By Tracy Simmons
That’s why members launched Sounding Board last month, a monthly speaker series that creates conversations around contemporary subjects, said the Rev. Paul Rodkey.
On Wednesday the group heard from Karl Eastlund, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, who said people wrongly assume abortions are the organization’s main focus.
He said abortions make up 5 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides, 13 percent is sexually transmitted disease screening and 82 percent of its efforts focus on family planning and annual exams.
“Unfortunately we do have a marketing and an image problem, so we have not been able to sell to the public, to inform them of the services we do as much as we’d like to” Eastlund said, after a church member asked why the organization seems to be so unpopular. Mainly, he added, because the organization would rather spend their money on serving the community than marketing.
Planned Parenthood recently made headlines when the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would no longer fund grants to the organization. Later, the foundation recanted its announcement.
Eastlund said the reversal came because Planned Parenthood supporters spoke up.
“The public was really strong about who they thought was in the right on that issue, and it was Planned Parenthood. And it was Planned Parenthood by a landslide,” Eastlund said.
He said the public’s outcry, along with President Barack Obama’s health care mandate proves “there is hope,” even though there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“For me it’s really an equality issue,” Eastlund said. “This past couple of months have been a great opportunity for the supporters of Planned Parenthood to say ‘we’ve had enough’ and to stand up and to speak very loudly about the fact that this (birth control) is a social justice issue and it’s really a basic equality issue. And until we get past that and win that battle, I think there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in that area.”
He said although abortion and contraception have taken the public’s eye, the focus needs to also be on educating teenagers about STDs and safe sex. Spokane, he said, is ranked 22nd in teen pregnancy and has the fifth highest number of teenagers with Chlamydia. Nationally, he said 41 percent of teenagers know little or nothing about condoms, and 75 percent know little or nothing about contraceptive pills.
“There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in Spokane,” Eastlund said.
He said churches, like Bethany, can help by boldly speaking up for Planned Parenthood and for by working with their youth in creative ways to prevent teenage pregnancies.
Tiffany Nakagawa, who organized the church’s Sounding Board, said these forums are designed to help the church step outside of its four walls and pay attention to what’s happening in the community and in the world.
“Knowledge is important,” she said. “But knowing what to do with that knowledge is more important.”
A forum won’t be held in April because of Easter, but in May the forum will focus on marriage equality in Washington.