Georgetown community criticizes Sandra Fluke campus event

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Georgetown University Healy Hall. Credit: Aurelien Guichard (CC BY-SA 2.0).

More than 100 students and alumni of Georgetown University criticized activist Sandra Fluke’s recent invitation to speak on campus without clarification of the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception.

The group signed a letter calling on the Jesuit university to release a statement “clarifying its position on this fundamental issue of debate” to ensure that students are accurately informed on both the university’s current insurance policy and Church teaching.

The statement came in response to an April 16 campus event, titled “A Conversation with Sandra Fluke on Contraception Access.”

Fluke gained national attention in February, when she testified before a policy committee for U.S. House Democrats on why she thought religious institutions such as Georgetown University should be required to provide free contraception to students.

The Georgetown event, organized by the university’s student-run Lecture Fund and Public Policy Institute, was closed to outside press and the public.

The event preview on the Georgetown website described Fluke as the former co-president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Career Chair for the Law Center's LGBT student group.

In an April 16 letter to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and other members of the administration, students and alumni voiced concern that the university was offering Fluke a forum to promote “views which are contrary to Church teaching.”

They observed that many members of the Georgetown community are proud of the school’s Catholic and Jesuit identity and chose to attend the university in part because of its faith dimension.

The signatories noted that the university hosts pro-life events and supports pregnant faculty and staff and that many students are involved in pro-life groups.

With several prominent pro-life alumni and major pro-life organizations founded at the university, Georgetown has a “rich legacy in support of the pro-life movement,” they said.

Given the university’s commitment to life, misconceptions involving Georgetown’s insurance policy –  particularly in light of Fluke’s Congressional testimony – need to be addressed, the letter added.

Many students seem to be unaware that the Church allows for “hormonal prescriptions for medical conditions,” as well as the fact that the university has an “exception within its insurance policy for such conditions,” they said. 

While acknowledging the importance of “respectful, civil discourse” on important topics, the group explained that a true dialogue is not achieved if “an equal opportunity is not provided for the virtues of the Church's teachings on sexuality and contraception to be presented.”

If the university fails to present the Church’s view on the controversial subject, “any hope of an adequately informed student body will be lost,” they said.

Although informed debate can be both healthy and productive debate without sufficient knowledge can lead to “emotional responses that are unproductive and lead to unnecessary division and misunderstanding,” the group noted.

“Faith and reason can only work together if students are adequately informed.”

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