The nation's oldest Catholic university, Georgetown University, has invited Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, to speak at an event in April, citing "students' right to express their personal views."
The Lecture Fund, a student-run organization, has invited Richards to speak on campus, the university confirms in a statement it issued after drawing criticism for inviting the leader of America's controversial and largest abortion provider.
"This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University," said Patrick Reilly, president of Cardinal Newman Society, a nonprofit that seeks to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.
"Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the Catholic bishops, featuring a wicked woman who defends the sale of baby body parts and is responsible for the deaths of millions of aborted children," Reilly said, alluding to secretly taped videos that are purported to show Planned Parenthood employees engaging in the illegal harvesting and selling of aborted baby parts.
The Lecture Fund wants to have a 30-minute question and answer session with Richards, according to the society, which states that the event will not be open to the public. "Only invited guests and media, and those with a Georgetown University identification card will be allowed to attend."
The university doesn't agree with the criticism.
"We respect our students' right to express their personal views and are committed to sustaining a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable to some," the university said in its statement. "Georgetown University's long-standing speech and expression policy governs the university's response to controversial speech."
The policy reads: "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. 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."
However, he policy leaves room for the university's own discretion in implementing it, by saying whatever it states is "subject to interpretation."
The university's statement added: "Ms. Richards is not being paid to speak. Student groups may invite any outside speakers and guests to campus. An appearance of any speaker or guest on campus is not an endorsement by the university. … Georgetown remains firmly committed to the sanctity and human dignity of every life at every stage."
The Society notes that according to PPFA's records of "abortion services" disclosed in annual reports, Richards has overseen the deaths of over 2.8 million babies since taking charge of the organization in 2006.