WASHINGTON — A Georgetown University Law Center class offered next spring will require students to work with a lobbying group that a lawyer said is known for its work promoting abortion rights.

“Georgetown offers a course that will require students to work with an organization dedicated to promoting abortion and contraception and actively attacking religious freedom,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA Oct. 25.

She added that Georgetown's offering of a course “that will require students to work with an organization dedicated to promoting abortion and contraception and actively attacking religious freedom” is “a disgrace to its Catholic identity.”

“Georgetown students will be given course credit for advancing the very policies that our bishops are fighting in court and promoting abortion and contraception that, as our faith teaches us, do violence to both women and children.”

On Oct. 24, the Cardinal Newman Society was the first to report that Georgetown University Law School will be offering “Regulatory Advocacy: Women and the Affordable Care Act” in its spring 2014 semester, taught by Kelli Garcia.

The course will require that students work alongside the National Women's Law Center, a D.C.-based advocacy group whose health-care platform pushes for abortion, sterilization and contraceptive provision as health care.

The organization’s work aims specifically to “oppose challenges, such as pharmacy refusals and religious restrictions,” of individuals and religious groups who find these products and procedures as unconscionable.

The NWLC website decries organizations such as crisis-pregnancy centers and Catholic hospitals for their unwillingness to participate in abortions and labeled the ethical rules governing Catholic hospitals, bans on sex-selective abortions and restrictions on the abortion of babies capable of pain and living outside of their mothers as “Threats to a Woman’s Right to Decide Whether to Have an Abortion.”


Kelli Garcia

This policy and legal work against religious freedom in favor of abortion provision is headed by Kelli Garcia, senior counsel for NWLC, who “oversees the center's efforts to address religious restrictions” on abortions and contraception, the organization’s website states.

Garcia will be both teaching the course and coordinating its practical component.

This is Garcia’s second time at Georgetown: From 2011-2012, Garcia was an O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law representative at Georgetown.

The class she is teaching will instruct students on the intersection of women’s health — which is often code for the provision of abortions, sterilization and contraception — and the Affordable Care Act, as well as its rules, including the HHS mandate, which requires employers to provide and pay for abortion-causing and contraceptive drugs, even against their deeply held religious beliefs.

Students in the class will also be required to “work with the National Women's Law Center to develop projects that will assist in the organization's regulatory advocacy efforts” and participate in “strategy meetings and conference calls with the partner organization and other coalition members.”

Some of the organization’s partners are the Ford Foundation, which is a supporter of expanding abortion programs, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among other organizations in other topic areas.

The National Women’s Law Center also addresses other areas of law regarding women, including equal pay laws, maternity leave, elimination of discrimination against pregnant women, sexual harassment, early childcare education, poverty support for struggling families, and fighting discrimination in the workplace against mothers of young children.


Georgetown’s Position

Georgetown University Law Center said in a statement to CNA that the class “is an optional course” and is part of a broad education and emphasized that the “practicum will explore a number of issues,” including eating disorders, maternity coverage and other topics.

The university also stressed that “there are no assignments pertaining to abortion, and certainly no requirement that students adhere to a particular set of beliefs.”

“Georgetown University embraces academic freedom and supports the free exchange of ideas in order to foster dialogue on critical issues of the day – such as issues relating to the Affordable Care Act,” Georgetown University Law Center continued.

“The issues discussed in this class, or any class, do not imply any institutional endorsement of a particular course of action.”

It is unclear whether students will be able to choose to work on a project related to abortion or contraception for the final practical project.

As of the publishing of this article, the Archdiocese of Washington was not able to comment on the class or the instructor to CNA, saying that it would look more into the situation.

Severino explained that, while students may not be forced to assist directly in abortion-related activities, it is “still disheartening to see a Catholic school offering a platform for an organization that is diametrically opposed to the Church on abortion, contraception and religious liberty.”

She explained that the “language of the course description may sound potentially neutral, but the content is almost certainly not.”


Support for the HHS Mandate

The National Women’s Law Center “has been active in promoting and defending the HHS contraception/abortifacient mandate,” Severino said, adding that the mandate “not only will increase the use of drugs that the Church teaches do violence to both women and their children, but it also is being used to force religious organizations and Catholic business owners to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients or pay crushing penalties.”

“The course description is about learning regulatory advocacy in health care, and the HHS mandate is precisely the type of regulation the NWLC is advocating.”

“It is outrageous that Georgetown is employing a professor whose agenda is specifically focused on increasing abortions, even when that comes at the expense of religious freedom,” Severino said.

“What is key here is also that this is not an issue of a Georgetown professor whose personal beliefs do not line up with [the] Church — there are surely many of those, as can be expected in a large university.  But this course appears to be designed specifically to teach Georgetown students how to advocate for contraception and abortion and against religious freedom.”