Planned Parenthood program in public school draws Catholic-led protest

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A young parishioner in the Diocese of Knoxville who was upset over a Planned Parenthood presentation in her public high school classroom last fall said she never dreamed the issue would grow as it has.

Sophomore Alaynna McCormick, who attends Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville, and her mother, Kym, were among the speakers at a recent information session for parents at Sacred Heart Cathedral School that drew an audience of nearly 200 and considerable media coverage.

Those in the audience included Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre.

Alaynna, a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Farragut, said the presentation in her lifetime-wellness class at Hardin Valley in October was supposed to be about abstinence, but the subject never came up.

Later, the student and her mother saw the graphic material posted on the “Info for Teens” portion of the Planned Parenthood website; the site address was given to students in the presentation. The material includes detailed descriptions of the male and female body, reproduction and pregnancy.

That prompted Kym McCormick to launch a campaign to remove Planned Parenthood from the list of approved speakers for Knox County Schools.

Nationally, Planned Parenthood partners with many public school systems to provide sex education materials for the classroom.

Kym McCormick told the Sacred Heart audience of her frustrations in dealing with school officials, especially over the fact that no consent form was provided to parents regarding the Planned Parenthood visit. Such forms are normally provided for anything with the remotest possibility of inappropriate content, even the showing of “G-rated movies,” she said.

Paul Simoneau, director of the Diocese of Knoxville’s Office of Justice and Peace, emceed the meeting. He said he was there not so much in his role with the diocese but as “a parent of six children in three different Knox County schools, because my primary vocation in life is that of a husband and father.”

Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville has written to McIntyre expressing his concerns over the Planned Parenthood curriculum.

The meeting’s goals included helping the audience “understand what Planned Parenthood really is,” Simoneau said.

“They’re not just wellness educators; they’re the largest providers of abortion services in the United States,” he said. “The other purpose of our gathering tonight is to ask that Planned Parenthood’s hallway pass to the classrooms of our youth be revoked.”

The organization’s website defines a number of sexual practices short of intercourse as “outercourse,” takes a no-right-or-wrong approach to moral issues and has links to other sites with extremely graphic content.

Many of those attending the meeting signed a petition to “remove Planned Parenthood from our schools.”

Lisa Morris, a pro-life advocate and Office of Justice and Peace volunteer, said she wanted to dispel the belief that Planned Parenthood was a “benign organization.”

“Planned Parenthood, as you’ve heard over and over, is the nation’s largest abortion provider, using $363 million of our tax dollars – one-third of their annual budget – to do it. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was an advocate of eugenics and of uninhibited sex promoting liberation for women.”

Morris spoke of “the graphic and pornographic nature” of a site teens can link to via the Planned Parenthood site.

School parent William Cutshall said McIntyre and Hardin Valley Academy had known about the Planned Parenthood curriculum for months but had “done nothing” to stop its use in classrooms.

McIntyre said he intends “to review the materials that are a part of the presentation for all of our presenters in the family-life curriculum.”

He added that he will “do that in conjunction with the Knox County Health Department, with the state of Tennessee Department of Education and some health-education professors from the local colleges and really step back and take a look at the material and the presentations.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.