By JOHN FORTMEYER
What has been a bone of contention for concerned Christians in both Salem and Portland for the past several years has ended.
In a recent web newsletter, Planned Parenthood of Willamette-Columbia announced that its five-year federal grant funding its Teen Outreach Program (TOP) in about 10 Oregon high schools has ended. According to the newsletter, more than 4,300 students participated in the pregnancy prevention program over those five years, and 91 percent of them say that the program’s service projects have had a positive impact on them or others.
“We feel very proud of the hard work our educators have accomplished and inspired by what students have gained and given back to their communities,” wrote Camelia Hinson, Planned Parenthood vice president, in the newsletter.
But despite such claims about the program, the prevailing attitude among Christian groups that have protested TOP is — good riddance.
“We are relieved Planned Parenthood will no longer be marketing to our students in Salem-Keizer and would like to thank you all for your support and prayers,” Joanna Galbraith, a Salem attorney and leader in Parental Rights in the Pacific Northwest, told Christian News Northwest.
Bill Diss, a Portland teacher who has long led efforts against Planned Parenthood through his group, Precious Children of Portland, strongly echoed Galbraith’s relief over the program’s end in the two districts.
“I’d give it a big ‘Hip hip hooray,’ ” he told CNNW.
It was in 2012 that a Salem parent, Doug Muravez, filed an objection with the Salem-Keizer district over the TOP program. He said Planned Parenthood works against the values he and his wife wanted to instill in their children and undermined their parental authority.
Eventually dozens of parents and community members who shared Muravez’s deep concern over the presence of Planned Parenthood spoke out at school board meetings. They noted what they considered highly objectional, sexually graphic content for youth on the Planned Parenthood web site and charged that the agency promoted liberal views on sex and also provided inaccurate medical information.
“Planned Parenthood’s infiltration of our schools inspired students, parents, teachers, church leaders, and members of our community to voice their concern to district officials, high school principals, fellow parents and students, and media outlets,” said Galbraith. “Group members met with hundreds of students and parents, prompting a district wide opt-out campaign in our schools. Students spoke out at school district meetings and circulated petitions on their campuses opposing Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood defended to area media its role in providing the teen program, and said it has been a “trusted provider” of sex education throughout Oregon.
Diss, who at the time taught at Benson High School in Portland, on his own time away from that job organized protests of Planned Parenthood’s abortion services in the city. He said his supervisors at Benson told him he must allow the TOP program in his classroom even though he asked to be excused from assisting because of his very strong religious objections.
As occurred earlier in Salem, dozens of Portland parents eventually protested the TOP program at a Portland School Board meeting.
Diss was fired last year because of what the district alleged was unprofessional and disrespectful behavior. Believing that his opposition to Planned Parenthood was a major factor in his firing, Diss has countered with a lawsuit against the district for $390,000.
Galbraith noted that the announcement about the grant’s end took place before the current national uproar over Planned Pa-renthood’s abortion practices, and so the latest controvery could not have been a factor in the TOP program’s end, she said.
“Their decision to cut and run may have more to do with the exposure of their strategies of secrecy and deception to further their agenda of replacing parents by promoting themselves as experts on sexual education,” said Galbraith.
She also pointed out that the annual state-sponsored Adolesceent Sexuality Conference in Seaside, which included Planned Parenthood on its steering committee, was canceled last spring as a result of what Galbraith termed a “shocking expose” by Carla Castano of KOIN-TV 6 news. She further noted Diss’s controversial firing and his subsequent lawsuit again Portland schools.
“Planned Parenthood positioned themselves in the cross-hairs on multiple fronts over the past few years and maybe they just decided that’s not the best place to be,” said Galbraith.