As the shepherd of a diocese that includes several Catholic institutions of higher learning, it is my unique obligation to teach and bear witness on these important questions, and a recent controversy surrounding the invitation of an “abortion doula” to Notre Dame to advocate for abortion prompts me to dedicate today’s column to the issue.

By way of background, Notre Dame’s Gender Studies Program and John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values are hosting a series of lectures entitled “Reproductive Justice: Scholarship for Solidarity and Social Change.” They define reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” The series features “scholars and advocates whose work at the intersections of reproduction with medicine, law, history, and culture promises a deeper understanding of the issues and histories underlying current debates.”

It is clear from the past and planned events in this series that the organizers are not conducting a neutral inquiry or exploring the debates within this field. The voices featured (including abortion providers and advocates) consider abortion itself to be an essential tool for pursuing justice, equality, and fighting discrimination. The lecture series is meant to persuade and form hearts and minds for “social change,” which is why many of its invited participants are activists rather than academics.

In fact, the lecture series appears to be an explicit act of dissent from Notre Dame’s admirable institutional commitment to promoting a culture of life that embraces and affirms the intrinsic equal dignity of the unborn, pregnant mothers, and families….

On March 20, the lecture series features an event entitled “Trans Care + Abortion Care: Intersections and Questions,” which includes a historian from John Hopkins, and “abortion doula” Ash Williams, who “has been vigorously fighting to expand abortion access by funding abortions and training other people to become abortion doulas.” In a recent profile, it was noted that Williams “has a tattoo on his left forearm of a tool used for manual vacuum aspiration — a type of abortion procedure. Williams said he loves the procedure because, ‘it’s one and done. It’s quick.’”

….Williams is not a scholar or even a prominent public intellectual. The Gender Studies Program and the Reilly Center (and the other units on campus supporting them) are simply providing Williams — a person who literally facilitates abortions — a platform for unanswered pro-abortion activism. Academic freedom is meant to create the space for free inquiry and intellectual exchange in service of pursuing and sharing the truth in charity. But this lecture is simply a conduit for activist propaganda that is not merely wrong, but squarely contrary to principles of basic human equality, justice, dignity, and nonviolence that the Catholic Church, Notre Dame, and many others (including non-Catholics) have affirmed for millennia….

Full story in Today’s Catholic.