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Saint Mary’s and Planned Parenthood

| Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In response to Dr. Mooney’s statement regarding the Planned Parenthood display on the Saint Mary’s campus, I see it to be inadequate, hiding behind the secular “academic freedom.” As Pope John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” My family has had three young women (two of my sisters and myself) graduate from Saint Mary’s, ’04, ’08, ’10 and my brother who graduated from Notre Dame in ’12. My parents gave us a wonderful gift by supporting us there. We have a true love and devotion for the school and have kept in close contact with other alumni, affiliated families and present employees. We hope to see future generations from our family attend Saint Mary’s College and Notre Dame.

Unfortunately, in spite of Dr. Mooney’s explanation of what occurred, I fear the bulk of those who hear of this affair,  which is now nationwide, will not respond in a positive way to what they “perceive” has occurred. Perception can be just as vital as the reality. Planned Parenthood was started by a woman who believed strongly in controlling population by contraceptive methods and abortion. She was a eugenicist. And while Planned Parenthood offers other services (services offered by many other organizations that are in line with Church policy), their mainstays, both philosophically and economically, are abortion and contraceptives — most significantly abortion, as it provide the greatest amount of financial return to the organization.

So, for those people “out there” who are strongly pro-life, in line with Catholic teaching, they are seeing this episode in a very unfavorable light towards the College. And, for those who are seeing this demonstration in a positive light, they are apparently being deceived into thinking Saint Mary’s is open to Planned Parenthood. A loss to Saint Mary’s on both sides. It will be very hard to explain this to all those to whom we have previously spoken, with such affirmation, for Saint Mary’s. I think that sometimes, even an educational institution, no, especially an educational institution, needs to take a stand against a few students and faculty members who desire to misrepresent to others a position that is opposed to a core foundation of the Catholic institution.

With great respect and admiration,

Francesca Morgan

Saint Mary’s class of 2004


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • João Pedro Santos

    Typical bias against Planned Parenthood.

  • Catherine O’Connor

    Sweetheart, you need to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic and see first hand the good that this organization does.

    • John Robin

      Catherine, I’m sure several feminist organizations will be in contact with you shortly regarding your use of the pejorative “sweetheart” toward a woman who may not share your views. I thought that defenders of Planned Parenthood were supposed to be all about women having the freedom to make up their own minds.

      Your stating that Planned Parenthood clinics do “good” is philosophically like saying that ISIL does “good” in the territories it controls. Maybe there actually are some good things that ISIL accomplishes. But isn’t that rather overshadowed by the systematic rape, torture, beheadings, bombings, and oppression of its opponents that ISIL carries out? I expect that Notre Dame and SMC would refuse to give ISIL an on-campus platform to wave its flags and trumpet its “good works”. No, PP is not ISIL. It’s an analogy, Catherine. ISIL has no legal standing in the United States, and it probably doesn’t kill as many people as PP, so the comparison isn’t exact. But the analogy is perfectly sound in the context of whether any organization, like PP, ISIL, or the KKK, can be excused its horrific moral crimes and deserve support on the basis of some arguable “good” things it accomplishes.

      Perhaps, Catherine, you should take your own advice and spend a week in a Planned Parenthood clinic: not taking a moderated tour, but in the “procedure” rooms, where the cutting, ripping, bleeding, dying, vacuuming, and organ harvesting take place. But I doubt that PP would be interested in you or any of us seeing clearly what really happens there on a daily basis.

      • Catherine O’Connor

        Sweetheart, I volunteered at my local Planned Parenthood for two years in the mid 1980″s, as a pre-med student at the University of Michigan. I assisted in the exam rooms and I was a patient educator, instructing both males and females of all ages. Abortions were not performed at the clinic I worked in. I am active with the local Planned Parenthood in the city I live in today. Again, abortions are not performed there. If a woman is insistent in getting an abortion, a list of physicians who perform abortions is given to her.

        • John Robin

          Thank you, Catherine, for your disclosure. I understand that you have made a great personal investment in the mission of Planned Parenthood, although you apparently never have witnessed or participated in any of the actual killing. So when you defend the “good” done by Planned Parenthood, you are defending what you have seen based on your own personal experience: you have expertise in this field, right?

          Yet, by your own admission you have no more experience than I as far as participating directly in procured abortions. Neither of us has witnessed personally the procedures which daily snuff out the lives of thousands of unborn children at Planned Parenthood clinics across America. And obviously neither of us is one of the direct victims of abortions, who died violent deaths at the hands of Planned Parenthood. Does it really matter whether this or that individual clinic doesn’t perform abortions?

          I note that you did not respond to my ethical objection against defending a morally repugnant institution on the basis of its otherwise arguably good works. Or rather, your response amounts to, “I’m a Planned Parenthood volunteer, and I’ve never seen an abortion, and PP does good stuff!”. You completely disregarded the question, which is not whether PP does some “good” work, but whether its systematic killing of unborn children qualifies it as an evil institution unworthy of open displays of support on any campus which pretends to have a moral compass, much less a Catholic orientation.

          Yet your personal experience with Planned Parenthood apparently makes you unable or unwilling to confront this issue directly. Can you not see how bankrupt and superficial your answer is in light of the carnage taking place?

      • João Pedro Santos

        “Catherine, I’m sure several feminist organizations will be in contact with you shortly regarding your use of the pejorative “sweetheart” toward a woman who may not share your views.”
        Mansplaining much?

        • John Robin

          Ah, yes, how very patriarchal of me! How about Ms. O’Connor’s “sweetheart” label for a woman who dares have views at odds with hers? Does that dripping condescension tickle any of your micro-aggression sensors? Or are PP supporters above criticism?

  • C.

    (1) It is depressing to read yet another call to abrogate academic freedom. What is the point of going to college if your response to a difference of opinion is to try to silence and punish the other person? Given the author’s disdain for academic freedom, it is ironic to realize that at some schools, the publication of this letter itself would trigger a backlash against academic freedom–this time, from ultra-leftist students scandalized by exposure to conservative opinions. Academic freedom protects liberals and conservatives alike, and each side benefits from engaging with the ideas of the other.
    (2) The anti-abortion movement has a bizarre fixation on Margaret Sanger’s support for eugenics, but she has been dead for nearly a half-century. Her personal prejudices died with her and have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on Planned Parenthood in the present. Conflating her views with the purposes of Planned Parenthood is (at best) a cheap scare tactic.

    • John Robin

      “C”, You don’t appear to understand Francesca Morgan’s letter. Here are several key points:

      –> Ms. Morgan did not issue a “call to abrogate academic freedom”. Rather, she criticized President Mooney’s “explanation” of the Planned Parenthood display as being inadequate and unhelpful toward the reputation of SMC. Does putting such a critique in writing make Ms. Morgan a book burner and an enemy of open dialogue?

      –> Your attempt to dissociate Planned Parenthood from the racist, eugenic views of its founder, Margaret Sanger, is unpersuasive. Sanger advocated such plans as to “apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted…” and “to give certain dysgenlc groups in our population
      the choice of segregation or sterllizatlon” (“Plan for Peace”, Birth Control Review, April 1932, Vol 26, No. 4). Sanger’s death doesn’t change the fact that Planned Parenthood’s raison d’etre is contraception and the killing of unborn children. Whether PP openly echoes Sanger’s belief that black people should be dissuaded from reproducing is a question of marketing and secondary importance, in light of the fact that every year more black individuals are killed by Planned Parenthood than by anything else.

      –> Ms. Morgan had the integrity to put her thoughts into writing, and the courage to publicly attach her full name to her criticism. You yourself have misrepresented her position, and done so anonymously, behind a pseudonym: hardly in the spirit of open, academic discourse.

    • NDaniels

      What is the point of an education that is not grounded in truth? Every element of truth will serve to complement and thus enhance the fullness of truth. Error has no bearing on truth, although it can often help to illuminate that which is true. Speciation occurs at the moment of our conception.
      Abortion destroys the life of a human person, a beloved son or daughter. There is no excuse for condoning Planned Parenfhood.

  • Mr. Pockets

    I still don’t understand how allowing a protest, something generally understood to be an expression of free speech, can receive so much criticism. Just because a private university can prohibit free speech it disagress with does not mean that we as Americans should applaud or call for such action :

    • John Robin

      Mr. Pockets, for many people, I think the issue is that the school approved of its campus property and faculty facilitating a demonstration celebrating the arguably good work of an institution that kills hundreds of thousands of unborn children per year. Allowing such a demonstration, in the minds of many reasonable individuals, calls into question whether the school is faithful to its Catholic foundation and mission. Why? Because Catholics -those who believe what the Catholic Church teaches- are very clear that it’s a grave crime against humanity to kill defenseless children, and won’t be happy with obscuring this fact with flags, balloons, and pamphlets that omit reference to the abhorrent killing which takes place every day at PP clinics throughout the nation.

      Analogies are abundant and easy to offer. Should the school tolerate demonstrations commemorating the alleged “good works” of the KKK, ISIL, Boko Haram, or the Na zis, demonstrations which exclude honest, unambiguous presentation of the terrible evils perpetrated by these organizations? Does it violate academic freedom and open dialogue to insist that such issues be dealt with in a fair and even-handed way that carefully avoids distortions and half-truths?

      Demonstrations that offer a whitewashed image of such institutions are not examples of free expression and academic evil. They are propaganda, pure and simple, and should be called out for what they are.

      • Mr. Pockets

        Why not allow a ISIL or KKK demonstration? I think college aged students are smart and sharp enough to recognize any potential obfuscations such demonstrations might involve. Such a demonstration would also give the student body to come together in solidarity against the evils propagated by these groups and come away stronger for it. Obviously, one must ensure that such a demonstration doesn’t give way to violence, but I don’t see any other reason to ban them.

        From prior experience, when I was in high school, the Westboro Baptist Church protested outside our school. Instead of calling the police, we instead organized a counter protest of our own, outnumbering their demonstrators almost 25 to 1. THAT made a more powerful and positive statement than any legal action against them would have.

        I argue that the same holds true for planned parenthood. I trust that the students of SMU are smart enough to see clearly on this issue and allowing a demonstration would give the student body a chance to either stand unified against PP or have a robust debate regarding the areas of disagreement.

        • John Robin

          Good points, Mr. Pockets. Restricting what sort of demonstrations that can take place runs the risk of censoring or infringing on free speech. The First Amendment applies even to unpopular speech that offends.

          Yet, that principle is not absolute. We are talking about a demonstration not on public property, but on the campus of a private institution with a specific mission. Just as citizens have a constitutional right to express themselves peacefully on public property, a private institution has a right to advocate its beliefs and mission on its own property, without any obligation to give a platform to adversarial organizations.

          So there’s no legal obligation to permit a PP demonstration at SMC. But would it a good idea anyway, as you suggest? It’s arguable. Would you permit the KKK to rally at your own home, on your front yard? Would you simply gather family and friends and mount a counter demonstration? Or would you decide that what the KKK stands for is so repugnant to you that you would refuse them access?

          Perhaps you -or I- would choose to express our denunciation of KKK principles not by a counter-demonstration of questionable success, but by denying them the opportunity to associate us in their mission by proselytizing on our property.

          Mr. Pockets, perhaps you would choose to permit the KKK rally on your front yard. Perhaps you wouldn’t. But that should be completely up to you, based on your judgement of how your own beliefs and goals are best served.

          Similarly, a Catholic college has the right and duty to decide where that line in the sand is to be drawn. And in the case of the recent PP demonstration, clearly many people (including at least one bishop and over 850 petitioners of record) believe the school made a serious miscalculation in permitting PP to exploit its campus. Which it clearly did.

          • Mr. Pockets

            And I think this is just the agree-to-disagree part. We both agree that it’s the university’s right to stop demonstrations. Only disagreement seems to be whether it’s more effective to stop the demonstration or allow it count on the backlash to indicate disapproval.

          • John Robin

            Well summarized, Mr. Pockets. I appreciate your thoughtful ideas.

          • John Robin

            When you suggested we would disagree, I sort of hoped that you would go ahead and articulate the disagreement a little further. I was hoping to learn whether you would in fact agree to let the KKK mount a racist demonstration in your own front yard.

            Your post seems to imply that in general private institutions (and perhaps other private property owners) should never permit philosophical reasons to prevent any sort of demonstration on their property. Are there to be no exceptions to this, in your mind? Or will KKK and ISIL members be welcome to demonstrate and recruit on your front yard?

            Your clarification would be welcome.