Fox News continued their campaign to characterize Planned Parenthood as an organization synonymous with abortion by defending an Oregon high school teacher who objected to a Planned Parenthood teen outreach program that teaches life skills but does not include abortion education.
On December 18, Fox News' Fox & Friends stoked outrage over an Oregon school's decision to fire teacher Bill Diss, who maintains that he was terminated for denying classroom access to Planned Parenthood employees who were there to conduct the organization's Teen Outreach Program (TOP). Fox suggested that the program would teach teenagers about abortion, claiming Diss' pro-life stance was what led to his termination, claiming "he just wants to protect the kids" and asking "if they put the other side in there. Did they have an adoption agency come in and talk to them?"
Despite Fox's incessant efforts to portray Planned Parenthood as only a abortion provider, abortion services comprise a mere 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's medical services as of 2013, and are not part of the Teen Outreach Program at all.
TOP is a separate and highly effective education and outreach program that works to prevent teen pregnancy and increase academic success. The program focuses on values, communication, decision making, and community service. TOP has a record of effectiveness in youth development, and is recommended by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The program has been associated with a 53 percent reduction in the risk of teen pregnancy and risk of fathering a child, a 52 percent reduction in the risk of school suspension, and a 60 percent reduction in the risk of course failure.
After the program was attacked by local conservative radio hosts, Salem Weekly reached out to Jennifer Melo, the education programs manager for Planned Parenthood in Willamette, Oregon, who reiterated that the program was voluntary and does not teach about abortion:
[W]e specifically wanted to know if Planned Parenthood taught students about abortion, if student participation was mandatory and if regular class teachers left students alone with Planned Parenthood instructors.
It turned out the answer to each of these is "no." Ms. Melo told us:
1) "Our staff does not teach about abortion in the SKSD. We use an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention curriculum called the Teen Outreach Program, (TOP) which is owned by Wyman." TOP information taught by Planned Parenthood is not a Planned Parenthood curriculum and is being implemented in 45 sites in 28 states. "In a previous study, this program had proven results for increasing academic success and decreasing unintended pregnancies and school drop out rates."
2) Classes aren't mandatory. "Letters went home to every parent in the program. Signed parental and student consent was gained from every student who participates. Students who do not wish to participate are given alternative health curriculum assignments."
3) "Regular class teachers are present in the classroom."
Participation in TOP also requires youth to complete at least 20 hours of community service doing projects they choose themselves. Melo says, "It's this connection to their community that forms a protective factor helping to mitigate riskier behaviors and decision making."
Despite the right-wing media's repeated falsehoods about the organization, abortion services are only a small portion of the medical services provided by Planned Parenthood. According to Planned Parenthood's website, 71 percent of clients "receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy" in addition to providing 585,000 Pap tests, 640,000 breast exams, and "nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV." Abortion services constitute only three percent of Planned Parenthood's medical services: