A D.C. institution is caught in a fight over women’s reproductive rights and access to health care this week.
No, it’s not the Supreme Court, which on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case about abortion out of Texas: It’s Georgetown University, the oldest and one of the most visible Catholic schools in the U.S. The ruckus commenced after the Lecture Fund, a student group, invited Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to speak on campus in April. The Cardinal Newman Society found out, and they weren’t happy.
“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” the society’s president, Patrick Reilly, said in a statement last week. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the Catholic bishops, featuring a wicked woman who defends the sale of baby body parts and is responsible for the deaths of millions of aborted children.”
Georgetown has a reputation among students and alumni for being pluralistic, in part because it’s a Jesuit institution. On Thursday, the university issued its own statement, explaining it is committed to free speech:
We respect our students’ right to express their personal views and are committed to sustaining a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable to some… An appearance of any speaker or guest on campus is not an endorsement by the university. We recognize that the perspectives of some speakers run counter to the Catholic and Jesuit values that animate our university. We work very hard to ensure that these values maintain a privileged place in our community while at the same time providing a forum that does not limit speech either in the content of the view being expressed or the speaker expressing the view.
Richards is not being paid to speak, Georgetown noted. (Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday morning.) That fact was inconsequential to the Archdiocese of Washington, which on Monday night offered a statement to the Cardinal Newman Society.
“What we lament and find sadly lacking in this choice by the student group is any reflection of what should be an environment of morality, ethics, and human decency that one expects on a campus that asserts its Jesuit and Catholic history and identity,” the archdiocese said. “One would prefer to see some recognition by this student group of the lives and ministry, focus and values of people like Blessed Óscar Romero, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Pope Francis in a place of that group’s seemingly constant preoccupation with sexual activity, contraception, and abortion.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery