Lies and assumptions about MGRM and Planned Parenthood

In July this year, MGRM donated a number of books to the Ministry for Education as part of its mission to ensure that Maltese schools are equipped with resources that portray LGBTIQ realities and challenge gender stereotypes. This is part of an effort to foster school environments that are safe, welcoming and inclusive of all students irrespective of their sexual orientation, family of origin, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics. Our aims are perfectly aligned with the Ministry for Education’s Respect for All Framework, and as social workers, educators, counsellors and parents in our own right, we are also well qualified in assessing the quality of the resources provided and their potential to foster positive attitudes in children.

It is not MGRM’s role to defend the MEDE’s policy and curriculum with regard to sexuality and relationships education although it is our understanding that considerable effort is made by schools and the Department of PSCD to ensure that parents are in fact involved in sexuality and relationships education initiatives, as is made clear in official policy documents.

What concerns us is the fact that The Malta Independent on Sunday chose to publish Ivan Grech Mintoff’s ludicrous assertions without seeking to verify any of the allegations made.

MGRM always refuses to participate in TV programmes which it knows beforehand will not present a truthful and unbiased version of events and do not allow for a level playing field.

A great deal is being made of the fact that in 2009 MGRM benefited from funding from IPPF for the development of the Proposed Gender Identity Act for Malta. This was presented as a revelation despite acknowledgement of the funding never being in question, as evidenced by references in the publication itself.

IPPF is one of the foremost NGOs active in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organisation is considered an expert in this field, helping to save hundreds and thousands of lives each year. IPPF covers a wide range of public health concerns including safer sex, access to contraception, HIV/AIDS services, STI prevention, sexual violence and rape and child marriage to name a few. Also included is access to safe abortions. The IPPF is a worldwide organisation with regional offices and associate member organisations who, through staff and volunteers, provides advocacy measures and services mostly in developing countries supporting and assisting the most vulnerable communities around the world.

One of IPPF’s associate members is the American Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health services across the US. They are a recognised healthcare provider in many states and one of the few where access to healthcare is not dependent on whether the patient has medical insurance. Contrary to popular belief, only three per cent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood relate to abortion.

In July, an eight-minute video was circulated on YouTube by the right wing activist group Centre for Medical Progress featuring Dr Deborah Nucatola, one of Planned Parenthood’s regional directors. The group accused Planned Parenthood of selling foetal tissue for profit. It later emerged that the video, involving two actors commissioned by Centre for Medical Progress, was highly edited. From the three-hour transcript of the entire interview and full-length video, it was found that the claims being made by the right-wing group were false and Planned Parenthood has, to this date, not been found guilty of any wrongdoing despite being subjected to intense scrutiny by the US Congress.

For those who would argue that MGRM should not accept funding from an entity that provides abortion services, it would be useful to keep in mind that such a policy would exclude the take-up of any EU funding since most EU countries provide access to abortion as part of their public health services, a position which no political party, civil society organisation or NGO has so far espoused.

It is hugely disappointing that the newspaper should simply reproduce what is a blatant attempt to discredit MGRM based solely on lies and assumptions without any attempt to verify the veracity of the claims being made by Mr Grech Mintoff and his ilk – something even a quick search on the internet would have easily revealed.