Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Law Students Not Entitled to Funding for Abortion Internships

The recent decision by the Georgetown University Law Center administration to allow funding for students’ internships with groups that support abortion rights, such as Planned Parenthood, is both tragic and misguided. Not only has Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff let down Georgetown’s Catholic values, but he has authorized university funding for an organization that is opposed in every possible way to our school’s mission.

The controversy arose this spring when the Law Center denied funding for the Equal Justice Foundation’s sponsorship of a student’s summer internship at Planned Parenthood. The EJF is student-run and provides financial assistance to law students who accept public interest summer internships. The administration correctly decided that it would be inappropriate for a Catholic institution to fund a student’s internship with an organization that is the nation’s largest provider of abortion.

The university’s Catholic identity is not something to which we merely pay lip service; it plays an active role in university discourse and is looked to for guidance in tough institutional decisions. This identity pervades so many aspects of our campus life: the presence of theology and philosophy in our core curriculum, the dedication to the Jesuit ideal of “men and women for others” and the vibrant campus ministry program. Georgetown’s Catholic heritage sets it apart from other elite American universities and enables the university to offer a unique perspective within academia and society-at-large.

In 1990, Pope John Paul II released his famous encyclical on Catholic universities, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.” He wrote: “One consequence of [a university’s] essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the university to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals.” The Catholic Church has been a strong voice for the defenseless in today’s society, and it is an essential part of the Catholic university’s mission to promote justice and morality.

Georgetown cannot simultaneously claim to value its Catholic identity while providing support, even indirectly, to Planned Parenthood, an organization that rejects the Church’s belief in the dignity of every human life. This belief in the goodness of life is a core Christian tenet that the university cannot ignore without violating both its Catholic identity and its commitment to human rights.

Witholding funding for an internship at Planned Parenthood would in no way infringe upon academic freedom at Georgetown. The university does not attempt to stifle debate about this important issue, and there has long been a fruitful one on campus. However, academic freedom does not require the university to remain neutral in matters of faith and morals. The university can and should take a position on divisive issues of the day, and no student should be entitled to receive university support for an endeavor that contradicts its Catholic identity.

The position of the Law Center, according to Aleinikoff, is that it is merely being neutral on the issue and that the missions of student-run organizations will not be considered when allocating funds. This shows a casual disregard for the university’s position on important issues and assumes that the administration cannot regulate which groups the university supports. The aims and goals of an organization should be the major factor in the university’s decision on whether or not they should give them financial support. Before the school ever gives any group money, administrators should first ask: in what way does this group seek to affect society? Do their activities contradict certain core university values? There are certainly groups about whose mission there will be disagreement over, but there are few groups whose mission is so clearly opposed to the basic values of the university as Planned Parenthood.

Some students who support abortion rights may argue that as a Jesuit university, Georgetown must seek the truth and therefore sanction pro-choice advocacy. The fact is that protection of the unborn is a truth that the university has sought, found and defended. These students are entitled to their opinions and can accept whatever internships they want. That Georgetown must support these activities is an unreasonable demand because it violates principles at the heart of this great institution and stands in clear violation of its requirements as a Catholic university.

To quote again from Pope John Paul II: “A Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.” The dignity of unborn children may not be a comfortable truth to declare to a relativist society, but it is an important one nonetheless.

Georgetown’s Catholic identity continues to speak to all members of the university and contributes to our emphasis on social justice and human rights. Aleinikoff should reconsider the Law Center’s policy and stop funding organizations that oppose the timeless values of Georgetown and the Catholic Church to which it pledges fidelity.

Stephen Kenny is a senior in the College. He can be reached at kennythehoya.com. AGAINST THE WIND appears every other Tuesday.

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