Georgetown Caves to Anti-Choice Pressure

“Pro-life” religious hypocrisy in a nutshell:

Daniel Hughes, president of the student group Progressive Alliance for Life, said he is among the students who have confronted administrators with concerns over summer internship funding. He said he threatened to take the matter to the church officials if action wasn’t taken. Aleinikoff said Georgetown’s decision had nothing to do with external pressure.

Hughes said the university is finally taking the appropriate action by honoring church teachings.

“I don’t think Georgetown needs to enact Catholic doctrine on every issue — that wouldn’t be desirable,” he said. “But the most bedrock Catholic teaching is the protection of life. No advocacy group that works against that principle should be supported by the university.”

Hughes said he doesn’t understand the complaints. Students, he said, need to realize that there are tradeoffs to coming to a Jesuit institution, such as the fact that some alumni donate because they support certain beliefs associated with the church.

Yes, whiny titty-baby Daniel Hughes threatened to go to church higher-ups if Georgetown didn’t de-fund his fellow students. And he doesn’t really care if Georgetown abides by other Catholic doctrines (anti-war, anti-death penalty) as long as they can continue to oppress women.

The background is this: Georgetown University Law Center has a public interest program that provides funding to students who take unpaid summer internships. Students have long accepted positions at a wide variety of organizations, including pro-choice groups. But this year, a student who was hired by Planned Parenthood’s public policy and litigation department was denied funding because of Planned Parenthood’s support of abortion rights.

Particularly problematic here is that students were blindsided by this policy. There are many pro-choice students at Georgetown, and they had no warning that the public interest program would not apply to them. After all, students still receive funding to work at other organizations that violate Catholic doctrine. As one student says:

“If Georgetown wants to be a Catholic University it has the freedom to identify as such,” she said. “If the school wants to abide by Catholic doctrine it should do so consistently and prevent all activities the Church disagrees with. This includes prosecutors’ offices that impose the death penalty, gay rights organizations, political candidates and judges that hold positions that disagree with the Catholic church, military law organizations and human rights organizations (the majority of which support reproductive rights, as well).

“When we apply to Georgetown Law, the most you hear about the Jesuit tradition is that [the school] supports students doing work in the public interest,” she added. “If I ever knew that taking part in women’s rights issues would lead to a chilling effect, I don’t know if I would have ever considered coming here.”

I have a feeling, though, that Georgetown won’t prevent the DA’s office from working on campus, or de-fund students who work for pro-war conservative legal organizations or think tanks. I’m pretty sure that there are at least a few non-Christian students at Georgetown — do they refuse to fund students who are working for other religiously-based legal organizations? Or, say, the Anti-Defamation League? I suspect they don’t. But advocating for something that saves hundreds of thousands of women’s lives every year, and improves the heath and well-being of millions more? Unacceptable.

I’ll repeat the quote from anti-choice student Daniel Hughes:

“I don’t think Georgetown needs to enact Catholic doctrine on every issue — that wouldn’t be desirable,” he said.

…because that might interfere with my job prospects, and we can’t have that!

The thorough hypocrisy of people like Hughes never fails to amaze me. And Georgetown’s emphasis on curtailing women’s rights instead of taking a holistic life-affirming view is disappointing, but not surprising. Georgetown of course has a right to fund what they want to fund, and refuse to back organizations that depart from their institutional and religious values — but that isn’t the case here, at least not in any sort of consistent way. This is just about being loudly misogynist and anti-abortion.

I hope this results in a serious application decrease next year, and plenty of bad publicity for the law school. And if I were a law student at Georgetown, I’d put in my application to transfer — or at least write a letter to the dean expressing my disappointment, and letting him know that so long as Georgetown embraces the curtailing of women’s rights, I won’t even consider “giving back” after graduation.


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41 comments for “Georgetown Caves to Anti-Choice Pressure

  1. GULC feminist
    April 6, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure Dan Hughes is the Treasurer of Outlaw, Georgetown Law’s LGBT organization. At the very least, he helped organize the SLDN Lobby Day protest, which advocated revoking the military’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy.

  2. April 6, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Sweet! I was just getting ready to email you (plural) about covering this nonsense.

    I’m a GULC alumna, and my friends and I started the repro rights group on campus back in 2001 (we were called Advocates for Contraceptive Equity at the time, and the LSfC took over in 2003). I received one of those summer public interest fellowships – although not to work at a so-called “pro-abortion” organization, which is what Dean Aleinikoff has decided to refuse to fund – and am thoroughly sickened by the recent policy change.

    There’s an alumni network that’s getting organized to shine more light on this new policy. If there’s one thing GULC is sensitive about, it’s bad publicity.

    Re: GULC feminist’s quote — When ACE was lobbying the student bar association to fund our organization in defiance of the administration, one of the only SBA members to oppose funding was … wait for it … a member of OutLaw. I tried to ask her why she was being inconsistent, and she literally ran away from me. Seriously: turned around and ran in the other direction. So no, I’m not surprised that Hughes is a hypocrite as well as a misogynist.

  3. April 6, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Particularly problematic here is that students were blindsided by this policy.

    And also, though you won’t see it in this article: particularly problematic is that the 1L who was denied funding was told not to tell anyone about the policy change.

    Seriously: GULC is a shady, shady place. On the bright side, it definitely made me (and several of my friends who fought this issue) wholly committed to being civil rights lawyers.

  4. Ben
    April 7, 2007 at 7:55 am

    GULC Feminist, you’re absolutely right. Dan Hughes is himself gay, and an officer of Outlaw. He is, therefore, among the highest order of hypocrites.

  5. Joy
    April 7, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I’m the current president of Law Students for Choice at Georgetown, and can’t thank you enough for covering this story.

    I can confirm that Dan is an openly gay man who sits on the board of our LGBT student organization. And… brace yourself… opposed handing out condoms at a World AIDS Day event.

    After conversations with the Dean, it seems like this is all about the University’s image. They’re only applying this policy to jobs at organizations whose “primary purpose” is “abortion advocacy.” The only two examples the Dean could give were NARAL and Planned Parenthood. I got GULC funding last year to work in NARAL’s legal department, and definitely wouldn’t describe my work as abortion advocacy, but that’s a whole different story. Anyway, the point is that they don’t care what an organization actully does; they care about what people associate it with. So, “respectable” groups like National Women’s Law Center or the Democratic Party would be fine, even though they’re just as pro-choice as NARAL. The hypocrisy here is mind-blowing.

    I could go on about this for hours, so feel free to comment with any questions.

  6. Meredith
    April 7, 2007 at 9:34 am

    Rachel, how do alumni contact each other without the Georgetown’s lists? Facebook? Or do they have contact information accessible for networking purposes elsewhere?

  7. MattC
    April 7, 2007 at 9:52 am

    I am really floored that a gay man, who has faced discrimination due to the influence of religious institutions, not the least being the Catholic Church, would wield that same power against the rights of women. There are so many places where women’s freedoms are just barely hanging on and he’s willing to push against them as part of his own hypocritical crusade, so long as he never has to feel the effects where it’s not “desirable” for him. What a sickening abuse of male privilege.

  8. April 7, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Meredith – it’s nothing terribly organized, we just know one another :)

    If you’re a GULC alumna who wants to be involved, let me know. My journal is linked in the comments I’ve left.

    ::waves to Joy::

  9. April 7, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Knowing that he’s gay puts that “wouldn’t be desirable” nonsense. The threat to cry to church officials is enlightening, as he knows damn well that the school would have no choice to cave at that point. I went to a Jesuit university myself, and while they try to have an independant (and generally much more progressive) voice that the church hierachy, they are still “good catholics”. They can be unhappy about it, but if the church leadership tells them to do something, they do it. Rushing to that kind of a trump card is outrageous, but all the moreso when OBVIOUSLY this is not a person who feels much committment to church doctrine. To rely on the Church’s committment to doctrine to get his way on this is such an audacious hypocracy one hardly knows what to say. He knows that his opponents on this issue wouldn’t go after him because they would despise his tactics. His allies despise who he is, but agree with him on this issue. I’m frankly just stunned by this.

    I think its awful whenever Jesuit schools are forced to abandon their academic freedom because of church doctrine. The Jesuits are really doing very good work and it honestly benefits the Catholic Church that they be allowed to explore the Catholic faith and reach out to people outside the church. But its become increasingly common in the last 10 years for Jesuit critics inside and outside the church to fall back on their trump card to force their will on these institutions. Its outrageous. Its a dirty tactic, but to see it employed by someone who usually is on the receiving end of the tactics is absurd. Especially since its only used to enforce Conservative political doctrine. The liberal policies of the church are never defended this way, because the church establish lacks the will to promote those issues and the schools don’t want to responded in a scorched earth manner to these attacks. Frankly, the time has come for them to enact these policies fairly. It is an injustice for them to be forced to adhere to their Catholic identity so selectively. If Jesuits schools aren’t going to be free to see their own standards and agenda, it shouldn’t be set for them so piecemeal. You can’t have Catholic doctrine when it suits you and ignore it when it doesn’t. You either take it all, or have the freedom to interact with people of many different faiths and backgrounds.

  10. April 7, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    I am really floored that a gay man, who has faced discrimination due to the influence of religious institutions, not the least being the Catholic Church, would wield that same power against the rights of women.

    Sadly, it’s not nearly as uncommon as you’d think, even on the left side of the political spectrum. I stopped reading Firedoglake’s blog because I just couldn’t take TRex’s misogyny any more.

  11. April 7, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I can confirm that Dan is an openly gay man who sits on the board of our LGBT student organization. And… brace yourself… opposed handing out condoms at a World AIDS Day event.

    head explodes.

    TRex’s racism is lovely too.

    to be fair though i’m fairly certain he’d never protest funding for reproductive rights. i could be wrong, as i haven’t read him for dog’s years, but it doesn’t sound like what i know of him…

    anyhoo that Hughes guy is just SPECIAL. who the fuck does he think he’s kidding?

  12. Michael
    April 8, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    I am really floored that a gay man, who has faced discrimination due to the influence of religious institutions, not the least being the Catholic Church, would wield that same power against the rights of women.

    Why? The Church isn’t that anti-gay; they’ll still let him be Pope.

  13. tas
    April 8, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Perfect candidate for Log Cabin Republicans, wouldn’t you think?

  14. Paddy Mac
    April 8, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    “To rely on the Church’s committment to doctrine to get his way on this is such an audacious hypocracy one hardly knows what to say. He knows that his opponents on this issue wouldn’t go after him because they would despise his tactics. His allies despise who he is, but agree with him on this issue.”

    Thank you for that very concise description of how our entire right-wing political establishment works. It does this on all issues, but most especially on reproductive choice issues. They forever demand that young women relinquish sexual freedom, all the while keeping their own medical histories secret, knowing that we pro-choice liberals, by definition, believe in medical privacy. (Given what we know about the private lives of public moral scolds, does anyone doubt what we’d find, if we looked?)

    As for his allies, they’re content to have him act as censor here — they’re just biding their time, until they can use those same tactics against him. As Sam Harris notes, in “The End of Faith”, the Roman Catholic Church did not excommunicate a single German for participating in the Holocaust. (Galileo remained verboten the whole time.) These people are very evil, they know what they’re doing, and our petty charges of hypocrisy mean nothing to them.

  15. Martin Cicchino
    April 8, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    You know, it doesn’t take a lobotomy to be a good Catholic, but it helps. Thanks Dan, Nice Work!

  16. Stan Marchan
    April 8, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    1.) Georgetown is a private institution and can fund programs as it sees fit. Is there an ACLU lawyer in the house? No? How convenient.
    2.) Abortion oppresses women. Over half of the victims of this holocast are female.
    3.) It is possible to be gay and in communion with the catholic church. They are called to be chaste like anyone outside of the marital relationship, or even married couples at different times during their marital relationship.
    4.) If someone does not agree with these points of view they may choose to attend non-Catholic colleges or practice other faiths. (or no faith at all.)

  17. zuzu
    April 8, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Sorry, Stan, it may be a private institution but it accepts federal funding. It’s also bound by nondiscrimination laws.

  18. Stan Marchan
    April 8, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Federal funding does not compel an institution to support student advocacy groups. Schools have the right to be discretionary. In this case they are declining to support a program that advocates violence against unborn babies.

    Abortions supporters are not a protected class. This case does not involve the Georgetown’s treatment of Mr. Hughes. My comments were intended to explain how he can be gay and advocate church doctrine.

  19. Stan Marchan
    April 8, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Question: If you are looking for support to pursue an internship with a pro-abortion organization, why do you go to an institution associated with the largest anti-abortion entity on the planet (the Catholic church) looking for a hand-out? Certainly do not want to be accused of the hypocrisy charged above…oh, but I guess it is ok in this case.

  20. Stan Marchan
    April 8, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Question: If you are looking for support to pursue an internship with a pro-abortion organization, why do you go to an institution associated with the largest anti-abortion entity on the planet (the Catholic church) looking for a hand-out? Certainly do not want to be accused of the hypocrisy charged above…oh, but I guess it is ok in this case.

  21. April 8, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    The Catholic Church isn’t paying for summer legal funding.

    And if Georgetown wants to discriminate, that’s fine. But then why do they accept money form an institution associated with legal abortion (the United States government)?

  22. April 8, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Stan, for the love of all that is holy and pro-choice, would you please pay attention: IT’S NOT GEORGETOWN’S MONEY. This is Georgetown telling an INDEPENDENT student group how to spend its own money.

    This money is raised by an auction (live and silent), donations from alumni and local businesses, and student purchases.

  23. skeptic
    April 8, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Hughes sounds like a real winner but I think the policy in and of itself makes sense for a law school at a Catholic University. There is no reason a private university should fund an internship at an organization in conflict with its religious teachings. If Georgetown didn’t pull funding until after this year’s summer internships I wouldn’t have a problem with its decision.

  24. Colin
    April 8, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    And why must GULC be selective with respect to the Catholic doctrine it chooses to enforce through selective disbursement of summer funding? Students who work for federal agencies like the DOJ and the DOD are permitted to receive funding. And yet, I am fairly confident the Catholic Church frowns on war and execution. Dan Hughes is on a self-aggrandizing, hypocritical, silly crusade.

  25. Stan Marchan
    April 8, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Rachel: Huh? Here is the quote from the original post: “Georgetown University Law Center has a public interest program that provides funding to students who take unpaid summer internships.” Is the law center not affiliated with Georgetown?

    Jill: This issue is related to where Georgetown will spend its money…not the U.S. government. What are the “conditions” for accepting federal funding that require Georgetown to violate Church teaching. It cannot be that Georgeton is required to support the activities of ANY student advocacy group, especially those that support entities that advocate violence.

  26. April 8, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Stan, the original post is not entirely clear. The short answer is that the university does not own the money.

    The long answer is as follows. The public interest program in question is called Equal Justice Foundation. It is a student group at GULC that raises its own money; it is an affiliate of Equal Justice Works, a national public interest organization of which most (nearly all) accredited law schools in the US are members.

    Equal Justice Foundation raises money – through an auction (live and silent), donations from alumni and local businesses, and student purchases – to fund summer public interest fellowships. The money is raised by, and belongs to, EJF, and is distributed according to the results of an anonymous vote (the opportunity to vote is purchased by individual students – when I graduated, you paid $30 for the opportunity to vote for six fellowship projects).

    This is NOT Georgetown’s money. No indeed.

  27. Nate
    April 9, 2007 at 12:22 am

    I”m frustrated by all this talk about Georgetown being Catholic as though that gives them license to be discriminatory, inconsistent and arbitrary. In coming to a Big East school with a top-tier law school in downtown DC, I never thought Georgetown’s Jesuit roots meant it would discriminate based on religious or political beliefs. In fact, I always expected exactly the opposite – tolerance and fairness. Here’s a quote from Georgetown Univeristy’s page about their Jesuit and Catholic heritage:

    The school was, in the emerging tradition of American religious tolerance, to be open to “every class of citizens” and students of “every religious profession.”

    [Founder John] Carroll saw Georgetown as an academically rigorous Catholic academy with a diverse student body. The vision of John Carroll continues to be realized today in a distinctive educational institution — a national University rooted in the Catholic faith and Jesuit tradition, committed to spiritual inquiry, engaged in the public sphere, and invigorated by religious and cultural pluralism.

    But skeptic, Dan and others who think the position makes sense, even if the above quote could mean that Georgetown should discriminate against students who choose to support causes not in line with Catholic teaching, why should the University be excused for doing it so arbitrarily? I’m not the first person to raise this, but why is abortion suddenly more important than the death penalty, homosexuality or war? The Catholic church and Catholic priests have a long tradition of instrumental involvement in the American anti-war and anti-nuclear politic. I would think many Catholics around the country might find focus on abortion and disregard for war politically biased and deeply disturbing. Aren’t those church doctrines important?

    And Stan, please, can we come off the line that people who disagree with Catholic teachings should go to a different law school and be atheist? That may be your personal feeling, but it certainly isn’t the way Georgetown represents its history or mission, as evidenced by the quote above.

  28. hanna jörgel
    April 9, 2007 at 1:05 am

    I’m with Nate.

    I’m a Georgetown grad (undergrad, SFS), who went to the school fully atheist and went for the education. I remember having the abortion debate in my Spanish class with gung-ho Catholics where I took the pro-choice side and all was ok. I also happened to be a card-carrying member of the campus republicans at that point in my life.

    I learned so much there from the fledgling GLBT movement on campus about human rights. (I don’t think it had yet gained its B or T)

    I don’t have a lot of experience with the law school, but this makes me think things have changed since my time there.

  29. Cliffy
    April 9, 2007 at 8:18 am

    Stan, while you’re correct that G’town has every right to discriminate against certain policy choices, the issue here is, in part, that G’town is doing this in contravention of the way it has always presented itself, namely, in not allowing the Jesuit traditions with which it is associated (and prides itself on) to interfere with any academic or political position it, its faculty, or its students might wish to take.

    –Cliffy, GULC ’01

  30. Pablo
    April 9, 2007 at 8:45 am

    “But advocating for something that saves hundreds of thousands of women’s lives every year, and improves the heath and well-being of millions more?”

    Abortion saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year and improves the health of millions more?

    Did you just make that up, Jill, or is there some scientific basis for that claim?

  31. gulc3Ler
    April 9, 2007 at 8:55 am

    The long answer is as follows. The public interest program in question is called Equal Justice Foundation. It is a student group at GULC that raises its own money; it is an affiliate of Equal Justice Works, a national public interest organization of which most (nearly all) accredited law schools in the US are members.

    Not to critique your conclusion, but I am not entirely sure this premise is correct. I have read and heard elsewhere that the school itself contributes to EJF to the tune of approximately $100,000 per year. Also, EJF would be severely handicapped in its fundraising efforts if it did not enjoy the support of the Law Center’s development office, which furnishes EJF with support, mostly in the form of “leads” to cold-call during its fund drive.

    I may be wrong on these points and, ultimately, the University’s funding role does not change my opinion that this was an awful policy choice. Nonetheless, I think it is important to get the facts right so as to put forward more compelling arguments.

  32. April 9, 2007 at 10:05 am

    gulc3Ler:

    Huh – I didn’t know that was the funding situation. Thanks for letting me know. (Not sure how that affects the status of EJF as an affiliate of EJW, which is the portion of my comment that you seem to be responding to, but good to know.)

    I guess the question is, then, to what extent does GULC’s money carry this kind of string? I mean, are they going to start telling ACS and NLG that they can’t advocate for queer rights or repro rights (which is what Notre Dame does)? or will they tell the various religious affiliation groups on campus – the Jewish Law Students Association and Muslim Law Students Association – that they can only get funding if they adhere to Catholic doctrine?

    It’s inconsistent, to say the least.

  33. April 9, 2007 at 10:09 am

    And, as plenty of people have pointed out, no one is telling EJF that they may not fund fellowships at NGLTF or Lambda Legal, or at the various governmental agencies that are involved in either the war (DOD) or the death penalty (prosecutors offices).

    (sorry for the double post!)

  34. April 9, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Abortion saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year and improves the health of millions more?

    Did you just make that up, Jill, or is there some scientific basis for that claim?

    Legal abortion saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year and improves the health of millions more. No, I did not just make that up. 80,000 women die every year from unsafe illegal abortions — many, many more are maimed and injured. The number of hospitalizations from illegal abortion in just a few countries:

    Bangladesh: 71,800
    Brazil: 288,700
    Chile: 31,900
    Colombia: 57,700
    Dominican Republic: 16,500
    Egypt: 216,000
    Mexico: 106,500
    Nigeria: 142,200
    Peru: 54,200
    The Philippines: 80,100

    Illegal abortion is the cause of 25% of all maternal deaths in Latin America, 12% in Asia, and 13% in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Legal abortion is safer than childbirth. And there is no correlation between legality and abortion rates — many countries where abortion is outlawed have higher abortion rates than the U.S. (see Brazil, Chile, Bangladesh, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, and the Philippines). The difference is that those countries also have significantly higher numbers of abortion-related deaths and injuries.

    So did I make that up? No. There is a very strong scientific basis for the fact that when abortion is illegal, women die and women are injured. Also see South Africa, where deaths from abortion have dropped 91% since the procedure was legalized there.

  35. April 9, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Hey, there’s been a good bit of who-to-contact-about-this on various threads today – any idea who at Georgetown one might write to about this, or whether a flood of letters at this point would do anyone any good?

    Apologies if this has been covered in this or the Anti-Choice Hypocrisy thread. I’m going to play the just-had-surgery card and blame the drugs.

  36. Meredith
    April 9, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Probably Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff.

    I think a flood of letters may be helpful — but I’m not on LSFC’s board, so I don’t really know. Ask Joy at http://unequaljustice.livejournal.com.

  37. Pablo
    April 10, 2007 at 7:07 am

    80,000 women die every year from unsafe illegal abortions

    1. 80,000 is not hundreds of thousands. It’s 80,000.

    2. A life lost to illegal abortion is not a life saved by legal abortion. You’re talking about places where millions die of dirty water. However, water is not optional. Abortion is.

  38. Melissa
    April 10, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Dirty water. Good grief.
    Yeah, abortion is totally optional.
    As a matter of fact, all medical procedures are optional.

    Water is essential to life. Abortion is not. You are correct. And that changes nothing.

    A life lost to illegal abortion is not a life saved by legal abortion. You are correct.

    A life lost to an illegal, unsafe, and unregulated abortion is a life saved by legal, safe, and regulated abortion.

    But enough about abortion. The issue is academic freedom, university transparency, and the Pope.

    I hope there’s a middle ground, because I am certain that Georgetown will suffer the most from this.

  39. Linden
    April 10, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Damn, if we’d got up to 100,000 dead, Pablo would have said “Hmm, a lot of women die from illegal abortions, I’ll give you that.”, but since only 80,000 of us have died this past year, he doesn’t feel we have a good case. We must try harder to die in hideous ways to convince Pablo!

    If abortion were made illegal all over the world, that 80,000 would easily top your 100,000 figure. And feminists everywhere would rejoice, because they would have a shot at convincing Pablo!

    My mum had an abortion, and damn right, it improved her life, my life, my dad’s life and that of all my siblings too. I certainly won’t be quibbling with the figures given.

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