Image Courtesy of Westend61
By Marta Bystrowska
This is an independently submitted op-ed for our Quill section. Views and statements made in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Tower.
In light of recent events, CUA, despite claiming to be an educational institution that fosters young minds, is committed to silencing educational perspectives that do not fit its narrative.
On January 30, the school released a statement about a leaked audio clip sent to the press, which revealed that a trained birth and postpartum doula was invited to speak about her work in a CUA psychology class. The school claimed that she was promoting being an ‘abortion doula’ and encouraging “transgender ideology” through her terminology. She was banned from the school after the leak.
A doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to their client.” In other words, a doula does not perform any medical procedures but provides support during emotional periods such as childbirth.
Second, the trained doula was asked to come to the class to talk about her job. The doula was not promoting any ideology or forcing her opinions on students, but simply stating what her job entails based on the questions from the class.
The school and media sources identified the speaker as an “abortion doula” without understanding that it was a part of her occupation as a birth and postpartum doula. Furthermore, it does not mean she is a part of the procedure of medical abortion, but simply that she helps with the emotional burden on the mother after an abortion.
She specifically helps with ‘non-elective’ abortions, which is when the abortion is necessary to avert the death of the mother. These are women who made the choice to get pregnant and wanted to have a baby and instead had to lose the baby to save their lives.
What is terrifying about the campus response is that a trained professional was ostracized for telling the truth about what her job entails. There is nothing she was attempting to promote or convince students of an ideology. She simply was stating the reality of women’s reproductive care and how it affects her work.
The response of the school shows they do not value the ability to speak the truth about what goes on in the real world, or that the pro-life student body is not ready to handle those complex situations. What does abortion entail if a mother’s life is on the line? It is easier for them to continue with a narrative that is easily digestible for them. But what is education without nuance or complexity?
Are we not allowed to have diverse opinions at our school? By choosing to go to The Catholic University of America, are we stripped of all rights of freedom of speech?
There is a degree we can all understand to which CUA has to promote a Catholic narrative, but does that narrative have to come at the cost of free speech or diverse opinions? Are we supposed to attempt to increase our learning in an environment that does not foster free thought?
The trained doula’s use of gender-inclusive language and explanation of non-confirmative birth styles also received a ridiculous reaction. Once again, it comes down to this: she was asked to come here to explain her job and these are parts of her everyday reality. Even if one doesn’t agree with gender non-conformist language, that doesn’t mean she should be obligated to omit or lie about some of her experiences as a doula.
Is the school attempting to create an environment where it coddles the student body from outward reality? If these are things she deals with through her job, was she supposed to sugarcoat them to our students for the sake of not bursting their bubble of the world?
Furthermore, firing the professor who brought her in shows what they value more. Instead of worrying about the students having their education abruptly affected, they worry more about the image that is being presented online. The message to educators about CUA is clear: do not express diverse opinions. So not only are students subjected to one narrative, but teachers who are supposed to inspire and grow young minds are only allowed to do so if they don’t express varying perspectives on reality.
As a representative of the pro-choice community on Campus, we say to the school: do better. We understand the school has a perspective it has to abide by, but under freedom of speech and for the expanding of our minds, diverse perspectives are needed to have real nuanced discussions about abortion. CUA is not 100% pro-life and we will not be silenced anymore.
Towards the pro-life community, let us reach a place where to co-exist and have productive conversations. The trained doula getting death threats from members of the pro-life community does not foster an environment of dignity or respect. Nobody should be living in fear because of their opinions.
This week’s response to the media press is not the first time that students on this campus have felt disappointed by the school’s response, nor will it be the last. But hopefully, with more awareness among the students, there will be a cultural shift on Campus that fosters a space for us to have real discussions about difficult issues without the fear of being ostracized.