Georgetown Right to Life has scheduled anti-abortion advocate Abby Johnson to speak in Dahlgren Chapel on April 20, the same day Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is scheduled to address students in Lohrfink Auditorium.
Johnson, who is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, will discuss her experiences at 7:30 p.m. in Dahlgren Chapel as part of Georgetown Right to Life’s annual Life Week programming.
Right to Life President Michael Khan (COL ’18) said the group hopes to offer students an alternative to Richards’ visit, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. the same day.
“The Abby Johnson event is for students who don’t think Cecile Richards represents Georgetown or Georgetown values, which we don’t believe she does,” Khan said. “We think she is an extremist on this issue and wanted to provide programming for students that day in the evening.”
Johnson, who was named the “Employee of the Year” at Planned Parenthood in 2008, worked at a clinic in Bryan, Texas for eight years before reversing her pro-abortion rights stance. Johnson said it is important an anti-abortion presence responds to Richard’s visit.
“Anytime Planned Parenthood shows up on a university campus to spread their anti-life propaganda, we should always hope for a strong, pro-life response,” Johnson said in a press release. “In this case, because a Catholic university has asked the president of the largest abortion corporation in our country to come and speak, we are more than happy to respond with life-affirming truth.”
H*yas for Choice Vice President Michaela Lewis (COL ’18) said that her belief in free speech and her feelings as a pro-abortion rights supporter make her question Right to Life’s methods of protesting.
“I cannot and will not lie about how I feel with regards to the way in which RTL is handling this, the first situation of such significance in which a pro-choice voice is publicly being given the floor at Georgetown,” Lewis wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Lewis added that she thought Vita Saxa’s treatment of Cecile Richards is disrespectful and rooted in fabrication.
“For whatever reason, I think I was optimistic enough to assume that, regardless of their feelings on abortion, RTL would not resort to such a profound show of disrespect as to reduce Cecile Richards, a prominent woman in politics and a champion for reproductive healthcare including and excluding abortion services, to the amalgamation of the anti-choice movement’s fabrications about abortion regret and the selling of fetal parts,” Lewis wrote.
Khan said he plans to attend both the Richards and Johnson events and hopes all students, whether they are pro-choice or pro-life, will do the same while remaining respectful.
“I encourage [pro-choice students] to attend if they really value dialogue, which [pro-choice students] claim to do. I should see them at these events. That is how true dialogue happens,” Khan said. “I think the basic message is if they value free speech, obviously nothing we are doing is contrary to that. Abby will probably be with us during the day on Wednesday, but we are keeping everything respectful.”
Lewis said she hopes Right to Life changes its activism to respect pro-abortion rights students.
“This is my plea to Vita Saxa: Invite whomever you want to campus, hold whatever private events you choose, but please, if you care for women and your fellow students the way you claim to, please, end your hateful, shaming methodology,” Lewis said.
Khan said Vita Saxa will continue to represent the university’s position on abortion.
“That should all be part of our Jesuit mission as a university to uphold the dignity of each human life. That is part of our problem with the Cecile Richards event. She really strikes at the very heart of our institution and our Jesuit values: the care for the whole person and the value of all human life,” Khan said. “We do that each Life Week.”
Right to Life member Amelia Irvine (SFS ’19) said she opposed the Lecture Fund’s invitation to Richards and believes hosting Johnson will balance dialogue.
“The Lecture Fund should sponsor events that present a fair, balanced perspective, and this event is not balanced. Richards will be speaking unopposed, and I am quite confident that pro-life voices won’t be heard during the question and answer section of the event,” Irvine said. “We hope that pro-choice activists will offer us the same courtesy — come to our events. I’m interested in having a real dialogue, because passive-aggressively staring at one another across Red Square just isn’t good enough anymore.”
Sam Granville (COL ’17) said she hopes both anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights students respect each other’s voices.
“I think its good to hear both sides and would encourage students to go listen to both sides, because both sides have something important to say and valid arguments,” Granville said. “As a woman, I am still undecided and I agree with opinions on both sides. That being said, students need to be respectful of the speakers. I hope that there are no vulgar words being shouted out at the speakers and that everyone can just take the opportunities to learn and hear what they have to say without being too aggressive.”