A report released by the Cardinal Newman Society criticizes the Notre Dame Gender Studies Program for advertising an event sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and other groups that promote abortion and contraception use.  Released on April 11, the report claims to expose connections between Planned Parenthood and over 150 Catholic colleges and universities.

Two editions of the “GeNDer Studies Announcements” bulletin published this semester invite participation in a group of panel discussions entitled “Voices for Reproductive Justice.”  According to the given description, these panels focused on “sexuality, education, choice, LGBTIQ rights and advocacy for reproductive justice.”

The event’s featured speaker was Rev. Carlton Veazey, a Baptist minister and president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  The bulletin describes the coalition as “an increasingly influential voice for reproductive rights and a leader in brining cultural diversity to the pro-choice movement.”

In addition to being sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN), the event was sponsored by PPIN’s Fort Wayne Community Action Board, Friends of PPIN, Indiana Equality, the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau, the Christian Community, and two programs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).

In an email to The Rover, Pamela Robertson Wojcik, director of the Gender Studies Program and associate professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, responded to the report.

“Gender Studies is a longstanding academic program, not an advocacy center,” Wojcik wrote.  “Since one of our areas of concentration for the major is ‘religion and family,’ we felt that a forum on reproductive justice would be of possible interest to our community.”

Drawing on the university’s mission statement, Wojcik stressed that the program’s decision to circulate the information should not be equated with sponsorship but rather contributes to “free inquiry and open discussion of issues.”

“We listed it [the event],” she stated, pointing out that the event was held at a Christian church.  “We did not organize the event or sponsor it.  It is neither here nor there that the event was partially sponsored by Planned Parenthood.”

“It was, as I understand, a forum, a place for discussion,” Wojcik wrote.  “As far as I know, the Catholic Church does not ban conversation.”

An interdisciplinary program within the College of Arts and Letters, the Gender Studies Program was founded in 1988.  As stated on its website, the program seeks to analyze “the significance of gender — and the cognate subjects of sex, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and nationality — in all areas of human life, especially in the social formation of human identities, practices, and institutions.”

The Cardinal Newman Society has discussed the Gender Studies Program critically in a past report, targeting the program’s 2008 decision to fund a student’s internship with the National Organization for Women (NOW).  The society’s mission is to strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic American colleges and universities.

Claire Gillen is a junior history major.  Contact her at cgillen2@nd.edu.