Tim Drake

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Catholic Universities Push Abortions To Students

Note: This article won the Bernardin-O'Connor Award for Pro-Life Journalism presented by Priests for Life at the Catholic Press Association in Atlanta on May 30, 2003.

SAN FRANCISCO — The McWalters of San Francisco were shocked by the news that the Catholic university they are paying to educate their son is promoting abortions.

If a University of San Francisco student involved in a pregnancy went to the school’s Web site for help during the last two semesters, it would have given only three options: two abortion businesses and a non-Catholic abortion counseling center.

In other words, none of the city’s eight pro-life pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes is mentioned on the Web site — not even the Gabriel Project at St. Ignatius Catholic Church located on the University of San Francisco’s campus.

The University of San Francisco is one of at least a dozen Catholic universities in the United States directing students to Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses for information, services and even employment.

The situation comes to light after Dec. 5 words by Pope John Paul II casting doubt on the Catholic character of abortion-promoting universities.

“Clearly,” the Holy Father said, “university centers that do not respect the laws of the Church and the teachings of the magisterium, particularly in the areas of bioethics, cannot be endorsed with the character of a Catholic university.”

The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit college. In the past, Jesuit Superior General Peter Hans Kolvenbach has said, “For some [Jesuit] universities, it is probably too late to restore their Catholic character.”

The Dirty Dozen
The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that works to restore Catholic identity to Catholic campuses, revealed a list of 12 colleges with offending links. In addition to the University of San Francisco, the list included Boston College; St. Xavier University, Loyola University and DePaul University in Chicago; the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn.; Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; John Carroll University in Cleveland; Seattle University; King’s College and Alvernia College in Pennsylvania; and Santa Clara University in California.

The University of San Francisco’s Student Health Education Program’s “pregnancy” page not only linked to Planned Parenthood but also provided a telephone number to Planned Parenthood Golden Gate and a description of its services. Another link promoted the local pro-abortion Women’s Community Clinic. The links have been up at least since last March.

While most of the “dirty dozen” Web pages feature direct links or telephone numbers to Planned Parenthood, others go a bit further. Alvernia College in Reading, Pa., lists Planned Parenthood as a potential site for volunteer work. DePaul University’s department of sociology offers internships at Planned Parenthood, and its women’s studies program lists Planned Parenthood among several career opportunities for its students.

Negative reaction to the revelations was swift.

“The fact that Catholic colleges have links to Planned Parenthood on their health service Web pages is another piece of evidence that the word ‘abortion’ has lost its meaning, even within many sectors of the Church,” said Father Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life. He urged all Catholic institutions to eliminate even the appearance of cooperation with Planned Parenthood and offered his organization’s assistance to any institution to make such changes.

For others, the Web sites are merely the latest signs of many Catholic universities’ reluctance to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church), Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education.

“In Ex Corde Ecclesiae, one of the requirements of a Catholic university is that all official actions and commitments must be in accord with the university’s Catholic identity,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. “Anything that is announced or promoted by a university’s Web site is an official action.”

Many bishops and Catholic leaders have spoken publicly with regard to Planned Parenthood. In 1998, Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo, Texas, said, “I ask all Catholics not to use Planned Parenthood’s services, not to belong to any of their boards, not to serve as a volunteer and not to be employed there.”

Feeling the heat of recent publicity and public outrage, at least three of the universities — the University of San Francisco, Georgetown University and Boston College — quickly removed or hid their offensive Web pages.

The University of San Francisco’s “pregnancy” page now reads, “This portion of the Web site is currently being reviewed.”
The university wouldn’t comment for this story but issued a press release to respond to the criticism.

“The university is taking the concerns that have been expressed to us under advisement as we review the Student Health Education Program Web site content,” said the release, signed by Monica Leifer, assistant director of media relations for the university.
“In the meantime,” it added, “while we make a decision regarding the information provided on the pregnancy section of the Web site, we have eliminated all Web site links and are asking our students to contact us directly with inquiries.”

Problem Remains
Although the link from the “pregnancy” page has been removed as of this writing, the individual Web pages promoting Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Community Clinic are still available through the university’s Web site.

Those pages tout Planned Parenthood as a source for pregnancy testing and counseling, birth control and emergency contraception (which causes early abortion) but fail to mention Planned Parenthood’s role as the nation’s leading abortion business. The Women’s Community Clinic provides pregnancy testing and counseling and referrals to abortion clinics.

Likewise, Georgetown University apparently removed a “sex health and safety” page from its Web site. Canada’s LifeSite News reported that the page linked to a Planned Parenthood Web site, promoted the morning-after pill (an abortion-causing drug) and encouraged the use of sexual aids, including dental dams and latex gloves for “safer sex.” While the page has been removed, it is still identified by the Web site’s search engine.

Reaction on Campus
University of San Francisco senior Brendan McWalters had one explanation for the links on the school’s Web site.
“The Student Health Education Program has a certain degree of autonomy,” he said, speculating that “the decision was probably made by the current coordinator.”

Neither Melissa Kenzig, coordinator of the student health services program, nor Margaret Higgins, vice president for university life, returned phone calls seeking further information about how the material made it onto the Web site.

University of San Francisco senior Peter Halpin said he was not surprised by the revelation and was angered by it.

“I’m used to these kind of things at the university, but this was even more blatant,” Halpin said. “The fact that the university is no longer trying to hide it is both indefensible and arrogant.”

In response, Halpin wrote an e-mail to the university’s president, Jesuit Father Stephen Privett, and Higgins, listing the alternatives available in San Francisco and San Jose.

“Neither offered an explanation,” Halpin said. “President Privett said that the university was in full agreement with the Church and the Church’s teaching on abortion. They both said that the Web page was under review. My contentment will depend upon whether or not the university gets rid of the link.”

The university wouldn’t respond to requests for an interview about campus opinion.

Thomas Harmon, president the Cardinal Newman Society’s Association of Students at Catholic Colleges and a senior at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., saw the whole question about Web sites in the context of the larger one about Catholic identity.
“Catholic college students are leading the renewal of Catholic higher education,” Harmon said, adding that his group’s emphasis “is on positive campus programs to teach and promote the Catholic faith, but when an outcry is needed, college administrators will hear us loud and clear.”

© 2002, Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota. A version of this article originally appeared in the National Catholic Register, December 22-28, 2002.

Comments: Post a Comment