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

EDITORIAL: Stop One-Sided Discourse


Georgetown University’s campus will host two panel discussions about abortion and reproductive healthcare this week.

One event, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life (OCC), the nation’s largest student-run anti-abortion conference, is advertised on a massive poster affixed to the Intercultural Center (ICC) walls. Held in Gaston Hall, the university’s flagship auditorium, on Jan. 20, the event will feature four panelists discussing the sanctity of life and anti-abortion policy.

The second event, a panel discussion which the Georgetown University College Democrats (GUCD) and H*yas for Choice (HFC), a reproductive rights student organization, held Jan. 17, included five panelists who discussed reproductive rights and the state of abortion-rights policy. 

As GUCD and HFC organized their abortion rights event, the university consistently displayed favoritism toward the anti-choice event. The university forced GUCD and HFC to change venues at the last minute, incurring late fees for GUCD. In communications with the clubs, the university emphasized the security concerns surrounding hosting a pro-reproductive justice event; the university also increased Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) presence at the GUCD event. 

The Editorial Board condemns the university’s handling of the GUCD and HFC event: by indicating that a pro-reproductive justice event posed security concerns, Georgetown suggested that the GUCD’s panelists and their ideas are not as safe on campus as the anti-abortion ideas that OCC promotes.

GUCD began planning their event in early December with the intention of hosting it in Gaston Hall. Georgetown Event Management Services (GEMS) notified the organizers Dec. 12 that Gaston was open and available for booking. 

GUCD said the Center for Student Engagement (CSE) reached out to them Jan. 11 with concerns about the “sensitivity” of an event focused on reproductive justice. The next day at 11:30 a.m., GEMS informed GUCD that they had moved the event’s location to Lohrfink Auditorium.

A university spokesperson said that GEMS decided the event would take place in Lohrfink Auditorium after it consulted with CSE and GUPD.

“The decision was made to locate the event in Lohrfink Auditorium in the Rafik B. Hariri Building, a space that optimizes GUPD security options for events, especially ones open to the general public without pre-registration,” a university spokesperson wrote to The Hoya.

GUCD said that due to the last-minute nature of the venue change, they and HFC organizers were subject to a $700 late fee and other losses in resources, as they had to change their audio-visual provider at the last minute.

“We had worked diligently for months to plan this event, and many people already believed it would be held in Gaston Hall,” GUCD wrote to The Hoya. “We not only had to design new graphics & social media posts, update all of our outreach materials, and create new logistical plans–we also had to devote time and resources to notifying people of the location change.”

In failing to give speakers with a diversity of opinions on reproductive justice an equal platform, Georgetown denies its students the chance to openly, equally discuss their perspectives on abortion and reproductive rights. The Editorial Board calls on Georgetown to better commit to fostering welcoming, serious and sustained discourse among students of different faiths and beliefs on this complex issue.

This year’s OCC features several panelists united under anti-abortion beliefs including Emily Geiger — the director of education and outreach at Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains anti-abortion advocates to be better communicators on the subject — and Sr. Mariae Agnus Dei, S.V., a registered nurse who is a member of the Sisters of Life, a religious order who strive to protect the lives of the unborn. The event will also feature Peggy Hartshorn, chair of the board of Heartbeat International, a network of anti-abortion resource centers, and Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, which is an organization that promotes anti-abortion legislation within the Democratic Party.

The OCC’s keynote speaker this year is Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., the archbishop of Boston and a strong anti-abortion advocate within the Catholic Church.

The GUCD and HFC event, meanwhile, featured Christina X. Marea (SFS ’02), a certified nurse midwife and assistant professor in the department of advanced nursing practice in the School of Nursing at Georgetown; Gillian Branstetter, a communications strategists at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project, a branch of the ACLU that seeks to empower marginalized women; Kayla Edwards Friedland (SFS ’22), a community organizer with Planned Parenthood; Erin Matson (COL ’02), co-founder and president of Reproaction, an organization that seeks to advance reproductive justice; and Angela Maske (NHS ’19, GRD ’20), a former HFC president who is now a reproductive justice activist.

Georgetown University prides itself on promoting discourse, according to its mission statement.

“Established in 1789 in the spirit of the new republic, the university was founded on the principle that serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs promotes intellectual, ethical and spiritual understanding,” the university’s mission statement reads

Yet the university’s different treatment of the two abortion and reproductive healthcare events limited the opportunity for anti-abortion and pro-abortion community members to have meaningful dialogue. Even though both events cover the same topic, the university explicitly emphasized security threats for the pro-reproductive justice panel.

The university’s consistent promotion of anti-abortion rhetoric and simultaneous deplatforming of pro-abortion voices on campus fails to represent a diversity of opinions.

If the university is truly committed to promoting meaningful discourse and diversity, it must take people of all faiths, and their events, seriously. GUCD is a university-funded student organization, and it should have access to the spaces and resources available to other university-funded organizations. 

The Editorial Board calls on Georgetown University to work with student groups to permit respectful discourse on all sides of the reproductive rights issue. In order to uphold the school’s ideal of serious discourse, Georgetown must give equal platforms to a diverse range of speakers, facilitating a collaborative conversation that brings multiple perspectives to the table.

The Hoya’s Editorial Board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editors. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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