Some Catholic Law Schools Train Abortion Advocates

Sandra Fluke

As Planned Parenthood prepares to mount a legal defense for what faithful Catholics view as its indefensible actions surrounding the selling of fetal tissue—including organs and body part of unborn children—the organization will have plenty of help from a new generation of pro-choice lawyers trained at some of the nation’s premier Catholic universities. Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a student law school organization on several Catholic campuses, has been helping Catholic law schools “train and mobilize law students and new lawyers across the country to foster legal expertise and support for the realization of reproductive justice.”

Collaborating with Catholics for Choice, Law Students for Reproductive Justice aims to produce a new generation of abortion advocates to help convince Catholics and others that “reproductive justice” means access to full reproductive rights—including the right to an abortion. Catholics for Choice is an important partner for Law Students for Reproductive Justice—and of course for the Catholic university law schools that host Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ). In fact, the national LSRJ was so grateful to Catholics for Choice that they recently (2014) awarded the Allied Organization Award to Catholics for Choice for its help in creating the LSRJ initiative: “Keeping Faith in the Conversation” event toolkit. The toolkit provides assistance in creating a panel for an on-campus event sponsored by LSRJ chapters—especially chapters on Catholic campuses. This toolkit allows chapters to bring speakers to campus who can help them share information on “the intersection of faith and abortion rights.”

With Law Students for Reproductive Justice chapters at DePaul University College of Law; Fordham Law; Georgetown University Law; Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Santa Clara University Law School; Seattle University School of Law; St. Louis University School of Law; University of Detroit Mercy School of Law; University of San Diego School of Law; University of San Francisco School of Law; and Villanova University School of Law, LSRJ has made real progress in helping to create a new generation of Catholic law school graduates who are ready, willing and able to defend organizations like Planned Parenthood.

While the LSRJ chapters at Georgetown University and Villanova indicate that their chapters are “not affiliated with the Student Bar Association or University,” the reality is that at Georgetown, LSRJ activities are held on campus at the Tower Green, and in various rooms in McDonough Hall—the main Law School building. Georgetown University’s LSRJ chapter past president was Sandra Fluke who gained fame by publicly criticizing Catholic colleges and institutions for their unwillingness to support “reproductive health” for women by paying for contraception. In contrast, while Villanova Law School students may participate in LSRJ activities as a “student-led, student driven network of law students,” Villanova has historically been strong in its defense of life. In fact, in 2004, Mark Sargent, the dean of the Villanova University School of Law, announced that students competing for research fellowships and summer internships would not be permitted to work on pro-abortion issues or for groups supporting abortion under the Villanova banner: “A Villanova program obviously cannot be associated with advocacy for abortion rights … the Church’s teaching on the topic is fundamental and unambiguous.” More recent efforts by the group to establish an officially recognized chapter were denied by the administration, as well as any externship credit for abortion related activities.

In addition to providing assistance to law school students in organizing pro-choice groups on their campuses, LSRJ also funds annual fellowships for LSRJ law school students. LSRJ also provides direct funding (annual grants of $50,000) to organizations like the Black Women’s Health Imperative; Mexican Women’s Legal Defense; Center for American Progress; National LGBTQ Task Force; Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity; National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Reproductive Health Technologies Project; National Health Law Program; Advocates for Youth; Sister Love, and Positive Women’s Network USA. The group recently announced two Catholic Law school student recipients of the awards for 2015-2016. Sabrina Rewald of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School received a fellowship at Sister Love—an Atlanta based “reproductive justice” organization targeted to help African American women access reproductive services including abortion; and Zesa Beaumonis of Santa Clara University Law School received one at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Catholic law school students were also well-represented among last year’s fellowship awardees as Seattle University law student Kelsey Ryland received a fellowship in 2014 to work at Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity—an organization that advocates for “full reproductive rights” and has posted an article on its Facebook page claiming that birth control pills prevent cancer; and Jamille Fields of the University of St. Louis was awarded a fellowship for a second year to work for reproductive justice at the National Health Law Program—an organization that “battles religious restrictions,” and “defends women’s reproductive health rights through litigation, advocacy and policy analysis, expanding access to family planning and abortion….”

Law Students for Reproductive Justice is a radical pro-abortion organization that is intentionally targeting Catholic law schools and Catholic institutions. Why else would the dissident organization Catholics for Choice partner with them? Their goal is to marginalize Catholic teachings on life. With blog posts like “When Hospitals Cause Problems Rather Than Fix Them,” which decry the “withholding of treatment by Catholic hospitals,” to the honoring of late term abortion providers, LSRJ appears to go out of its way to denigrate Catholic teachings on life. The organization’s own Facebook page shows a picture of Dr. Leroy Carhart, an infamous late term abortion provider, surrounded by smiling LSRJ law students at the 2013 annual meeting at American University. Catholic Law school chapters of LSRJ were well-represented at that meeting.

Catholic university law schools were not founded to train lawyers to defend notorious abortionists like Carhart—or to defend the indefensible and barbaric practices of Planned Parenthood. Catholic law schools were created to help the Church protect life from conception to natural death. It is possible that some Catholic university law school administrators may have been unaware of the activities of LSRJ. But, even those who are made aware of the anti-life activities of this group have not withdrawn their support. According to TFPStudentAction.org, (an organization that supports Catholic teachings on life) Timothy O’Malley, University of San Diego Vice President of University Relations, attempted to justify the LSRJ existence on the San Diego campus in 2013 by saying that “The fostering of legal expertise in all aspects of the law is consistent with the educational objectives of the USD School of Law.” Despite O’Malley’s protestations, the anti-life activities of Law Students for Reproductive Justice could never be viewed as “consistent with the educational objectives” of any Catholic law school.

Anne Hendershott

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Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).

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