WASHINGTON, D.C., November 11, 2013 ( – The new dean of Catholic University’s School of Social Service (NCSSS) is under fire from abortion supporters after announcing the school would no longer partner with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) because of the group’s strong policy stance in favor of legalized abortion.

Will Rainford, who has served as dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service since June, told students in an email that he would “no longer allow NCSSS to officially partner or collaborate with NASW … based solely on NASW’s overt public position that social workers should advocate for access to abortions.”

Rainford’s decision was made in light of a 2008 policy statement by NASW asserting that “[s]ocial workers … have a professional obligation to work in local, state, national, and international arenas to establish, secure funding for, and safeguard family planning and reproductive health programs, including abortion services.”


Explained Rainford, “Such a concrete and public declaration by an institution is completely incongruent with Catholic Tradition and this renders the organization out of bounds for the school as an institution.”

The NASW is a professional association, not an accrediting body, so the dean’s decision won’t put students in jeopardy of losing jobs.  But Deona Hooper, founder of the Social Work Helper website, said the university should lose its accreditation if it can’t put aside its values in the interest of meeting industry standards.

“In my opinion, this policy is in direct conflict with the Council for Social Work Education’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS),” Hooper wrote.  “If institutions are modelling [sic] practices and instituting policies in violation of accreditation standards, should the institution retain accreditation?”

Hooper cited EPAS section 2.1.4, “Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice,” which states that social workers must “eliminate the influence of personal biases and values” when working with clients.

“As a social worker, if you can not set aside your personal beliefs to provide a client all necessary information to make an informed decision, you are ethically obligated to refer them to someone who can,” Hooper wrote.

Some NCSSS students are unhappy with the dean’s decision, as well.  Andy Bowen, who is seeking a master’s degree in social work from the university, told The Chronicle of Social Change that he is worried Rainford’s choice to align the School of Social Service more closely with Catholic teaching “marks a fundamental change in the NCSSS’s ideological relation to the wider Catholic University of America.”

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Bowen said that he and some other more liberal classmates only chose to attend the Catholic school because of their perception that the social work program stood in opposition to what he called the “ideological conservatism of the wider institution.” He said that assumption was “part of what made us comfortable going to NCSSS in the first place.” 

Led by Bowen, a few of them have organized a group called NCSSS Action to try and overturn Rainford’s decision, or at least force him to put it to a vote.  “[W]e won’t go quietly into the night here,” Bowen said.

But Rainford told CUA’s newspaper The Tower that he isn’t going to change his mind.  “This is immutable,” said Rainford. “I rarely make decisions that are immutable. But this is one that had to be made.”

Previously, the university funded students who wished to join the NASW or participate in its activities.  The organization costs $190 per year to join, although students pay a reduced fee.  Some of those dues have been spent actively promoting abortion; for example, the group co-sponsored the 2004 “March for Women” in Washington D.C. to protest the partial birth abortion ban and campaigned in favor of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sweeping abortion expansion bill last year.

“Anybody with an inkling of logic understands why this had to occur,” Rainford told The Tower. “University money cannot fuel abortion advocacy activities. There just isn’t a goodness of fit between NASW and the University any longer.”

The NASW’s advocacy for abortion is unusually aggressive, going far beyond the ‘safe, legal and rare’ rhetoric often professed by pro-choice activists.   According to the NASW, abortion is a “fundamental human right” which must be made not only legal, but freely accessible to women and girls regardless of age or status. 

“[A]bortion services must be legally, economically, and geographically accessible to all who need them,” writes the group, instructing its members that as social workers, it is their job to fight for government policies that will expand access to abortion worldwide, including government funding of abortions, and the inclusion of abortion in foreign aid packages to poor countries. 

The NASW further “opposes any special conditions and requirements imposed on [abortion] providers,” such as informed consent laws and mandatory waiting periods.  The group also opposes parental consent and parental notification laws for minors seeking abortions, as well as anything else that would limit teens’ “confidential” access to abortion.

While Dean Rainford said his decision to cut ties with the NASW was made “solely” because of its pro-abortion advocacy, the group’s statement on “Family Planning and Reproductive Rights” also takes a number of additional positions that directly conflict with Catholic teaching.   

For instance, the NASW supports the Obama administration’s controversial HHS contraception mandate, which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes.   The mandate forces employers to provide full, copay-free coverage for contraception, sterilization and some abortion-causing drugs, in violation of the Faith’s teachings against such products and procedures.  But according to the NASW, the HHS mandate doesn’t go far enough: If the group had its way, Catholic business owners – and taxpayers – would be paying for abortions, too.

The group also proclaims its support for laws allowing women to donate frozen embryos for use in scientific research, in which they will be experimented upon and likely destroyed. Catholics believe that life begins at conception and that every conception should occur naturally.  The use of living embryos for scientific experiments is considered gravely immoral, as is the in vitro fertilization (IVF) technology that creates such embryos in the first place.

But the NASW considers access to IVF and other “fertility enhancement” technology to be, like abortion, a basic human “right” which should be provided to anyone who wants it – and funded via tax dollars, if necessary.  The group holds that even homosexuals or transsexuals who want to have biological children of their own are entitled to as much technological assistance as they need to make it happen, regardless of the cost.  And if that fails, then the NASW says that adoption should be available to them, too.  “The right to parent should not be denied to capable people, regardless of gender or gender identity and expression,” states the group. 

The NASW’s CEO, Angelo McClain, told The Chronicle of Social Change that her organization “respects the decision of the dean” to end his school’s affiliation with her group.  “We trust that the school’s commitment to advancing social justice in the nation and developing well-trained community advocates will continue,” she said, adding that she would “welcome the opportunity to work with Catholic University, and its faculty and students, if they choose to do so.”

But while the NASW permits Catholics and other pro-life social workers to obtain membership in the organization, it insists any social worker unwilling to advocate for pro-abortion policies or present abortion as a valid, healthy choice warn clients that they offer “limited services” and offer to connect them with abortion providers.

Dean Rainford said that even though NCSSS will no longer be affiliated with the NASW, students may still choose to seek membership in the organization on their own if they want.  


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