Richards was invited by the student-run Lecture Fund, which is calling her appearance a “conversation.” Her afternoon talk will be closed to the public.
That evening, Georgetown Right to Life, the campus affiliate of Students for Life, will stage a rally featuring Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic director who resigned in 2009 to become a pro-life activist. She also operates a ministry for former abortion workers called And Then There Were None.
“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,” Johnson said in a prepared statement.
The day before, Georgetown Right to Life also is sponsoring a panel featuring Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, who chairs a select House panel named last fall to investigate the abortion practices of Planned Parenthood. Other speakers will include Kathleen Eaton Bravo, founder of Obria Medical Clinics, which are pregnancy-resource centers.
On April 12, the university’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought & Public Life took on the approaching events with a program titled “Resisting the Throwaway Culture.”
University president John J. DeGioia reminded the audience that the essential role of a university is to “capture the openness to pursue the truth wherever it leads us,” but cautioned that as a Catholic university, there are “some matters of precepts of this faith in which we are not disinterested.”
With the goal of a “shared vision of what human sacredness demands,” DeGioia added, “we seek to be both authentically Catholic and authentically a university.”
Panelists were George Mason University law professor Helen Alvare, founder of Women Speak for Themselves; Fordham University theology professor Charles Camosy, author of “Beyond the Abortion Wars”; and Sister Norma Pimentel, a Missionary of Jesus, who is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.
“This language of life and choice pitted against each other is not helpful,” Camosy said of the current rhetoric.
Alvare defended the recent series of videos by activist David Daleiden, particularly the fourth one that was released showing a Planned Parenthood clinic assistant sorting through fetus parts and announcing, “And another boy.”
That one, Alvare said, “caused shock waves” because the moment was “an acknowledgment of some common humanity.”
Georgetown Right for Life also has invited Daleiden to speak on campus.
An independent analysis last year by a research firm hired by Planned Parenthood concluded that the videos were misleadingly edited. But Daleiden has stood by the videos. He and Sandra Merritt, his partner at the California-based Center for Medical Progress, have been indicted by a Houston grand jury for misrepresenting themselves as being from a biotechnology firm, and Planned Parenthood also is suing the center, claiming it is responsible for an uptick in violent threats against its clinics.
The panel dodged political questions, particularly when moderator John Carr, referring to one of Donald Trump’s recent statements, asked who should be punished if abortion is made illegal.
In late March Trump had said he was for a ban on abortion, and initially said if there were such a ban, women should be punished for having an abortion, but he later walked back that comment.
“Pennsylvania banned sex-selection abortions in the 1980s. Planned Parenthood didn’t challenge that,” Alvare said. “We know that law is hard to enforce.”
Carr observed that Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders don’t want any restrictions on abortion, while the Republican candidates have offered mostly confusing statements.
“Donald Trump is a convert who doesn’t seem to know the hymns,” he said.