Viewpoint: Whose conscience is protected?


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Dear Editor:

Whose conscience is protected?

Georgetown University School of Medicine is a nationally renowned institution where “knowledgeable, ethical, skillful, and compassionate physicians” are cultivated, but there is no compassion, ethics, or justice in denying students access to the training and information needed to provide comprehensive care in their communities.

Georgetown prides itself on being a Catholic institution, but there is nothing Catholic about the way it violated the consciences of its medical students and spurned Medical Students for Choice despite their following school precedent and the administration’s own rules and policies. Hypocrisy and immorality have no place in a Catholic institution that claims to value “care of the whole person.” Women have always needed abortions. By age 30, 19 percent of women will have obtained an abortion.  Poor women have the highest abortion rate at 37 percent.. This is who our Catholic teaching calls us to support. Jesuits hiding their heads in the sand does not make the need for abortion disappear. 

It is unconscionable that the Medical School would obstruct the initiative of students who took it upon themselves to arrange, on their own time and with their own funds, for the training necessary to provide this fundamental care. Those students deserve praise not bureaucratic politicking. It is bad enough that Georgetown School of Medicine does not provide abortion and only limited miscarriage management—but the mercurial decision to revoke a program that students had established to meet the needs of their future patients is the height of unrighteousness and anathema to the primacy of conscience central to our Catholic faith.

Whose conscience is protected when students are denied the opportunity to learn how to provide compassionate care? Whose religious liberty is protected when Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu students are forbidden from seeking out information improperly censored by the University? These students simply want to be competent and faithful providers – they deserve every opportunity to gain the skills needed to someday provide their patients with a full range of health care services. Unfortunately, the result of such policies is fewer doctors able to meet the most basic community needs.

The Catholicism I was raised in was dedicated to service and care of one’s neighbor, not interfering with healthcare professionals who are committed to helping women. Georgetown’s decision to rebuke those who seek the basic skills necessary to care for women reveals an unfortunate truth:  Georgetown is not Catholic.

— Glenn Northern (Domestic Program Director with Catholics for Choice) in Northwest, DC