Jesuit St. Louis U. President Backs Pro-Abortion, Pro-Contraception Student Group

[Jesuit] St. Louis U. President Backs Pro-Abortion, Pro-Contraception Student Group

[Another “Catholic” university recognizes a pro-abort group, because the university’s prez finds the group’s student reps to be “mature, thoughtful and appreciative of the importance of Catholic moral and ethical teachings for our mission”!?]

February 18, 2016 | By Adam Cassandra |

A chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) at the Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Law has the backing of University President Dr. Fred Pestello despite the group’s public advocacy for abortion and contraception.

In a letter penned last month obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society, Pestello said he has “personally met with the student representatives of LSRJ” and finds them to be “mature, thoughtful and appreciative of the importance of Catholic moral and ethical teachings for our mission.” He also stated that the students “have been primarily concerned with issues related to the abuse of children and women’s health.”

But a review of the group’s Facebook page revealed numerous examples of public advocacy for legalized abortion and contraception in direct conflict with the moral and ethical teachings of the Church. The club has also promoted and linked to Planned Parenthood on many occasions, and posted a link to a letter in support of Planned Parenthood on the website of the dissident group Catholics for Choice, which advocates for abortion and contraception.

From mid-August, when the current academic year began, until mid-January, the Newman Society counted almost 20 separate postings on the LSRJ SLU Law Facebook page in support of Planned Parenthood. Several articles were posted that expressed support for abortion and contraception, and the student group also uploaded an image to their page with text stating, “KEEP ABORTION SAFE AND LEGAL.” The image was then “Liked” by the group page.

“As a Jesuit university, we must be open to discussing any and all issues,” Pestello wrote in January. “In doing so, we are not compromising our faith, but rather following in the rich history of Jesuit education grounded in open and rigorous inquiry.”

The Newman Society contacted the University to point out the student group’s abortion advocacy, and asked if Pestello still stands behind the group. No response was received by time of publication.

The student group’s faculty advisor, Professor Sidney Watson, was contacted by the Newman Society and asked if she has ever advised the students not to publicly advocate for abortion and contraception since it is against Church teaching, but no response was received.

Back in November, the Newman Society reported on a pro-Planned Parenthood event organized by the LSRJ at SLU Law group that was originally scheduled to be held on campus. The event, “Myths, Truths and Facts: Planned Parenthood,” featured the chair of the Board of Trustees for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, Linda Raclin.

Raclin is also a former associate professor at SLU Law, and was on the Board of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis at the same time she was employed by SLU.

The event was moved off-campus after Pestello intervened, citing Catholic identity concerns. Jeff Fowler, vice president of marketing and communications for SLU, told a local media outlet at the time that he believed the student event was the first time a Planned Parenthood official had been slated to speak on campus.

“I think [President Pestello] wanted to find a collaborative way to find some common ground [with the students],” Fowler said, stressing that the decision to move the event was ultimately made by the students. Fowler said that having a Planned Parenthood official speak on campus created “a potential conflict with Catholic teaching.”

Since the time of Pestello’s letter, the student group has posted several more articles on their Facebook page lending support for abortion and contraception.

One post links to an article titled “How You Can Help Women In Countries With Zika Virus,” that argues for legalized abortion in South American countries where the virus is spreading. The article also promotes the dissident group Catholics for Choice in this regard.

“Some of the countries battling a Zika epidemic have the most restrictive policies when it comes to birth control and abortion. … Organizations like Catholics for Choice are working to change reproductive health policies in Latin America and the Caribbean,” according to the article.

In another post, the students indicated that they loved an article about celebrities advocating for “abortion rights” as part of a campaign spearheaded by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal group that fights for “expanded access to reproductive healthcare” including “birth control” and “safe abortion.”

According to the LSRJ chapter page on the SLU Law website, every person “has the right to choose whether or not to have sex, use contraception, or have a child.” The group was started “because we believe that individuals, not governments, have the right to make decisions about their reproductive health” and works to “defend and expand reproductive rights in the United States and around the world.”

The website of the national LSRJ organization explains, “[Reproductive justice] advocates concentrate on the realization of the rights to have a child, to not have a child, and to parent the children we have. More specifically, we aim to construct legally tenable, realistically accessible avenues for informed, consensual, unobstructed decision-making about education, sex, contraception, sterilization, abortion, procreation, birthing, and parenting.”

In the most recent article on the organization’s blog, the author argues against proposals in California “requiring some parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion.”

The previous posting gives another explanation of what “reproductive justice” means: “Reproductive justice means that all people should be able to exercise the rights and access the resources they need to thrive and to decide whether, when, and how to have and parent children with dignity and free from coercion. For that to be realized, low-income people must have access to birth control, reproductive healthcare, and abortion — and that means standing with Planned Parenthood.”

In addition to SLU, the national LSRJ website lists chapters at the law schools of Catholic universities including Fordham University, Loyola University Chicago, University of San Diego, DePaul University, Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco, Loyola Marymount University, Seattle University and the University of Detroit Mercy. A chapter is also listed Georgetown University with a note that the chapter not affiliated with the Student Bar Association or the University.

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