Pleas from members of the Loyola Marymount University community against Friday’s on-campus Planned Parenthood fundraiser have fallen on deaf ears with the Catholic university allowing the event to continue as scheduled.
LMU Women in Politics, the registered student organization at the university that is hosting the semiformal event, have doubled down on their decision throughout the week in the face of backlash from students and alumni. Meanwhile, the university has stayed largely mute.
Samantha Stephenson, a Loyola Marymount alumnus who organized a petition against the event, told Crux she was “heartbroken, sad, disappointed, and angry” after learning of the event.
“I know that if there were an event that was marginalizing to any other class of people who tend to be overlooked, forgotten, or exploited in some way then that event would not be permitted on campus,” Stephenson said. “For the unborn to be overlooked, it’s really disheartening.”
Stephenson, a Catholic writer and podcaster, noted that the type of event is part of the problem.
“It’s absolutely important that we have dialogue with people who believe different things and we make space for that in academic settings, but this is not one of those events,” Stephenson said. “This is not a freedom of speech issue. This is a fundraiser and there will not be a Planned Parenthood representative or any kind of dialogue.”
LMU Women in Politics describes itself as an organization “fighting for women’s equality on and off of campus.” It declined Crux request for comment. However, it posted a statement online thanking those that have supported the fundraiser, further claiming that “backlash from conservatives on and off campus … will not stop us from creating change and celebrating making history with all of you.”
“If anything, we are more motivated now than ever before,” the organization wrote.
Loyola Marymount – a private Catholic school in Los Angeles founded by the Jesuit and Marymount orders – also declined Crux request to comment. In a statement, earlier this week to Angelus News, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ news publication, the university said the events, actions and positions of student organizations “are not endorsed by the University.”
The sentiment was reflected in the latest flyers posted by LMU Women in Politics that added a disclaimer reading “the events, publications, activities and actions of Women in Politics, a registered student organization at LMU, do not represent the university’s views and shall not be construed as approval or endorsement by the university.”
The fundraiser is also absent from the university’s online events calendar.
Stephenson organized an online petition that calls on LMU president Timothy Law Snyder to prevent an event that is an “egregious violation of LMU’s Jesuit, Catholic identity.”
Stephenson said as of Nov. 4 the petition had approximately 14,000 total signatures. It was first posted to RenewLMU, which is “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”
In the petition, Stephenson cites recent comments by Pope Francis, where the pontiff likens abortion to taking a human life or hiring a hitman to solve a problem. She then argues the student organization “might select a more worthy recipient of the funds, one that more effectively supports women’s dignity and whose primary purposes are not at odds with the Catholic Church,” further calling the decision “decidedly divisive.”
Planned Parenthood offers an array of reproductive health care services, including abortion, of which it is the largest provider in the United States. It performed 354,871 abortions in 2019-20, according to its annual report.
There are multiple counter events taking place at or around the time of the fundraiser. A rosary rally has been organized for 6:30 p.m. PST ahead of the 7 p.m. fundraiser.
The California College Republicans will also protest the event in support of its LMU chapter.
“I am floored by the total disregard for the sanctity of life and the Catholic mission of LMU by President Snyder,” Will Donahue, president of the LMU California College Republicans chapter said in a statement. “It would be one thing to allow a pro-choice speaker on campus – as that would be protected under free speech – but to allow a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood and to give the students a large space on campus for free is a grave offense we cannot ignore.”
On the topic of dialogue, Stephenson added that people who support Planned Parenthood are “not people we need to demonize,” but instead “those are people we’re called to evangelize.”