Plan A Hoyas kick off Choice Week with likely the first all pro-choice panel funded by Georgetown

Speakers from organizations like the National Abortion Federation and Choice USA aren’t the kind of guests you’d expect to find at a Georgetown University-sponsored event—especially not if they’re the event’s main voices, and especially not if there isn’t anyone sitting on the panel to counter their input with pro-life opinions.

But that’s exactly who made up the panel that Plan A Hoyas held last night to kick off Choice Week, making it one of the very few events, possibly even the first that the University has ever funded where speakers only presented pro-choice arguments about the abortion debate.

Before a room of about fifty students, Mark Egerman, from NAF, Robin Wood, from Choice USA, and Jared Watkins (COL ’11), a founder of GU Men Creating Change, spoke about the importance of male involvement in the pro-choice movement, why male involvement is especially important to the pro-choice movement now, and how Georgetown students can lobby the school to fund more similar events.

“Unfortunately, men’s voices are often heard louder than women’s even when the same message is being heard,” Egerman said. Later, he spoke to the difficulty of getting men to advocate for abortion rights, as it’s not a right that men exercise. “The power to be able to force someone to give birth against their will is fundamentally terrifying. But that’s not something men necessarily think about because they’re not physically threatened by that.”

Watkins, the student, does a lot of work on and off campus concerning violence against women and said that Georgetown policies that “silence women’s voices of control women’s choices” are a very basic form of controlling women’s bodies. “And that control is very basic violence against women,” he said.

Wood, from Choice USA, and Egerman both said that the health care reform package passed over the weekend, and the new hurdles it will create for access to abortion, had seriously disappointed many women’s groups that had supported President Barack Obama.

“The sheer fury of the past 24 hours is astounding,” Egerman, speaking to the flood of e-mails and calls he has gotten since the House of Representatives passed the health care bills.

The panel concluded with a discussion of the abortion debate in Catholic communities.

“On some level, I don’t really get why on this one issue, the Church has decided to stake all their battles,” Egerman said. “But you need to push that, you need to be very aggressive. You need to say, we’re not saying we’re you’re not Jesuit, but you need to open up to this sort of dialogue.

“This idea that my student activities, if they go into a pot, and even one of my dollars goes to pay for something I don’t like, I am comprimised? You don’t need to be responsible for what everyone else will do, think, say, or believe. You’re a community, and you need to be responsible to others’ right to speak out.”

At the beginning of the event, Marion Cory (COL ’10), a Plan A member and member of United Feminists’s board, said that the event was the only Choice Week event funded by Georgetown.

“We’re definitely disappointed that Georgetown prohibits a group like H*yas For Choice from holding an event like this,” she said. “Although it’s a H*yas For Choice event, it has to be sponsored symbolically by [United Feminists].”

The sensitivity of funding an event where speakers are sharing only pro-choice views was reflected in the concerns members of the Student Activities Commission voiced even after they had already funded the event, albeit by a narrow vote. Ruiyong Chen (SFS ’13), SAC’s public relations director, sent this e-mail to student media when SAC discovered that the event was being advertised as not a United Feminists but a Plan A Hoyas event:

“It has come to our attention that the panel and discussion on the role of men in the pro-choice movement on Monday, March 22nd, is being advertised as being hosted by Plan A: Hoyas for Reproductive Justice. We would like to correct and clarify that Plan A is not a SAC group and has not been given Access to Benefits by the University.

“We approved and funded the event as it was presented to us, in which United Feminists, whose constitution does not take a stance on this issue, was to host this event. We do not and did not approve this event to be hosted by Plan A Hoyas, which advocates for a point of view that is not in line with the University’s Catholic identity.”

Chen did not respond to an e-mail asking whether United Feminist was violating an agreement with SAC by advertising the event as a cosponsored event.

Cory, the UF board member, wrote in an e-mail that UF was acting within its rights.

“We are on the same page as SAC—the event is officially sponsored by UF and SAC approved it as such. However, it is beyond SAC’s (and the University’s) jurisdiction to dictate whether or not unofficial student groups or coalitions can co-sponsor, support or endorse events. That’s exactly what Plan A is doing here,” she wrote. “We’re really excited that this kind of event is finally being allowed to take place at Georgetown. Overall, United Feminists is pleased with SAC’s support of such an important event that advocates a pro-choice perspective.”

In a separate e-mail, Heather Brock, a member of H*yas For Choice, echoed her sentiments.

“We think that it’s very important that United Feminists, GU Men Creating Change, and the Plan A Campaign are co-sponsoring this kick-off event for Choice Week,” she wrote, “because it shows that campus groups are interested in exploring the Choice issue.”

Update 12:15 a.m., March 23: Chen responded to Vox‘s follow-up question about whether it was understood that UF could not advertise this as a Plan A Hoyas event. She wrote:

“The way we understand and approved this event was that it was United Feminists’ event, not Plan A’s. If they want to advertise this as a Plan A event, we would have to look further into the situation and have a discussion about university policy.”

30 Comments on “Plan A Hoyas kick off Choice Week with likely the first all pro-choice panel funded by Georgetown

  1. Well now that we can have shadow funding for events that are really H*yas for choice events, can the next group that wants to host a pan-Neo Nazi forum on the benefits of hate speech and violence against immigrants run it through some other, innocuous club. Ms. Cory’s words spell out that UF was there to provide a front for a pro choice group so that it could take advantage of A2B.
    I call foul and I hope that someone does somethig about this, like handing down a punishment fo abusing the A2B and offending the university by hosting a “forum” like this under false pretenses.

  2. I personally disagree with abortion, but my question for pro-lifers is this: What would you actually recommend doing if abortion was made illegal? Throw women in jail? Force people to give birth? I’ve never heard a straight answer to that question. And furthermore, when your Republicans controlled the government, where were they with the abortion outlaw bill? I never saw one…

  3. Great event! I’m glad I went, it was a really refreshing and open discussion about reproductive rights ranging from birth control to abortion.

  4. Thanks for the write up, Molly! Thanks to everyone who came out, we had a great discussion and made Georgetown history.

  5. Once again Georgetown leads the way in advocating immorality and anti-Catholicism. It just goes to show that education is no guarantee of maturity. Rebelling against one’s religion, or at least the religion sponsoring your university, is about as brave as waving the middle finger at the homeless. Christ gives you a choice to do whatever you want with your free will. At Georgetown the choice seems to be to squander it.

    While advocating abortion as some sort of “right” try and remember that abortion is the only legal procedure where two otherwise healthy people go in, one is killed and the other emerges with an increased risk of infertility, internal bleeding, breast cancer, depression and death.

  6. Anyone know why all the quotes are from Mark Egerman? For a panel, it seems like he did all the talking. I couldn’t make it – how was it? Was there any trouble from the crowd? Did anyone record it?

  7. Coming Out Week followed by Condom Theatre followed by Choice Week followed by Plan A… Isn’t anyone else sick of Hoyas acting like the sole reason they’re here is to obsess over genitalia? I mean, really, it must get old after a while. Find a new hobby. Maybe read a book or two.

  8. You raise an interesting question. Here are some ideas for how it could be enforced. (Note, I am not supporting these, just suggesting some legal avenues for criminalizing abortion. Please don’t assume anything about my stance on abortion, I am just having what I find to be an interesting conversation.)

    1. Make it illegal for family planning facilities to offer abortions on penalty of, for example, getting shut down, losing tax-exempt status (if applicable), fines

    2. Make it illegal for doctors to provide abortions (or a subset of abortions) on penalty of revocation of their medical license

    3. Simply make it illegal w/o a specified penalty. This would probably have a significant deterring effect by itself. Related, make it illegal but don’t criminalize it

    4. Yes, you could give people some amount of jail time for it (after they have done it)

    5. I don’t know if you could provide an injunction against getting an abortion (aka forced birthing) rather than just punish it after-the-fact. But this problem is not unique to abortion. There are many crimes that you can’t really “prevent” via some sort of enforcement mechanism, but can punish after the fact. Everything from public urination to conspiracy to disturbance of the peace

    Regarding your other points, please remember that there are many anti-abortion Democrats, so please don’t assume that all pro-lifers are Republican. In fact anti-abortion people are a very broad tent representing a slight majority of the country.

    And regarding your statement that there were no anti-abortion bills during the last period of Republican control of the government, that’s just patently untrue. I am NOT a Republican, or conservative, but I feel the need to correct you. There has been the Hyde amendment banning federal funding for abortions. There’s been the Executive Order “gag order” forbidding aid groups receiving government funding from advocating or offering information regarding abortion/contraception. In fact, there were laws on the books banning abortion until Roe v. Wade struck them down. Congress can’t just pass another law “banning abortion” and override Roe, which the Supreme Court has upheld time and again. So while the Federal government hasn’t passed a law “banning abortion” because of the fact that such laws have already been struck down, they have passed laws limiting funding for it and tinkering around the edges while constantly generating test cases to send back to the courts in the hope of undermining or reversing Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, dozens of states have enacted limitations on abortion such as making it illegal to cross state lines to receive an abortion; requiring parental notification; banning late-term or partial-birth abortions; etc. Some of these have been struck down, other upheld. But your point that Republicans (of which I’m not one) haven’t mobilized to pass legislation at the Federal or state level dealing with abortion is laughably uninformed. JUST THIS WEEK Republicans and pro-life Democrats managed to extract an Executive Order from Obama, the most pro-choice president ever, to forbid public funding of abortions.

    You may have a point, though, that the political overclass of the Republican party has little incentive to actually see the issue of abortion definitively resolved since it’s such a convenient wedge issue on which to divide Democrats — demonstrated most recently with all the Stupak wrangling that almost derailed the health care reform package.

  9. Fiore: “Well now that we can have shadow funding for events that are really H*yas for choice events, can the next group that wants to host a pan-Neo Nazi forum on the benefits of hate speech and violence against immigrants run it through some other, innocuous club.”

    You’re asking whether a university-funded group can hold an event that complies with Access to Benefits, even though the impetus is from a non-recognized group? Yeah. Why not? Your example is rather facetious — I don’t think any event directly advocating violence against immigrants would be approved. But let’s run with it.

    Let’s say a group of crytpo-neo-Nazis on campus want to hold a forum on so-called hate speech and its First Amendment implications — should it be banned, what effect do campus speech codes have on behavior, and the history of first amendment scholarship. A recognized university group – say, the Lecture Fund – hosts the debate on behalf of these neo-Nazi groups and frankly invites only right-wing panelists to talk about the issue — e.g., Holocaust denier David Irving, the editor of the Jyllands-Posten who published the Mohammed cartoons that inflamed the Muslim world, etc. No one present argues that speech codes should be upheld or that the First Amendment doesn’t restrict ‘hate’ speech.

    Is this permissible? Yes. In fact, we’ve already had the editor of the Jyllands-Posten to talk about the Mohammed cartoons controversy and freedom of speech. And we’ve had that anti-immigrant border militia guy here to talk, too.

    Who cares what ‘shadow’ group is sponsoring an event, if that event complies with the speech and expression policies of Georgetown? To strike down otherwise-permissible events because non-recognized groups might ‘taint’ it with their ‘shadow’ association is ridiculous.

  10. @ Person M who is too embarrassed to use an identifier

    “You’re asking whether a university-funded group can hold an event that complies with Access to Benefits, even though the impetus is from a non-recognized group? Yeah. Why not?”

    Because that non-recognized group is not granted A2B because its views run directly against the teachings of the institution that underpins this university. I argue that the event did not comply with university policy, and was advertised to SAC in such a way that it would be approved, but was intended to be something different.

    There should be no difference between the even I suggested and the event that was held, because abortion is violence done to the voiceless unborn. I do not understand why the violence only becomes unacceptable when it is done against ‘immigrants’ instead of the unborn.

  11. @Fiore:

    There’s a distinction between events and ‘views’ of the groups which host them. I don’t see how the event that SAC approved was in any way different from what happened — a group of people speaking about the pro-choice movement and how it relates to men. The event was not condom distribution, or abortion clinic escorting; it was mere viewpoint expression. Anyone could have theoretically hosted that event — even GU Right to Life, if they were feeling particularly jocular.

    The fact that another group was “behind” it, as you allege, doesn’t matter. As I said before, if a non-recognized neo-Nazi group got the Lecture Fund to sponsor a talk on Holocaust denial by David Irving, or a non-recognized Jewish Defense League chapter at Georgetown got the LF to invite the Mohammed Cartoons by the Jyllands-Posten editor who printed them, who cares? Or an anti-immigrant group LF to invite Chris Simcox, founder of the Minutemen, to talk about immigration. The talks themselves comply with A2B — and, indeed, have all been held here (except Irving, though we had something similar).

    And . . . abortion is legal. Violence against immigrants isn’t. Under your analogy, we shouldn’t invite General Petreaus or others to speak because they’re justifying waging war, which is about violence. Constitutionally-speaking, though, we should be using the Brandenburg standard, which would ban “advocacy [that] is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

  12. Words don’t cause abortions. So long as Pro-lifers were given the opportunity to question the panel, there’s nothing wrong with this.

  13. @ M (still embarrassed to attribute a name to your posts)

    I understand your point of view, however that standard should not apply to those who wish to live and learn in a community in the spirit of the Catholic Church. This event was a clear attempt to get a Plan A-sponsored speaker to campus thanks to large cross pollination with UF and other, similar groups.
    That is wrong, plain and simple. That is contradictory to the spirit of the rules in place and the intent of the University.

  14. Walt and Fiore – I think I can answer both of your questions. I was there at the event and I don’t think there’s any reason to be concerned. This was not a pro-choice rally, but rather a chance for people to have an interesting discussion about issues of gender and privilege within a complex environment. I did not feel like there was any proselytizing – rather the only think pro-choice about the panel was their jobs. I learned a lot and felt like the panel was really open and welcoming.

    As for the three speakers, I think I have some idea why only one is quoted. Mark and Robin were both very comfortable with the questions. It was clear that they done this together in the past and knew each other. They disagreed a bit but it was clear they knew when and where and were comfortable with the topics. Jared was great in his own way, but it was hard for him to follow after the two of them. I still feel like he did a wonderful job and represented Georgetown men well.

    In many ways, Robin had more practical advice than the others and was the more effective guy. The reason that Mark was quoted is probably because of the way he talks. Mark was one of the best public speakers I’ve ever seen, far better than most ofmy professors. He spoke in complete paragraphs without any pauses and could comfortably respond to any question in a way that made the audience agree with him – no matter what he was saying. I’ve never seen anyone else talk so fluidly without saying um or like. Watching him present was amazing and he was eminently quotable – although I don’t want to distract from the other speakers who were also both impressive themselves. If anyone did tape it, I’d love to see a copy and learn how to talk like that (I bet having unpopular clients makes people very smooth but that’s my own thought).

    The point is that it was a really fascinating presentation and not really about abortion in the end. These are people who happen to be pro-choice, but the community benefited from seeing this. I can’t imagine anyone who saw it actually opposing it.

  15. @Fiore

    Students decide to attend a Catholic University and realize going in that there are going to be restrictions on the types of actions and events that can be funded by the University. Hence, while I agree with H*yas for Choice that condoms should be distributed on campus, I understand the University has a right not to provide them or allow them for sale.

    However, Georgetown University has had in place since 1989 a “Speech and Expression Policy” that operates on campus. It is available here: http://studentaffairs.georgetown.edu/policies.html#SpeechandExpressionPolicy

    I quote from the document (and while I cut it up for brevity, I assure you and you can check that I am not quoting it selectively):
    “Free speech” is central to the life of the university. . . . The long and short of the matter is that “time, place and manner” are the only norms allowable in governing the expression of ideas and sharing of information that is the very life of the university. . . . [Georgetown's Catholic and Jesuit heritage and] many other fundamentals of the tradition in which Georgetown stands prohibit any limitation upon discourse. Georgetown’s identification with the Catholic and Jesuit tradition, far from limiting or compromising the ideal of free discourse, requires that we live up to that ideal.

    Then the General Policies (in their entirety):

    1. The right of free speech and expression does not include unlawful activity or activity that endangers or imminently threatens to endanger the safety of any member of the community or any the community’s physical facilities, or any activity that disrupts or obstructs the functions of the University or imminently threatens such disruption or obstruction.

    2. Moreover, expression that is indecent or is grossly obscene or grossly offensive on matters such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation is inappropriate in a university community and the University will act as it deems appropriate to educate students violating this principle.

    Obviously and in all events, the use of the University forum shall not imply acceptance or endorsement by the University of the views expressed.

    So Georgetown advertises that it allows all speech except speech that is grossly obscene or offensive, but that beyond that, the only restrictions on speech are reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, without discrimination toward the content of the view being expressed or the speaker.

    So, yes, allowing a SAC group to sponsor an event featuring expression of pro-choice viewpoints is absolutely allowed by Georgetown’s Speech and Expression policy, in the same way allowing a SAC group to sponsor an abortion clinic escort program would not be allowed.

  16. @Fiore:

    Your central point seems to be we should ban recognized groups sponsoring or hosting from otherwise legitimate discourse if it’s part of a broader campaign from an unrecognized group that is not in accordance with Georgetown’s Catholic tradition.

    I, on the other hand (and the Speech and Expression policy seems very clearly to bear this out), see that events should be considered on their own merits. While Plan A can use its influence to get a recognized group to host a panel with pro-choice advocates, any recognized group on campus could have as well. What Plan A can’t do is use the United Feminists to buy condoms or hold abortion clinic escort trainings or any other actions that clearly violate A2B.

    So Plan A can only do what every other campus group, recognized or not, can do — express its viewpoint and invite others to express their viewpoints. Rather than being “contradictory to the spirit of the rules in place and the intent of the University,” it is, in fact, what the rules were intended to do — allow untrammeled discourse without regard to viewpoint.

  17. You are clearly ignoring what happened and putting your own “free speech” spin on the situation, which would be fine if we attend State U, however at Georgetown some Catholic mores should trump some groups’ demands. This was a case where a group which would never receive A2B because it’s puropse is antithetical to many Catholic teachings used the name of another group to do what it wanted anyway.
    So, whatever. There is no good that comes from groups that endorse killing the unborn, and I am baffled by the support they get and their constant need to whine away at Georgetown for things that contradict firm beliefs.

  18. You’re clearly ignoring the Georgetown’s own speech and expression policy. I didn’t write it, the Supreme Court didn’t write it, State U didn’t write it — Georgetown did. It says that Catholic mores include free expression and includes specific guidelines on things like speakers on campus. That specific University document trumps your glittering generalities about Catholic doctrine.

    While Plan A or Hoyas for Choice could not receive A2B because they go beyond mere advocacy into direct abortion-related services (condom distribution, clinic escorting, etc.), their advocacy is protected. University policy allows recognized groups to host speakers regardless of content. The College Dems would have been equally free to host this discussion.

    Just because Plan A is in the picture and has ulterior motives doesn’t ‘negate’ the invite, because all groups are allowed to do this. I’m sorry, but it’s crystal clear that the university’s own policy allows this.

    Here’s where I’d agree with you on Plan A/Hoyas for Choice:
    1. Hoyas for Choice wants to do an abortion clinic escort service, and wants to transport its members and others to a clinic in Virginia to do so.
    2. Hoyas for Choice cannot get funding for this, obviously.
    3. Hoyas for Choice ‘shadow’ partners with College Dems.
    4. College Dems find a plausible excuse to host an event in Virginia near the clinic — there’s a Dem office down the street, and they claim they’re going to phone bank there or something.
    5. College Dems gets funding from SAC to have a bus go to this event.
    6. The bus is in fact made up primarily of people going to the abortion clinic, who get dropped off at the Dem office but walk a few blocks to the clinic.

    Here, the College Dems have effectively been used to do something it could not do under the current university policies, namely, fund transportation for an abortion clinic escorting service. On the other hand, what happened with the pro-choice panel, it could do that under current university policies. So it’s allowed. SAC agrees and so does the University. Sorry, brosef.

  19. Fiore – I don’t think you’d feel this way had you attended. The discussion was about politics and the challenges faced by representing groups you don’t belong to. It was quite interesting and wasn’t really about advocacy at all. I don’t think anyone who was present would have thought the speakers should not have been allowed to come to campus.

  20. I understand that people come to campus to say thigs not in line with the Catholic viewpoint. What is not acceptable is some boffo new Plan A group hijacking an A2B group to stage an event.
    Regardless of what you, Hoya senior say, all the politics and advocacy that was discussed was based on the premise that murdering some people is OK; it was presented as a way for Plan A to host an event, which is a violation of the SAC rules.
    Also, you act cowardly by posting anonymously and tacitly supporting the killing of the defenseless.

  21. I don’t see how withholding a name does anything to harm M’s argument at all. It’s completely irrelevant. Also, “killing of the defenseless” – ha.

  22. Fiore – you sound like a dick. You’re the only one trying to make this political and you keep throwing in unnecessary asides to make it into a battle. I didn’t go to the event and consider myself pro-life but think this is the kind of debate we should have on campus. This wasn’t a rally – this was just a sharing of information that made everyone better. Instead of being an Internet tough guy you should just go and challenge the speakers next time. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and don’t need to fear other opinions. You should try it.

  23. Pingback: Vox Populi » Comments of the Week:

  24. Wow I can’t believe this is a Catholic University. I will not send my kids here. You should not call yourselves Catholic because you confuse people and they cant tell the real ones from the false ones. YOU CANNOT BE PRO ABORTION AND CATHOLIC. You talk about the killing of babies but you do not address the aftermath to the woman who you pretend to support. Abortion does more than kill babies. It destroys the life of women. It causes PTSD, alcoholism, drug addiction, and many, many other mental spiritual and physical problems. Check out Silent No More and see what it does to women. If you want to support women don’t force them into this so called “Choice”. Be real call yourselves what you are which is “pro abortion” and be the pro abortionist that you embrace. Check out http://www.obamamustsee.com and see what you are supporting.

  25. Lisa – if your children share the same commitment to facts and truth that you do, I don’t imagine you’ll have to worry about sending them here. Instead of spouting talking points that lack an evidentiary foundation in a long-moribund thread, why don’t you work harder at understanding complexity and studying an issue. Abortion causing PTSD, drug addiction, etc are long-discredited talking points no more valid than claiming that the Pope is always infallible and that every priest is a pedophile. It’s important to maintain a basis in reality when talking about difficult moral issues. Spouting off nonsense doesn’t help anyone.

  26. Hoya Senior, our Founding Fathers were certainly not “spouting off nonsense” when they stated “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created (as in “brought into being”) equal, that they are endowed by their Creator (Nature’s God with the capital G as referred to in previous paragraph of the Declaration) with certain unalienable (as in cannot be transferred as they are inherent because they come from God) Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness, (the fundamental Right to Life listed first because our Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness depends on protecting our Right to Life) that to protect these Rights, Governments are instituted by men…” (a.k.a., The Constitution)

    Unless you can prove our Founding Fathers were “spouting off nonsense” when they UNANIMOUSLY signed the Declaration of Independence, then, not only is elective abortion not consistent with The Catholic Faith, it is not consistent with the self-evident, universal Truth recognized by our Founding Fathers.

  27. P.S., it is important to note that our Founding Fathers knew we are created before we are brought forth from our Mother’s Womb, which is why they stated, “…all Men are created equal” rather than, all Men are born equal.

  28. Nancy – that’s an odd way to go about an argument. The Declaration is not a binding legal document, like the Constitution is. Also, when they signed that, they were only talking about white men. Many of the signers weer slave owners and none believed in women’s equality. So do you think they’d only oppose aborting white male fetuses? Would they be ok aborting black fetuses because they did not think black people were people? Would they be ok aborting women?

    Abortion was legal in all 13 colonies when the Declaration and the Constitution were signed. It remained legal in the US for decades, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that it started to become illegal. You might want to get your history correct.

    Nobody is arguing that abortion runs contrary to Catholic doctrine and teachings. Trying to understand the history and legal issues here is a lot more complicated. That’s why it’d be nice to be able to bring experts to our campus to explain how Roe v. Wade came to be and what the status of abortion law is now.

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