Student expelled from University of Louisville over pro-life views, lawsuit claims

The University of Louisville campus in Louisville, Kentucky
The University of Louisville campus in Louisville, Kentucky | YouTube/ Louisville Cardinals Football Recruiting

A four-year medical student has filed a lawsuit against officials at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, accusing them of discriminating against him over his pro-life activism.

Austin Clark of Louisville filed an amended complaint last week in U.S. District Court against ULSOM President Neeli Bendapudi and 13 others after being expelled in July 2020.

Clark, who formerly headed ULSOM’s Medical Students for Life group, accused the officials of harassing and eventually expelling him in retaliation for a 2018 pro-life event he hosted.

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The 2018 event featured Alex McFarland, a noted Christian apologist and author, speaking about the origins of life in the womb. The event was considered controversial by many students and faculty.

“They are saying I was being unprofessional, but all I’ve done is to be a vocal pro-life student, standing up to bullies,” said Clark in a statement last week, as quoted by Students for Life of America.

The complaint alleges that from the 2018 event until his 2020 expulsion, Clark was frequently harassed by professors who allegedly verbally assaulted him. The complaint also alleges that he was arbitrarily given a failing grade in internal medicine even though he claims to have earned a passing score.

The complaint also alleged that Clark was the victim of viewpoint discrimination, as seen by the disparate treatment he received compared to other politically active students.

“Defendants punish Clark … when there are students who, when expressing contrary views or faiths (or lack thereof), via Student Organizations and other means, or otherwise engaging in similar or more severe ‘unprofessional behavior,’ while both on and off the clerkship services, are not subject to the same or similar restrictions or such severe level of academic discipline as applied to Clark,” stated the complaint, according to Students for Life.

The lawsuit calls for Clark to be reinstated and accuses the school of violating the First and 14th Amendments. 

The university has told the media that it won't comment on pending litigation. 

“Viewpoint discrimination is running rampant in workplaces, online, and on college campuses,” Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said in a statement. “Students’ futures should not be threatened simply because their beliefs don’t line up perfectly with their professors’, but once again, a student must head to court to fight for basic rights.”

The University of Louisville has ties to the abortion industry, as physicians at the state’s only abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, are also professors at the university.

In 2020, the conservative group the Family Foundation and 35 state lawmakers demanded an investigation into whether the university violated state law on taxpayer funding of abortions by effectively controlling the lone abortion clinic.

"These documents suggest that the only remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky is being run as an official or quasi-official arm of the University of Louisville’s Medical School," stated the foundation's spokesman Martin Cothran at the time, as reported by WDRB.

"Not only is U of L involved in the abortion clinic’s activities, but the clinic operates, for all practical purposes, as an extension of the Medical School’s program."

The university maintained that the EMW clinic and the school are separate entities, noting that programs for students and faculty simply involve training in which abortion training was optional.

“We comply — not just in this program, but in every program — with all federal and state laws,” stated President Bendapudi last year, as reported by WDRB.

“If we did not provide that education here, then our medical residents in the OBGYN program and those at the University of Kentucky would actually have to leave the state. They have to get (the training) somewhere. That's part of the accreditation process." 

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