Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Next Up: Planned Parenthood

Once again, Planned Parenthood is coming under attack in the community, this time from the Columbia School District, where a group of parents have lobbied the school board to get PP removed from the sexuality education curriculum. The school board meeting was last night, and a number of supporters turned out. I don't know yet when they'll make their decision. Here's the statement I made to the board:

Hello; good evening,

I’m the Rev. Cynthia Landrum, and I am the minister of the Universalist Unitarian Church of East Liberty, a church that has been in this area for 153 years, often with members who are not only taxpayers, but parents of children in this school district, and sometimes teachers, as well.

Our church is a proud supporter of Planned Parenthood, a decision we made by congregational vote about four years ago. We are also part of a denomination that believes strongly in the importance of comprehensive sexuality education. In 1994, we passed an “Resolution of Immediate Witness” in support of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. It asks for us, as a member congregation to advocate for:

the availability of comprehensive, objective, unbiased, up-to-date, age-appropriate, sexuality education curricula in public schools, including information about:
· the reproductive system and its functions;
· the proper use of all forms of contraception, including the option of abstinence;
· sexually transmitted diseases, their prevention and treatment;
· sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape (including date rape), and incest, as well as their prevention and treatment through counseling, information, and resources;
· pregnancy counseling and options including information about organizations such as Planned Parenthood and…
that sexuality education curricula be taught by teachers specifically
trained to educate youth on the topic of sexuality education…[1]
The Unitarian Universalists, together with the United Church of Christ, have a series of curricula, called Our Whole Lives, which provides us with a way to teach comprehensive sexuality education in our churches: “The curricula are based on the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education produced by the National Guidelines Task Force, a group of leading health, education, and sexuality professionals assembled by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).”[2]

We do this important work in our churches, but we do this hoping that we are building upon the basic sexuality education provided in schools by adding to it sexuality education that includes our beliefs and values. Moral education may rest in our hands, but basic scientific education about reproductive health rests in yours. We recognize that some people may have objection to their children learning basic reproductive and scientific information, and we support the rights of those parents to remove their children from the classroom during those occasions. However, their religious beliefs should not govern the way our school is run, or deny other students the access to important information, which is scientific in nature, not religious, and which can literally be life-saving for them.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there is a gap between what parents want and what schools teach when it comes to comprehensive sexuality education. Schools are often pressured by a vocal, and deeply committed group of parents and community members to drop sexuality education, but the truth is that most parents want this type of information provided in the schools. Many do not feel equipped to cover the information at home. The study states:
Parents look to sex education to provide their children with practical skills that students and teachers report are not consistently covered. More than eight in ten parents say how to use condoms (85%) and other forms of birth control (84%), as well as how to talk about them with partners (88%), should be taught. They also want schools to address real-life issues, such as pressure to have sex (94%) and the emotional consequences of becoming sexually active (94%). Three quarters say abortion (79%) and sexual orientation (76%) should be discussed; most (74%) further specify when issues such as these do come up in the classroom they should be presented in a “balanced” way that presents different views in society.[3]
I know that I, as a parent, am not yet equipped to talk about all of this with my own child, although I hope to become better informed as she grows older. I know of only one agency in Jackson County that consistently provides the type of excellent education on sexual and reproductive health that we need. That agency is Planned Parenthood. To what extent we have achieved success in lowering teen pregnancy rates and rates of sexually transmitted diseases, they can be credited; to what extent we have not, is a measure of how much we need the valuable tools that they have to share with the community.

[1] http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/socialjustice/statements/14260.shtml
[2] http://www.uua.org/religiouseducation/curricula/ourwhole/
[3] http://www.kff.org/youthhivstds/upload/National-Study-on-Sex-Education-Reveals-Gaps-Between-What-Parents-Want-and-Schools-Teach.pdf

2 comments:

ms. kitty said...

What a great statement, Cynthia! I am appalled at the misinformation out there about Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger.

On my blog, MsKitty's, two of my family members, very conservative Catholics, have commented on my recent sermon about overpopulation and are appalled by my support of PP and Margaret Sanger. Their information is so incomplete and misleading that I hardly know where to start with them, especially since I want to stay on good terms with them and don't want to get into an argument.

I may not comment, but anyone who wishes to is welcome!

Cynthia Landrum said...

I feel pretty unqualified on the subject of Margaret Sanger. Anyone else out there want to help Ms. Kitty's defense?