SOUTH BEND, Indiana (LifeSiteNews) — In defiance of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life and human sexuality, the University of Notre Dame will host an event later this month featuring a transgender “abortion doula.” The event is part of a series of conferences at the university dedicated to promoting abortion.
Sponsored by the gender studies program and numerous groups at the university, the pro-abortion series is titled “Reproductive Justice: Scholarship for Solidarity and Social Change.” The first event, “Reproductive Health Disparities and Injustice,” was held February 17. The next event, “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions,” will take place via Zoom on March 20. According to the event webpage, the conference will discuss the “intersections” between transgender ideology and practices, and abortion.
One speaker is Ash Williams, a transgender woman who identifies as a man and works as an “abortion doula,” assisting women to obtain abortions. Williams described herself in an NPR profile: “I’m an abortion doula, I fund people’s abortions, I make sure they can get to their appointments, period.”
Williams herself has had two surgical abortions and, according to NPR, has a forearm tattoo of a tool used in the abortion procedure known as a manual vacuum aspiration.
Decrying the overtly pro-abortion event series on the campus of a Catholic university, William Dempsey, a Notre Dame alumnus and president of the Sycamore Trust — a group of Notre Dame alumni and supporters concerned about the Catholic identity of the university — said of the conferences, “We have a series that so far has been dedicated to opposing the Dobbs decision and promoting the pro-choice position, as opposed to the Catholic position, at one of the leading Catholic universities in the country.”
Dempsey said the university’s failure to voice Catholic teaching on abortion is “contrary to the policy of the university” spelled out in the Common Proposal of Chairs of the College of Arts and Letters. He explained that “when a panelist or panelists expresses views contrary to important Catholic Church teaching, the obligation of the sponsoring department is to ensure that the Catholic Church’s position is presented.”
“That has not been done,” he said.
In comments to LifeSiteNews, Madeline Murphy, executive board member of Notre Dame Right to Life, said of the event:
This event and the series encapsulating it is extremely disappointing. The role of the professor and university more broadly is to profess the truth. As a Catholic university, Notre Dame is blessed to know the truth about life issues such as abortion. It is impermissible and dangerous for professors to spread falsehoods that contradict the truth, as students are easily persuaded by their “expert opinions” and are led astray. Notre Dame prohibits any formally recognized student clubs to be pro-choice or promulgate pro-choice propaganda, and I beg her to maintain this stance in regard to her faculty and the speakers they invite.
Merlot Fogarty, president of Notre Dame Right to Life, told LifeSiteNews in a statement, “Right to Life strongly opposes the onslaught of pro-abortion events and initiatives that are hostile to the dignity and sanctity of life on our campus. We pledge to continue supporting life-affirming resources and to continue to share the gospel of life with our peers and community members, despite hostility at the cultural and institutional level.”
This is far from the first time that the University of Notre Dame has welcomed staunch pro-abortion advocates. In 2009, amid great controversy, the university invited pro-abortion President Barack Obama to give the commencement address.
In 2016, Notre Dame gifted self-proclaimed Catholic yet unapologetically pro-abortion Joe Biden the Laetare Medal, which is “the oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics.” The decision was met with significant backlash from the public. University alumni accused the school’s president, Father John Jenkins, of “hypocrisy and scandal” when he attended the 2018 national March for Life while providing insurance coverage for students and staff that included abortifacient contraceptives.
In 2021, Biden turned down an invitation after he became president to give the university’s commencement address.
This year, Notre Dame has asked the former Columbia President Juan Manuel Santos to address its graduates. Santos has strongly supported abortion and the LGBT agenda. In 2016, LifeSiteNews reported that he backed down on plans to push “transgender” education policies on Colombian schools only after there were huge protests against his proposal.
Last February, Colombia legalized abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. While current pro-life leaders lamented the decision, Santos expressed his support and indicated that he would favor further access to abortion in the future. During a speech at Harvard University that took place shortly after Colombia enabled women to murder their developing babies, Santos said, “I agree with what the Constitutional Court did in Colombia, expanding the weeks where abortion is allowed. I think it was a correct move, and I support it.”
In November, Notre Dame canceled a pro-life event sponsored by the Right to Life Michiana because the event and its speakers — among whom was Ben Shapiro — were deemed problematic. Instead, the university hosted a pro-abortion event on the same night.
Notre Dame’s longstanding and overt welcome to staunch pro-abortion advocates remains a scandal to Catholics and pro-lifers across the nation. It remains to be seen whether enough opposition will be raised against these events for the university to change course, and how long it will be until the Catholic university accepts Church teachings on the sanctity of human life.