parenthood is not helping in this area.  Planned Parenthood perpetuates the myth that passing out condoms and birth control will lower teen pregnancy and STDs, when in fact abortion and pregnancy rates decrease among teenagers when communities reduce spending on and expansion of contraception, condom distribution, and sex-ed programs:

Let’s also remember, Planned Parenthood has already been operating in Reading PA for decades.  In fact, Planned Parenthood has been offering birth control services in Reading since 1927 (through Reading’s Community General Hospital), and they have been offering first trimester abortions at the Reading Medical Center since 1998. Which makes us wonder, If Planned Parenthood’s services are so critical to reducing poverty and decreasing teen pregnancy, then why does Berks County continue on this path? The answer is certainly not more of the same.

THOSE OPPOSED?

Community members lined the streets for hours waving to cars and holding signs saying Vote NO to Planned Parenthood in RSD.

America Franco, a concerned parent, said, “I am not supportive of Planned Parenthood in our school!”

Inside the meeting, more concerned parents and students gave their testimony.  Nilda Nieves pleaded with the board to “raise the standard and believe in our youth.”

Stephanie Sanchez is a senior this year at Reading, and she explained, “My peers at RHS are worth more than just giving up and providing them all with condoms hoping it’ll make things better. They are worth fighting for and that’s what I’m trying to do. I as a student, a resident, and a friend to many at RHS, beg you not to allow planned parenthood into my school. That is not the legacy I want to leave.”

DECEPTIVE TACTICS 

Hours before the meeting, members from both sides crowded together to stake their spots.  Among the confusion, sign-holding, spot-saving, chanting, and rallying, people on both sides started some interesting conversations.  It was no shock to our team that those supporting Planned Parenthood were terribly misinformed.

A woman holding an AccessMatters Sign commented to me, “This is not about abortion. It’s about our kids having access to good health education.”

I assured her that I too want “good” health education, but “Planned Parenthood is the last place to find it.  Plus, the Keystone Center who is sending their counselor is dangerous for our kids.  They have continually failed their health inspections.”

She bluntly said, “Oh, there’s no way. I don’t believe that at all.”

Having read the report myself a few times, I asked, “Since we’re both standing here anyway, would you mind if I showed you the report?” to which she replied, “Sure, go for it.”

When I pulled up the report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health listing several years of failed inspections, with the most recent being April 2017, she was shocked.  She admitted that she had no idea Planned Parenthood was guilty of repeat health code violations.

Shortly thereafter, another woman from their side realized that she had been misinformed as well.  Elda, who only spoke Spanish, explained that she was approached at a Spanish Counsel in the city where it was explained to her that the group she would be supporting was not supportive of abortion.  Thankfully, Elda was able to communicate with an interpreter on our side, Maggie Sweet from Silent No More, who explained what AccessMatters and Planned Parenthood truly represented.  Elda was so upset, she returned her protest materials right back to the box and joined our side!

WHAT’S NEXT?

  1. Please consider sending a sincere THANK YOU card or email to the following Board Members who bravely voted no: Brian Buerke, Bernardo Carbajal, Jean Kelleher, Julio Martinez, and Eddie Moran.
  2. Send a heartfelt and respectful note of disappointment and correction to these board members who voted yes: Abraham Cepeda, Robin Costenbader-Jacobson,  Manny Guzman, and David McCoy.
  3. Continue to show your support on this issue!  Audrey Ross, spokeswoman for AccessMatters, claimed that their proposal could reappear on the board’s agenda later for another vote.  Sign and share the petition HERE: http://prolifeamerica.org/readingschools2017/.  We will continue to send in your comments and concerns to board members since we know Planned Parenthood will not give up this easily.

 

LOCAL ALTERNATIVES

Access to affordable, safe healthcare and family support services is important for every community. We encourage Reading families to explore unbiased, comprehensive healthcare alternatives to Planned Parenthood, like your local federally qualified health center (Berks Community Health Center). For life-affirming, free pregnancy and parenting support, check out your local pregnancy support organizations (LifeLine of Berks County and Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center).

Berks Community Health Center
838 Penn Street, Reading, PA 19602
Phone: (610) 988-4838
Sliding Fee Program: http://www.berkschc.net/images/Media/Sliding_Fee_Discount_Program_Application_COMPLETE_March_2015.pdf
Women’s Health Services: http://berkschc.net/index.php/services/women-s-health
Prenatal Care: http://berkschc.net/index.php/services/prenatal-care
Free pregnancy testing is available at all of our health center locations.

“There is no need to make an appointment, and you don’t have to be a BCHC patient. You may simply walk in and request a free pregnancy test at the front desk and our staff will take care of you.”

Lifeline of Berks County
Phone: (610) 374-8545
612 Reading Avenue, West Reading, PA 19611
Free Services: Pregnancy Tests, Options Support, Emergency Material Aid, Maternity Clothes, Parenting Support and Preparation, Referrals (community, medical, housing, drug and alcohol counseling, etc), Breastfeeding Support, Insurance Information

Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center
105 S. 5th Street, Reading PA 19602
Phone: 610-376-0828
Free Services: Pregnancy Tests, Options Support, Material Aid, Peer Counseling, Referrals for Social Services, STI Information, Emergency Material Support, Parenting Education

Reading School District postpones sex ed decision

On June 21st, about 80 pro-life community members and Students for Life of America team leaders stood outside the Reading School District in protest of the recent proposal to introduce a sexual health counseling center into Reading High School. The center was proposed by AccessMatters in May 2017 and would be facilitated by Planned Parenthood Keystone. The center would be located inside of Reading High School, giving Planned Parenthood direct access to their target clientele (i.e. young, vulnerable students). Counselors would refer to Planned Parenthood’s local Reading clinic, where these students could access contraception and other services.

While AccessMatters claims that parents will have the option to “opt out” of condom distribution and other aspects of the program, this does little ease our minds. Planned Parenthood has a long track record of aggressively fighting against legislation that protects parent’s involvement in their children’s health decisions (e.g. Planned Parenthod of Indiana and Kentucky federal lawsuit in 2017).

Let’s not forget that in 2013 Pennsylvania health inspectors discovered that PA Planned Parenthood affiliates had a policy stating that statutory rape was not a mandated reportable incident. Should we also overlook investigations exposing Planned Parenthood staffers abiding and abetting underage sex trafficking?

What Happens in Reading Matters

The majority of pro-life representatives at yesterday’s rally were concerned parents from Reading and local Berks County pro-life advocates. However, several media paused to question why Pennsylvanians from neighboring cities and pro-lifers from other states would join this protest.

Why?! Because this is not an isolated issue. The decision of Reading School District will not only impact Reading High School but will very likely impact neighboring counties. While AccessMatters’ efforts are primarily centralized around the Philadelphia area, Planned Parenthood Keystone serves 37 counties in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. Any access and momentum gained in Reading could potentially lead to further expansions of these programs and centers in neighboring cities and counties.

We know that Planned Parenthood’s business is abortion, and their target audience is students. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania perform over half of the abortions in the state. They are the leading abortion advocate and provider, and their state annual reports continue to show that over 90% of their pregnancy services (i.e. prenatal care, adoption referrals, and abortion). There is no doubt that their counseling will biased (as noted repeatedly by former Planned Parenthood works and directors) and that women and preborn children will be at risk if Planned Parenthood enters these high schools.

(The above picture shows Planned Parenthood Keystone’s regional map, provided on their website here.)

What Locals Are Saying

During the rally, local activists and religious leaders proudly declared that we are pro-life and that we refuse to allow Planned Parenthood access to our students. As we rallied, we were greeted with constant stream of friendly honks, waves, and cheers from Reading citizens. Community members stopped to thank us for our presence.

Local parents and students were outspoken in their concerns of Planned Parenthood’s influence not only in Reading but in the local community.

One of our local PA high school students shared: “We cannot support having a Planned Parenthood in our schools… Since Reading school district is so close to my school.. first Reading school district, then my school. I don’t want Planned Parenthood in my school.”

Julia Coppa, another Pro-Life Generation leader and local Pennsylvanian, said: “Planned Parenthood sets the bar too low for young people by displaying a lack of confidence in us … and discouraging us from pursuing relationships that are real and lasting versus transient things.”

A Reading parent, Renzo, attended with his wife, daughter, and other family members. “I am a member of the community here in Reading… We do not agree with Planned Parenthood in our schools.” He passionately shared his concerns about Planned Parenthood teaching and counseling his children and other students, and he spoke out against the violence of this Abortion Goliath.

The Meeting

After the rally, about 40 members of the rally joined the school district meeting. While the board decided to delay the discussion on Planned Parenthood’s proposed center, we were encouraged to hear that efforts were being made to provide flexible learning options for homebound and parenting students via the proposed Reading Virtual Academy program. Many of the pro-life advocates stayed for the duration of the meeting to stand witness to our position. While the board did not acknowledge our presence, our sea of bright blue “We Are the Pro-Life Generation” shirts could not be missed!

Good News!

Because of your concerns, your messages, and your prayers, Reading school district has postponed their decision until August. The hesitation of the district to decide on this matter leads us to conclude that the Pro-Life Generation was heard loud and clear — “We don’t need Planned Parenthood!” 

Students for Life of America’s East Coast Regional Director, Michele Hendrickson, praised the students’ and community’s efforts:

“We are so proud of the collaboration and unwavering dedication by Reading students, parents, and community leaders. We are hopeful that the delayed vote is a sign that the board members recognize Planned Parenthood’s damaged brand. Students know that they deserve better than Planned Parenthood, and we are calling on these board members to protect them from this disastrous proposal.”

Special thanks also to Berks County Republican Women, Concerned Citizens for Reading, and the Pennsylvania Family Council for their efforts educating and mobilizing local Pennsylvanians. The unity of local and national leaders was key to this campaign’s energy and success thus far.

We encourage you to continue to send your concerns to the Reading School District board members. You can call the Reading school board and email the board members. Contact information can be found here: https://www.readingsd.org/domain/37

Watch the Live Stream

Our internet reception had some issues, but this is well worth the watch. Hear what local community members and our team had to say about this situation.

Local Alternatives

If you are a Reading community member and you are interest in non-biased, comprehensive healthcare alternatives to Planned Parenthood, we encourage you to consider your local federally qualified health center (Berks Community Health Center). For life-affirming, free pregnancy and parenting support, check out your local pregnancy support organizations (LifeLine of Berks County and Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center).

  • Berks Community Health Center
    838 Penn Street, Reading, PA 19602
    Phone: (610) 988-4838
    Sliding Fee Program: http://www.berkschc.net/images/Media/Sliding_Fee_Discount_Program_Application_COMPLETE_March_2015.pdf
    Women’s Health Services: http://berkschc.net/index.php/services/women-s-health
    Prenatal Care: http://berkschc.net/index.php/services/prenatal-care
    Free pregnancy testing is available at all of our health center locations.
    There is no need to make an appointment, and you don’t have to be a BCHC patient. You may simply walk in and request a free pregnancy test at the front desk and our staff will take care of you.
  • Lifeline of Berks County
    Phone: (610) 374-8545
    612 Reading Avenue, West Reading, PA 19611
    Services: Pregnancy Tests, Options Support, Emergency Material Aid, Maternity Clothes, Parenting Support and Preparation, Referrals (community, medical, housing, drug and alcohol counseling, etc), Breastfeeding Support, Insurance Information
  • Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center
    105 S. 5th Street, Reading PA 19602
    Phone: 610-376-0828
    Services: Pregnancy Tests, Options Support, Material Aid, Peer Counseling, Referrals for Social Services, STI Information, Emergency Material Support, Parenting Education