Pro-life demonstrators gather outside the campus of Georgetown University in Washington April 20. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Planned Parenthood CEO at Georgetown dismissive of pro-life views

By  Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service
  • April 21, 2016

WASHINGTON – Members of Georgetown Right to Life were hoping for dialogue with Cecile Richards, but complained after her April 20 speech that she was dismissive of anything spoken by pro-life students.

The one-hour appearance by Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, sponsored by the student-run lecture fund at Georgetown University, had created an uproar since it was announced in March. The event itself, though, ran without incident, and with heavy security, including District of Columbia police officers to supplement campus officers.

The event was closed to news media and accessible only to students with university IDs. Ryan King, a university spokesman, said a transcript might be released later in the week.

In the meantime, what Richards and students actually said was relayed through occasional tweets from inside the hall and the recollection of students outside just after the talk, billed as "a conversation."

Richards received a standing ovation as she walked onstage. Introducing her, Helen Brosnan, a senior who is one of the chairs of the lecture fund, asserted both that "God is pro-choice," and "I believe that I'm a strong Catholic."

Student Amber Athey, a member of Georgetown Right to Life, tweeted, "According to head of GU lecture fund, hosting an abortion provider is 'in the spirit of a Jesuit university.' ”

Another member of the group, a Maryland student who would only give her first name, Caroline, said of Richards: "Her speech didn't address abortion and I felt that was very intentional."

Richards was dismissive of mentions of a Guttmacher Institute poll that asserted that 52 per cent of Americans believe that life begins at conception, and noted a series of recent videos released by activist David Daleiden, saying that his operation was "fraudulent." The undercover videos showed Planned Parenthood affiliate officials negotiating prices regarding fetal tissue and organs. The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 expressly forbids the sale of such tissue. 

Daleiden and his partner, Sandra Merritt, have been indicted by a Houston grand jury for using deceptive means of accessing employees and clinics of Planned Parenthood, and in California, Planned Parenthood also is suing him and his Center for Medical Progress for allegedly spurring violence and causing an increase in threats at its clinics.

Joshua De Gastyne, a Georgetown medical student, and Hunter Estes, another member of Georgetown Right to Life, complained that questions were restricted to the final eight minutes of the presentation, leaving Richards to take only four questions, with just two of them from pro-life students.

Richards, they said, dismissed both the question about the Guttmacher Institute poll and one about why most of Planned Parenthood's business concerns only abortions.

Richards, they said, framed "reproductive rights" as a civil rights and social justice issue.

There were no outbursts outside from members of Students for Life, who were occasionally joined by adults, including a woman wearing a T-shirt that read, "The Pill Kills."

At one point, a woman walking by announced, "Thank God for Planned Parenthood!" A male protester shouted back, "The body inside your body is not your body!"

Outside the university's O Street gate, some 20 members of the American Society for Tradition, Family, and Property, an all-male Catholic organization based in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, wore red sashes, played bagpipes and held placards such as "Purity is the Answer."

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