Jesuit School President’s Removal of Planned Parenthood from Student Resources Sparks Protest

Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg. (Yosef Chaim Kalinko / Seattle University)
Yosef Chaim Kalinko / Seattle University

The decision of the president of Seattle University (SU), a Catholic Jesuit school, to remove the name of Planned Parenthood from its list of student healthcare resources has sparked protests from some students, faculty, and alumni.

About 1,000 SU students, faculty, and alumni have pushed back against the decision by Father Stephen Sundborg, S.J., reported the Seattle Times.

Protesters delivered a letter to Sundborg that said they “firmly denounce the administration’s removal of Planned Parenthood from advising resources.”

The letter added that protesters are “frustrated with administrative decisions that do not consult or reflect the beliefs of your students.”

“Furthermore, you have yet to cite the specific policies with which you claim to support this decision,” the students and their affiliates said.

As the Spectator, the school’s student newspaper, reported in an interview with Sundborg, the Jesuit leader directed College of Arts & Sciences Dean David Powers to ensure the name of Planned Parenthood was removed as a student resource from its Advising Center’s website. The nation’s largest abortion business was listed as a “Health and Wellbeing” resource.

“There’s one thing about what a range of Catholics believe, think and so forth, and what the official teaching of the Catholic Church is publicly,” Sundborg said. “We’re a public Catholic institution, and therefore, that’s why I needed to make that decision.”

Sundborg said his decision was made based on the teachings of the Catholic Church that assert human life is sacred and must be protected from conception.

“I made this decision, consistent with my own and other presidents’ previous practice, in my responsibility to publicly represent our university as Catholic and in reflecting the central teaching of the Catholic Church regarding abortion — specifically as a significant moral issue — and not any other services provided by Planned Parenthood,” said Sundborg in a letter to the community.

The Jesuit leader also thanked youth pro-life organization Students for Life of America (SFLA), which sent Sundborg a letter observing the abortion vendor was listed as a student resource.

According to the Spectator, Sundborg said the school’s Non- Discrimination Policy states, “All University policies, practices and procedures are administered in a manner consistent with Seattle University’s Catholic and Jesuit identity and character.”

While there is no specific university policy that references Planned Parenthood or abortion, Sundborg said the school has a “long-standing practice” of removing references to the abortion business from the websites of the College of Nursing, the Law School and the College of Arts & Sciences.

“I have to draw the line somewhere,” Sundborg said. “It’s a judgment. I could have drawn it in a different place, but I drew it there eight years ago … I just continued so I was consistent with the decision that I made eight years ago.”

Senior Allie Schiele, a political science and criminal justice major, helped to create a petition that seeks to reverse Sundborg’s decision.

Her group’s goal is for the university to recognize that removal of Planned Parenthood’s name poses an “extreme danger to the welfare” of the students, the Spectator reported.

“It seems like President Sundborg wants this to go away quickly and wants it to be shut down,” Schiele said. “It seems like such a small issue, but it’s really not. The fact that he is not being swayed over by what I consider to be a large collective voice of the university is frustrating and makes me more likely to do something about it.”

Communications department instructor Jim Clune described Sundborg’s decision to remove Planned Parenthood’s name as a breach in trust, noted the Spectator.

“When they remove Planned Parenthood from options that women can take advantage of for their own health, it’s a form of censorship, and it’s showing they don’t trust their students,” Clune said. “People trust that Seattle University as an institution, stands for social justice, right? And [that it] supports organizations that support vulnerable, underserved and low-income women and as well as their students.”

Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million in federal taxpayer funding. Nevertheless, the abortion giant has been accused of multiple scandals, including Medicaid fraud, allegations of child sex abuse cover-up, and profiting from the harvest and sale of body parts of babies aborted in its clinics.

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