- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

MANCHESTER, N.H.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Manchester city school board ordered an investigation into an after-school program run by the YMCA in which some middle-school students were taken to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic.

New Hampshire Right to Life is now asking for equal time with the seventh- and eighth-grade students.

The visit was part of the YMCA’s STAY (Support, Tutoring, Adventure for Youth) program, for students considered at risk of dropping out of school, abusing drugs or getting into trouble with the law. The trip, a week ago, was part of a tour of several social-service agencies in the city — to show the students where they could go for support and recreation during the summer.

The school board voted to investigate how the decision to visit Planned Parenthood was made and determine whether anyone should be disciplined.

Planned Parenthood officials said the educator who met with the students briefly listed the health services that the clinic offers — annual exams and Pap smears, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and pregnancy counseling — and never mentioned abortion.

A half-dozen pro-life demonstrators outside the clinic confronted the students, though.

“Ironically, it was the protesters who raised the abortion issue as they clustered around the students, thrusting brochures at them,” said Nancy Mosher, president of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Darlene Pawlik, president of New Hampshire Right to Life, said abortion obviously was at issue in the students’ visit.

“Everybody knows Planned Parenthood performs abortions,” she said. “There were protesters outside with signs saying, ‘Babies killed here.’ There’s no mistaking that [the students] have already been exposed to the issue.”

Schools Superintendent Michael Ludwell said he would need to see a formal, written request from New Hampshire Right to Life before deciding whether a representative would meet with the students.

Mr. Ludwell said he hoped to finish an internal investigation by the end of the week and meet with the YMCA president to draw up new program guidelines, but overall, he defended the STAY program.

“We have had a very long and, prior to this incident, a very positive relationship,” he said.