Half of all four-year, residential Catholic colleges in the United States are within five miles of Planned Parenthood facilities, a study by The Cardinal Newman Society has found. Catholic pro-life leaders warn that the close proximity of these Planned Parenthood centers threatens the well-being of students and the culture of Catholic campuses.
Planned Parenthood is, by its mission, directly opposed to Catholic values on sexuality, artificial contraception and abortion. Many of its centers perform abortions and distribute contraceptives.
In its review of 188 four-year, residential Catholic colleges in the United States, The Cardinal Newman Society found that 92, or 49 percent, are within five miles of a Planned Parenthood facility. Of these, 13 are within one mile or less, 37 are within 1.1–3 miles and 42 are within 3.1–5 miles (see tables below).
"Catholic colleges didn't invite this situation, but they can respond by demonstrating genuine concern for their students and fighting Planned Parenthood's attempts to lure students to their centers," said Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society.
"It's important that Catholic colleges help pregnant students with counseling and referrals," Reilly said. "But it's also very important that they promote a campus culture that assumes and promotes chastity, educate students about sexual morality and the problems with contraception and sterilization, and dissuade students from entering Planned Parenthood centers by informing them about Planned Parenthood's dreadful practices."
In interviews with the Newman Society, Catholic pro-life leaders also stressed the need for college administrators to warn students about the dangerous influence of Planned Parenthood, America's largest abortion business, and work to build a pro-life culture on campus.
"With so many abortion clinics near Catholic colleges, pregnant women may be even more tempted or pressured by others to seek abortions," said Deirde McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Pro-Life Secretariat. "These colleges especially need to build a life-affirming culture and support network — one that both promotes chastity and welcomes life with creative solutions for students, staff and faculty alike."
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the presence of a Planned Parenthood business so close to campus is "a threat to the lives of the children carried in the wombs of pregnant students, and a threat to the health of any student who purchases Planned Parenthood services."
"Moreover," he said, "it poses a near occasion of sin, since Planned Parenthood markets evil and sells death, as well as promotes a perverted view of human sexuality."
American Life League Vice President Jim Sedlak agreed, arguing "a Planned Parenthood facility so close to Catholic campuses poses a real threat to the sexual morality of life on campus."
Government statistics show Planned Parenthood relies on the college-age demographic for its abortion and contraception business. About one third of all abortions in the U.S. occur among women aged 20–24, and another 13.5 percent occur at younger ages, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2012, Students for Life of America (SFLA) reported that 79 percent of Planned Parenthood businesses are located in zip codes that are within five miles of a college campus. But students don't seem to be fully informed about what these centers do: An SFLA survey the same year found that 59 percent of college-aged respondents did not know that Planned Parenthood commits abortions.
"Planned Parenthood preys off young girls in crisis, locating right near our high schools and college campuses, telling them abortion is their only real option in their moment of desperation," warned SFLA.
Catholic Colleges Within Five Miles of Planned Parenthood Facilities (Click to Enlarge)
Having already identified numerous links between Planned Parenthood and Catholic colleges, published in the August 2015 report A More Scandalous Relationship: Catholic Colleges and Planned Parenthood, the Newman Society decided to research the threat posed by Planned Parenthood clinics near Catholic college campuses.
The location of Planned Parenthood facilities was identified by entering the zip codes of four-year, residential Catholic colleges in the search function at PlannedParenthood.org. The distances between these facilities and college campuses was verified using the mapping function at Google Maps and recording the estimated driving distances. Because driving distance is almost always longer than walking distance or a straight-line measure, the actual distances between the Planned Parenthood offices and campuses is likely shorter than what is reported here.
Results were divided into three categories of distances from the college campus to the nearest Planned Parenthood facility: one mile or less, more than one mile and up to three miles and more than three miles and up to five miles.
The Newman Society found that Loyola University Chicago is the Catholic college closest to a Planned Parenthood facility, which is located right across the street from the University's Lakeshore campus. Several reviews of this Planned Parenthood on the website Yelp reveal how the clinic impacts students and compromises the University's Catholic policies.
"The proximity of this Planned Parenthood to Loyola's Lakeshore campus is wonderful for those of us that go to a school that refuses to give birth control," stated one review from Tracy K. Another review by Tom A. noted, "Since I go to a Catholic school and can't get free condoms, it's nice being able to cross the street and get them for 25 cents."
"When I was a student at Loyola my best option for birth control was this Planned Parenthood," wrote a former student, Virginia T.
The Newman Society reached out to Loyola University Chicago and its pro-life advocacy group for comment on whether students are properly informed or warned against patronizing the nearby Planned Parenthood, but no response was received by time of publication.
At some other Catholic colleges with nearby facilities, Planned Parenthood has attempted to exert influence over the colleges' pro-life decisions.
In February 2015, the University of Scranton — which has a Planned Parenthood facility only about half a mile from campus — announced that it would end its immoral employee insurance coverage for abortions, including in cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life is compromised. University President Father Kevin Quinn, S.J., faced immediate backlash from Planned Parenthood, which accused him of "cruel indifference." However, Fr. Quinn courageously insisted that covering abortion in any situation was not in line with the University's "Catholic and Jesuit mission."
Back in September 2014, an unofficial student group, "Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety," sought to change Fordham University's policy prohibiting the distribution of birth control on campus. A January 2015 rally on the streets of Manhattan was reportedly joined by representatives from the Planned Parenthood center located about 3.5 miles from Fordham's Manhattan campus and four miles from its Bronx campus. Also, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America headquarters is located just a mile and a half from Fordham at Lincoln Center.
In 2007, Duquesne University's president, Dr. Charles Dougherty, directed a campus-based radio station to stop running advertisements for Planned Parenthood. In response, Planned Parenthood — which has a facility located less than a mile from Duquesne's campus — launched a public relations effort pressuring Dougherty to reverse his decision.
Providing Student Assistance
Some Catholic colleges with nearby Planned Parenthood facilities sponsor health centers with access to pro-life counseling and resources.
Saint Louis University (SLU), for example, is located 1.2 miles from a Planned Parenthood facility, and its student health center "does not offer contraception," Nikki Kuhlman, a senior at SLU and chair of the Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance, told the Newman Society. If students come to the health center needing pregnancy assistance, they are "referred to a nearby Catholic hospital for procedures that extend beyond the reach of the campus clinic, especially prenatal care." Additionally, the University's "Pregnancy Resources" website lists several pro-life pregnancy centers.
The Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance Committee was started at SLU in 2008. "We have a university endowment that lets us offer financial assistance to students who have children or find themselves pregnant," Kuhlman explained. "We're also working hard to help SLU become a more parent-friendly environment. There are multiple nursing suites across campus, we partnered with the bookstore to offer free textbook rentals to some parents, and we brought a Feminists for Life Pregnancy Resource Forum to campus in 2014."
Other colleges strive to ensure a Catholic campus culture that embraces chastity while openly opposing the practices of Planned Parenthood. At Newman Guide-recommended John Paul the Great Catholic University ("JP Catholic") in Escondido, Calif., the administration and office of student life take great pains to ensure the campus' pro-life culture.
JP Catholic has a Planned Parenthood "within about two blocks" of campus, Julia Carrano, dean of students at the University, told the Newman Society. Although the facility does not perform surgical abortions, the abortion drug RU-486 is prescribed there, and Carrano explained that the administration provides talks and training sessions for students on contraceptives and abortifacients.
"Students have wondered why we protest outside this local clinic, as opposed to the larger one in San Diego which performs [surgical] abortions," said Carrano. "So we have explained to them that prescribing RU-486 is still providing early-term abortions." Moreover, by focusing on the nearby Planned Parenthood facility, Carrano stressed that the students are being encouraged to "make an impact in their local community."
"This clinic is right next to their grocery store," Carrano explained. "We want our students to be present and to encounter people who are suffering in their local community. That's what will make a difference."
The University also brings in medical professionals and doctors to talk to students about women's health, abortion and contraception. All incoming freshmen and transfer students are required to take a class called "Intellectual Life and Virtue," which has a special focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy. The class requires students to complete service projects, one of which involves praying outside the local Planned Parenthood. And every Saturday, students come together to pray the Rosary outside of the facility.
JP Catholic also has several unique student-led initiatives focused on promoting the pro-life message. One of the University's households, the ΖΩΗ Life House, adopted as its mission: "To protect the sanctity of life by raising awareness of the true pro-life mission, and promoting alternative options to abortion and contraception." Additionally, the household has a stated commitment of opposing the local Planned Parenthood, and to that end, they host monthly street corner protests.
"Colleges have an opportunity to help students really commit to the pro-life message, not just as something handed down to them by their parents," said Carrano. "These young people will be future leaders in our health communities, our businesses — we have the opportunity to form their minds and their understanding."
"A Planned Parenthood abortion mill poses a threat to its entire community, both in the fact that babies are killed there and the general moral corruption that spreads into the community that allows it to operate," said Fr. Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International. "The Catholic university has a special obligation to oppose this evil in their communities through prayerful and peaceful witness at the clinic, and through educating the surrounding community about what happens there.
"It is an imperative of both social justice and basic Catholic moral doctrine that the Catholic institution oppose Planned Parenthood at every turn, that they speak the truth in love, leaving no impression that the abortion business is welcome in their community," he added.
But it's also important to keep in mind that "no one model fits all colleges," the USCCB's McQuade pointed out, adding that different colleges will benefit from incorporating different pro-life practices, depending on availability and resources.
Working to affirm life creatively "will look different on different campuses and institutions. The most important element is that Catholic colleges have a well-informed network that can offer tangible resources and aid in crisis pregnancy situations," said McQuade.
McQuade noted that the Jubilee Year of Mercy presents "a beautiful opportunity to promote new, life-affirming practices" on campuses. She suggested options such as "designated housing for parenting students" and "academic flexibility and part-time student options built into degree programs."
Originally published by Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society.