College pulls funding for one-sided ‘reproductive justice’ forum after pressure from pro-life activists
A state community college in the metropolitan Sacramento region has pulled its support of a campus “reproductive justice” forum scheduled this afternoon because all the panelists represent a pro-abortion point of view and the event’s sponsors refused to include anyone with a pro-life perspective.
The forum, part of an annual event at Sierra College called the “Cesar E. Chavez Higher Education Speaker Series,” is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. today at the college’s Dietrich Theatre in Rocklin, about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada foothills. This year’s topic is “Reproductive Justice: Does a Woman Have a Right to Choose?”
According to the college’s website, the forum will feature a panel discussion by “distinguished guests.” But all of the five panelists identified by the event’s sponsors are advocates for abortion, including a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and the executive director of a Northern California chain of “feminist” abortion clinics.
“The event organizers were given the opportunity to rebalance the panel to include all perspectives, but they unfortunately refused to do so,” said Sierra College Board of Trustees president Aaron Klein in a prepared statement issued yesterday. “Their intentional and repeated violation of the college’s core values is disappointing and unfortunate.”
“As a result of their decision, this event has now become a private event, rather than an official Sierra College event,” Klein continued. “All sources of taxpayer funding have been withdrawn from the event. The President’s Office has decided not to sponsor the event’s lunch as previously planned, and President Duncan has decided to withdraw from appearing at the event.”
“The event will go on as a private event, without any taxpayer funding, sponsored by one of our college clubs,” said Klein. “We support the right of every group on campus to hold private events as they see fit, and given the unbalanced nature of the panelists, this is the right context for the event.”
Veteran Sacramento-area pro-lifer Wynette Sills and three other pro-lifers complained about the makeup of the panel to the trustees of Sierra College at a meeting in Rocklin on March 13. Sills said that, while the pro-lifers received a generally sympathetic hearing, the board could take no formal action because the issue was not on the day’s official agenda.
“The concerns expressed by the public were not about the event itself, but rather the makeup of the panel,” said Klein. “Both the event moderator, and every single panelist chosen for the event, were tightly affiliated and came from the abortion perspective. There had been no attempt by event organizers to balance the panel with perspectives on the two other choices that women have for an unplanned pregnancy: adoption or parenting.”
“Sierra College is an institution of learning,” said Klein. “We respect free speech, embrace academic freedom, and value discussions of tough issues. And we embrace a set of core values that are supposed to guide how we do that. It was clear that the makeup of the panel violated these core values, particularly ‘providing and demonstrating the value of an inclusive community.’”
The panelists scheduled to speak at the college this afternoon, said Sills, will be offering students nothing more than a “pro-abortion infomercial.”
“Such an unbalanced event fails to reflect the diversity of the Sierra College campus,” wrote Steve Macias, West Coast Regional Coordinator of Students for Life of America, on the group’s website. “The college is using student resources to alienate other campus groups like the Sierra College Students for Life and Sierra Inter-varsity club. Using the campus’s limited public resources to promote the abortion industry’s agenda is intolerable in itself, but to go as far as to also dishonor the legacy of César Chávez is too far.”
“As a Mexican-American from a Christian, migrant farm working family, I fear that such an event fails to appropriately honor Chavez’s legacy,” said Macias. “I have myself, along with many members of the community, brought this issue to the Sierra College Board of Trustees, College President, and the event organizer Mr. Reyes Ortega to ask for a place at the table to express both sides of the issue. While the School Board and College President seem eager to add balance, Mr. Reyes Ortega has flat out refused. This campus faculty member has dug his heels in and continues to promote an exclusively pro-abortion event.”
Among the five speakers scheduled at this afternoon’s forum are former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, who currently serves as vice president for public affairs for San Jose-based Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and Shauna Heckert, executive director of California Women’s Health Specialists, which runs four Northern California abortion clinics.
While serving in the state legislature, Figueroa consistently received 100% pro-abortion ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte operates 18 “health centers” in California and one in Nevada. According to its 2011 annual report, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte performed 17,568 abortions that year alone.
California Women’s Health Specialists began in 1971 as the Feminist Women’s Health Center, where, according to the organization’s website, “a group of women sat in a circle performing pelvic exams on themselves. They were curious, determined and fiercely feminist.”
Today California Women’s Health Specialists maintains the caption “The Feminist Women Health Center’s of California” beneath its name, and traces its founding to “a group of speculum-passing hippies.” It performs about 6000 abortions a year at its various locations.
The moderator for today’s forum is Sierra College Sociology and Women’s Studies professor Megan Seely, who, according to Sills, is a member of the board of directors of Women’s Health Specialists.
Regarding the decision by Sierra College to revoke its sponsorship and funding of the event, board of trustees president Klein concluded, “It’s my hope that we’ve learned an important lesson from this. True diversity requires a balanced set of perspectives. As we strive to uphold our core values in the future, we need to remember that.”
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