The school board of Reading, Pennsylvania, has rejected a proposed high school sex education center whose daily operations would have been run by the Planned Parenthood Keystone affiliate.
The narrow vote, 5-4, comes following months of protest and controversy over the program.
“The concern that we have is that we can’t trust Planned Parenthood Keystone,” said one parent who was interviewed by WFMZ News.
“What our youth should not be learning is that abortion is a form of birth control,” said Montgomery County commissioner Joe Gale, who made the trip to Berks County to support parents opposed to the sex ed center.
The program would have been overseen by an organization called AccessMatters. A Planned Parenthood Keystone presence, however, would have been in the school as it would run daily program operations – a point of contention that caused people for and against to once again flock to the street outside the administration building prior to the meeting.
Board members Brian Buerke, Bernardo Carbajal, Jean Kelleher, Leo Martinez and Eddie Moran voted against the program; board members Abraham Cepeda, Robin Costenbader-Jacobson, Manuel Guzman and David McCoy voted for it.
Cepeda, the board president, voted in favor of the program and said, “I’m disappointed.”
— AccessMatters (@AccessMatters4U) August 24, 2017
Moran, however, said, “I believe the primary concern should be educating academically.”
Kelleher and Buerke reportedly said they were not convinced about the effectiveness of AccessMatters’ program.
The Reading Eagle also reported:
The argument centers largely on abortion rights, though the program itself does not address that issue and simply seeks to provide optional counseling services to students with questions about reproductive health. For all services besides counseling and condoms, students would receive referrals to the Planned Parenthood location in Reading.
Planned Parenthood, however, faces possible elimination of its taxpayer funds following years of scandals, including Medicaid fraud, allegations of child sex abuse cover-up, and, most recently, alleged profiteering from the sale of body parts of babies aborted in its clinics.
AccessMatters, an organization that was formerly known as Family Planning Council, states on its website that it:
[I]nnovates, empowers, and works to equalize access to sexual and reproductive health care for teens and adults in need. Through our unique abilities to engage and empower even the hardest-to-reach populations, we are closing the gap between those with access to sexual and reproductive health and those without … for over 40 years we’ve been trailblazers.
“As fearless advocates for sexual and reproductive health, we galvanize stakeholders and policymakers regionally and nationally to de-stigmatize sexual and reproductive health,” AccessMatters continues. “We are committed to raising the flag of sexual and reproductive health in each community where we work, to make it a public health priority, and a core component of primary care.”
— AccessMatters (@AccessMatters4U) August 16, 2017
AccessMatters states it also partnered with the Philadelphia school district and the city’s department of health, as well as the Chester Upland school district to create a “health resource center” that offers “confidential school-based places where students can receive counseling and education, condoms, and referrals to community-based providers for sexual and reproductive health services.”
The group’s website page, titled “Find Services,” directs visitors to many Planned Parenthood centers throughout Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.
AccessMatters also celebrated National Condom Week with a new app for teens – beginning at age 14 – to provide “accurate, timely information about sexual and reproductive health.”
“Users can find answers to common questions on topics such as relationships, birth control options, LGBT health, STDs, and more,” the organization touts.