The Lecture Fund at Georgetown University is planning to host Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards on campus this April, The Cardinal Newman Society has learned.
“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “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.”
The student chairperson of the Lecture Fund confirmed via an email to the Newman Society that Richards will speak at Georgetown in April, but said a final decision has yet to be made on the exact date and speaking topic. The format is also still being decided, but the Lecture Fund is planning a 30 minute question and answer session as part of the event. However, the event will not be open to the public. Only invited guests and media, and those with a Georgetown University identification card will be allowed to attend.
The Lecture Fund “is a non-partisan student-run organization that exists to enrich the academic experience of the Georgetown community. The Lecture Fund strives to bring speakers to Georgetown’s campus to enlighten, educate and, occasionally, entertain.”
The Newman Society contacted Georgetown’s communications department to comment on Catholic identity concerns for the nation’s oldest Catholic university hosting Richards considering the nature of her professional career and public advocacy, but no response was received by the time of publication.
As the head of PPFA and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Richards promotes positions and activism on a daily basis that directly contradict Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human life and on human sexuality.
In their 2004 document “Catholics in Political Life” the U.S. bishops prohibited Catholic institutions from honoring those “who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” with “awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” Additionally, Ex corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution governing Catholic universities issued by Saint Pope John Paull II, states that “Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities … Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”
According to PPFA’s records of “abortion services” disclosed in annual reports, Richards has overseen the deaths of over 2.8 million babies since taking charge of the organization in 2006. The number of reported abortions increased steadily from 2006-2011 before waning in recent years (2014: 323,999; 2013: 327,653; 2012: 327,166; 2011: 333,964; 2010: 329,445; 2009: 331,796; 2008: 324,008; 2007: 305,310; 2006: 289,750).
In addition to being known as the largest facilitator of abortions in the U.S., Planned Parenthood promotes the use of contraceptive drugs and devices to avoid pregnancy (including abortifacient “emergency contraception”), and encourages teenagers to masturbate and engage in sexual activity. These activities are considered moral evils by the Church.
Public outcry to remove taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood erupted in the past year with the release of undercover videos documenting Planned Parenthood employees involved in the selling of body parts procured from aborted babies. Planned Parenthood receives over half a billion dollars in government funding each year from both federal and state sources. The U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Judiciary Committee launched investigations into the organization based on the videos.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded to the videos saying their content shows Planned Parenthood’s failure “to respect the humanity and dignity of human life.” The USCCB also argued that federal funds should be stripped from Planned Parenthood:
The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more ‘intact’ organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.
Additionally, the USCCB recently published a “Planned Parenthood Fact Sheet” listing 11 key points about the dangerous nature of the organization and its continued push for greater legal access to abortion and contraception.
Richards has publicly attacked the U.S. bishops in the past for their opposition to abortion, arguing that, in defending Catholic teaching on the right to life, the bishops were anti-women. Richards wrote in 2009 that if the U.S. bishops had their way, “the national health care system would make American women second-class citizens.”
“The danger, of course, is not simply that the bishops are pushing to erode decades of legal access to contraception and abortion in America. Their hard-line opposition to women’s rights also endangers millions of women around the globe,” according to Richards, who added, “The effort to criminalize access to safe abortion endangers most women in the developing world — the very women that you would think the bishops would be concerned about.”
In October 2014, Richards admitted that she previously had an abortion, and said it “wasn’t a difficult decision.” When asked in February 2014 about when human life begins, Richards said the answer “will be debated through the centuries” before stating that she believes her own children’s lives didn’t begin until birth.
The Catholic Church teaches: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
This isn’t the first time the Lecture Fund has invited a highly controversial figure to campus whose professional career and advocacy was in direct contradiction to Catholic moral teaching. In 1999 the Lecture Fund hosted Larry Flynt, creator and publisher of the pornographic Hustler magazine. Georgetown defended allowing Flynt to speak on campus at the time citing its policy promoting free speech on campus.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who at the time was Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, criticized the University and then-President Father Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., for allowing Flynt to speak at Georgetown.
Speaking on behalf of Cardinal James Hickey, who was out of the country at the time, Bishop Lori said Flynt speaking at Georgetown is “utterly contrary to the Catholic identity of Georgetown University. The university’s actions are indefensible.”
“No Catholic university should provide a platform which furthers the degradation of women, immoral behavior, and the anti-religious opinion Mr. Flynt represents,” he said. “Mr. Flynt’s appearance has nothing to do with free speech.”