By JOHN FORTMEYER
SALEM — Concerned Christians are not giving up their efforts to see Planned Parenthood ousted from public high schools in this capital city.
Although family and other responsibilities have prevented parent Doug Muravez from contining to lead the citizen efforts, a new group — United Front for Parental Rights — will now seek to persuade the Salem-Keizer School District to halt Planned Parenthood’s involvement in sex education classes.
About 20 people turned out June 26 at St. Joseph Catholic Church to discuss strategy; the meeting was led by local attorney Joanna Galbraith. A former prosecutor and staff attorney with California-based Life Legal Defense Foundation, Galbraith now concentrates her efforts in private practice to advocate for, educate about and promote awareness of, pro-life issues. At press time, next meetings were scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 21.
The efforts got their start last summer when Muravez, a parent of two students at North Salem High School, filed an objection with the school district over Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the Teen Outreach program, which is offered at that school and at McKay High School.
A $4 million grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services distributed through Planned Parenthood pays for the program statewide that seeks to reach 2,500 Oregon students and is taught by Planned Parenthood workers. The program is also offered in some Portland schools, prompting a protest last December by hundreds of parents and citizens at a Portland School Board meeting. Similar protests were made at a Salem-Keizer School Board meeting that drew about 90 concerned people last November.
In both school districts, the opponents of the program are primarily concerned Christians who see Planned Parenthood as running fully counter to their values and inappropriate in schools. They contend that Planned Parenthood has sexually graphic and highly objectionable content on a website for teens, and that the organization also ultimately seeks to bolster its abortion business.
When the objections began last year, Planned Parenthood defended to area media its role in proving the teen program. Liz Delapoer of Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette told KATU Channel 2 that the agency has long been a “trusted provider” of sex education throughout Oregon.
Both the Portland and Salem-Keizer school boards heard testimony from the concerned citizens, but neither board has taken any action to discontinue Planned Parenthood’s role in the schools.
“Planned Parenthood is certainly marketing in our high schools,” said Galbraith at the June meeting. “There’s no other reason for them to be there.”
Galbraith also acknowledged that the lack of response from the school board is troubling, but she suggested a shift in strategy.
“I know it’s disheartening when you go to school board meetings and you feel like you’re hitting a wall,” she said. “But let’s give them some new information.”
Specifically, she said, the concerned parents need to show that the current sex education program is not medically accurate, not fact-based nor research-based, and thus is harmful to students. “Let’s provide them with details they can’t argue with,” she said.
To that end, members of the citizens’ group discussed contacting families of students who are currently enrolled in the sex education program, getting firm statistics on whether the program is really lowering pregnancy rates, getting information to churches and youth ministers throughout the community, and developing a values-based curriculum that could serve as an alternative to the Planned Parenthood program.
Galbraith proposed that the group be resolved, but also realistic, about the challenge ahead.
“I’m not here to tell you this is going to be easy,” she said. “It’s definitely (going against) a well-run machine powered by lots of federal funds.”
For more information, contact Galbraith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who primarily communicate in Spanish can write to email@example.com.