Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, hates Planned Parenthood. That’s pretty much what we learned from her appearance on Chris Berg’s “Point of View” television program. Ostensibly there to complain about North Dakota State University’s participation in a federal research grant that provides several sex education programs in North Dakota, the content of the programs didn’t seem of particular importance to Myrdal. She was ticked off because the organization partnering with NDSU was Planned Parenthood.
Put another way, even though Planned Parenthood has been doing good work in North Dakota through comprehensive, well-received programs for educating young people about sex—teens with parental permission and often parental involvement, including at-risk teens, immigrant teens, Native American teens—and workshops for teacher training, Myrdal is determined to stop the programming.
- Forum editorial: Legislative meddling in NDSU-Planned Parenthood teacher training makes mockery of academic freedom
- Lawmakers, Christian groups to NDSU: Stop training teachers with Planned Parenthood's help
Note that one of the programs is called “PASE,” an acronym for “Parents Are Sexuality Educators.” Let me know if Myrdal comes up with a North Dakota value that program subverts.
The point? This dust-up has nothing to do with giving young people of North Dakota healthy attitudes toward relationships, sexuality and personal responsibility. This is about a legislator whose obsession with abortion has her making a power play against North Dakota State University, possibly threatening their accreditation. The question becomes, are there really 89 legislators who think that’s a good idea?
How do those 89 legislators view academic freedom? When NDSU President Dean Bresciani explained with a fair amount of detail how interfering with grants interferes with academic freedom and, indeed, puts the actual accreditation of NDSU at risk, are those legislators plugging their ears? (Yada, yada, blah, blah.)
What’s happening here isn’t legislators looking honestly for information; the grant has been in place for years. It’s plain old bullying, another version of “if-you-can’t-convince-them-intimidate-them.” In a Forum article by April Baumgarten, Myrdal is reported as saying legislators were contacting “’higher ups’” in Washington, D.C., about revoking federal funding of the grant; Myrdal also referred to the possibility of “cutting state funds to NDSU that would equal the amount” Planned Parenthood gets from the grant.
Those are threats. In fact, Fargo and West Fargo constituents might first find out whether their legislators signed the letter and then ask if their legislators intended to threaten NDSU. (Hmmm. Is demonizing Planned Parenthood really better sport than cheering the Bison?)
The legislators signing the letter might want to consider what North Dakotans already have made clear. In voting on a “Religious Liberty” amendment some years ago, 64% of North Dakotans voted against it. A few years later a “Personhood” amendment also was voted down by 64%. North Dakotans are clear they don’t want government in their bedrooms or at their medical appointments.
And we can be pretty sure when it comes to sex ed, they want their children and grandchildren to learn about abstinence along with factual information about their bodies delivered in age appropriate ways and with understanding for what constitutes healthy relationships—exactly what Planned Parenthood is doing.