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.
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!
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/
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.
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: https://www.berkschc.net/images/Media/Sliding_Fee_Discount_Program_Application_COMPLETE_March_2015.pdf
Women’s Health Services: https://berkschc.net/index.php/services/women-s-health
Prenatal Care: https://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
Services: Pregnancy Tests, Options Support, Material Aid, Peer Counseling, Referrals for Social Services, STI Information, Emergency Material Support, Parenting Education