About 10 protestors from the Pennsylvania-based American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property demonstrated against the Georgetown University Lecture Fund’s invitation to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to speak on campus outside the university’s front gates Monday afternoon.
TFP is a Catholic organization dedicated to defending conservative Catholic values, including traditional marriage and anti-abortion positions. Director of the TFP Student Action John Ritchie said his organization was protesting Georgetown allowing the Lecture Fund to invite a representative of a pro-abortion rights organization, which does not align with Catholic teaching.
“We’re here today because of the fact that Georgetown invited Cecile Richards to give a lecture on campus,” Ritchie said in an interview with The Hoya. “To invite a person who is publicly and notoriously supportive of abortion and heads the largest pro-abortion organization in the country is really a grave scandal that should be cancelled and protested.”
Ritchie argued that a Catholic institution should not sponsor any abortion advocate and affirmed TFP’s plans for future protests as the Richards event approaches. He said he hopes anti-abortion students across Georgetown would also stand up in defense of Catholic values and moral teachings.
“This is a rally of reparation for the sin of abortion and to rally students to stand firm against the dictatorship of relativism that has invaded so many Catholic campuses. There are moral absolutes, and the right to life is an absolute,” Ritchie said. “To bring a pro-abortion speaker like Richards to campus is really offensive to Catholics, offensive to God and should immediately be cancelled.”
Protestors also handed out flyers titled “No Platform for Abortion Apologists: Georgetown Can’t Be Catholic and Collaborate with Planned Parenthood,” which laid out five arguments against Richards’ invitation to speak. The letter claimed members of the Catholic Church hierarchy have condemned the speech, that abortion offends God and that Richards has attacked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ anti-abortion and -contraceptive stance.
Richards’ speech, which will take place in April, has prompted criticism from various other conservative organizations, such as the Cardinal Newman Society and the Archdiocese of Washington.
H*yas for Choice President Michaela Lewis (COL ’18) said that she is not surprised by the activism against Richards’ invitation to speak.
“We aren’t in any way surprised by the push-back. The Lecture Fund bringing Cecile Richards to speak on campus, especially in the current political climate with Whole Woman’s Health, intrinsically is going to stir the same debate over contraception and abortion care that we’ve been hearing at Georgetown for quite some time,” Lewis wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Lewis said H*yas for Choice respects differing opinions and would not attempt to silence anti-abortion voices given HFC’s own activism.
“It is because of our long-standing reverence for dialogue and free speech that we respect this and any subsequent protests to the event, so long as these demonstrations are not explicitly violent, hateful or triggering,” Lewis wrote.
Lewis said she also expects all future demonstrations to be held to the same standard of civility.
“As has always been the case, a line can and must be drawn between free speech and hate speech; we expect any group or individual who plans to protest this or any other issue to be attentive to and respectful of this separation and work to maintain the safety of our students, staff, visitors and families,” Lewis wrote.
Camden Blatchly (MSB ’19), who observed the protestors, said he was surprised by outside protestors demonstrating at Georgetown and felt their presence was unusual.
“I’m kind of surprised. It seems kind of ridiculous and kind of excessive,” Blatchly said. “It’s just kind of amusing that they actually showed up. Obviously, this was planned, but I don’t know if anyone really knew much about this. I don’t think that it’s going to gain a lot of traction with the students at all.”
Hoya Staff Writers Syed Humza Moinuddin and Aly Pachter contributed reporting.