By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — Following the example of concerned parents and citizens in Salem and Keizer, hundreds of people in the Rose City turned out Dec. 3 to voice their objection to Planned Parenthood in their schools.
“They’re encouraging behavior that many of us find offensive,” Harold Burke-Sivers, a deacon in the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, told the Portland School Board at a study session at school district headquarters. An African-American, Burke-Sivers said Planned Parenthood’s “ultimate goal is abortion” and he charged that a “black genocide” is taking place because of the organization’s national strategy of targeting certain urban areas in doing abortions.
Burke-Sivers was one of six representatives of the Planned Parenthood opponents who were granted time by the school board to voice their views. Board Co-Chair Martin Gonzalez emphasized at the meeting’s start that the board would take no action that evening on the matter, and members offered no response to the comments.
In both the Portland and Salem-Keizer districts, the opponents are primarily concerned Christians who see Planned Parenthood and its sex education program for teens as running fully counter to their values and inappropriate in schools.
Many of them carrying signs, an estimated 200 to 250 people overflowed the Portland meeting. The turnout was organized by Bill Diss, a teacher at Benson High School in Portland who has — away from his job — organized protests of Planned Parenthood’s abortion services under the title Precious Children of Portland.
Diss said his superiors told him he must allow the sex education program in his classroom even though he asked to be excused from assisting because of his very strong religious objections.
In Salem-Keizer, about 90 parents and community members turned out at their school board’s meeting in November to make their objections to Planned Parent-hood clearly known. Then on Dec. 11, about 30 attended another board meeting. The show of concern there was organized by Doug Muravez, parent of two students at North Salem High School. Muravez had filed an objection with that school district over the Teen Outreach program offered at two high schools under a federal grant. In the Portland district, the program is at four high schools.
Holding up a small Nativity set in honor of the Christmas season, Diss told the Portland board that “God who created all of us took the form of a little person.” Because every child is precious and any school district should acknowledge that, then any support for Planned Parenthood seems, he said, “diametrically opposed to where we are trying to build up the school population.” He said Portland district enrollment, however, has fallen to the levels of more than 80 years ago.
Dr. Bill Toffler of Oregon Health Sciences University went before the board to praise Diss for “following the courage of conviction — a priceless lesson not just for his students but the entire community.”
Toffler and three others testifying called the board’s attention to content on a Planned Parenthood website for teens that they said was sexually graphic and highly objectionable.
When the objections began in Salem-Keizer last year, Planned Parenthood defended to area media its role in providing the teen program. Liz Delapoer of Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette told KATU Channel 2 that her agency has long been a “trusted provider” of sex education throughout Oregon.
For more on the Salem-Keizer efforts, go to salemschoolwatch.com. For more on the Portland efforts, see pdx4life.org.