Catholic Colleges Collude with Planned Parenthood

Despite the Catholic Church’s unambiguous teaching on the “intrinsic evil” of abortion, Catholic Colleges throughout the country continue to promote student internships and volunteer opportunities at Planned Parenthood—the country’s largest abortion provider. In fact, at the same time Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued a statement decrying the “throwaway culture” that has “enslaved the hearts and minds of so many” through abortion and the selling of “fetal tissue” at Planned Parenthood, students enrolled in the sociology internship course at Boston College, one of Boston’s premier Catholic colleges, were encouraged to apply for internships at the Planned Parenthood League of Greater Boston (p. 18).

Boston College is far from the only Catholic college offering student opportunities to gain course credit for participating in the abortion industry. In 2011 the Cardinal Newman Society issued an investigative report documenting more than 150 current and past connections between Catholic colleges and Planned Parenthood. In A Scandalous Relationship: Catholic Colleges and Planned Parenthood, the Newman Society identified dozens of internships and fellowships available at Planned Parenthood through internship programs at Catholic colleges and universities. The report included premier Catholic colleges and universities like the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Boston College, Seattle University, the University of San Diego, St. Louis University and many others.

Following the release of the 2011 Newman Society report, many Catholic colleges and universities removed the links to Planned Parenthood—but several did not. For example, New York City’s Marymount Manhattan continues to tout its opportunities for student internships: “Students have interned everywhere from Sesame Street and the District Attorney’s office to Planned Parenthood and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.”

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Likewise, the University of San Diego continues to claim on its website that it offers student internships at Planned Parenthood.  Dominican University of California still claims to offer field placements through the university’s psychology department. Others continue to offer the internships—but make it more difficult for the public to access the information online.

In addition to the internships at the abortion providers, the report by the Newman Society also identified more than 100 Catholic colleges and universities which made job referrals; or identified faculty and staff members who had worked or are working or volunteering at Planned Parenthood. For example, University of San Diego Nursing Professor Kathy Shadle James, lists her “certification in Women’s Health through Planned Parenthood” in her faculty bio. Beyond the faculty and staff, the University of San Diego’s Political Science and International Relations Department lauded the accomplishments of Jessica Chapman, a recent graduate of the program, who worked as a “programming intern at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte assisting the development of donor events,” and “now works as a Parliamentary and Policy Intern at Family Planning Association UK in London while working as a sexual Health Awareness Volunteer for the Contraceptive and Sexual Health Field.”

It is common for graduates of Catholic colleges and universities to tout their work or internship experiences at Planned Parenthood to claim expertise in “health management issues.” For example, one Georgetown graduate recalled that “as an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, I was able to take advantage of internships in the numerous health care entities in Washington, DC including semesters at Georgetown University Hospital, the DC Department of Health, and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.”

Sometimes, the pushback from faithful Catholics on these Planned Parenthood internships has moved some Catholic colleges and universities to remove the explicit references to the abortion sites from their universities websites. For example, in the past, Seattle University’s Women’s Studies Department had encouraged students to apply for internships at Planned Parenthood in order to fulfill the degree requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs. But, a petition with more than 2,500 signatures on it resulted in the removal of Planned Parenthood from the website.

Last December, the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota deleted Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion internship opportunities from its website. According to University of St. Thomas President, Julie Sullivan (formerly the Provost at the University of San Diego), “The links (to Planned Parenthood) were published in error on the website of our College of Arts and Sciences and they are being corrected.” Unfortunately, others on the St. Thomas campus disagreed with Sullivan’s decision. According to The College Fix, Dr. Catherine Cory, director of the Murray Institute, an on campus Catholic institute, stated in an email interview that “If some of Planned Parenthood’s work is morally wrong according to Catholic moral teachings, does that make everything they do wrong?” Chloe Lawyer, a St. Thomas alum wrote that “it is a shame that members of the St. Thomas community are not even allowed to view these opportunities.” Lawyer, who had completed an internship at Planned Parenthood, lamented the decision by President Sullivan claiming that “Freethinking does not always align with Catholic values.”

Indeed, the real problem on Catholic campuses is that many of those working on these campuses still do not understand the Catholic mission. Offering internships at Planned Parenthood can never be considered compatible with Catholic teachings. Yet, faculty and staff on many of these campuses continue to defy the moral teachings of the Church on the intrinsic evil of abortion—with little response from those charged with implementing the sacred mission of Catholic higher education.


  • Anne Hendershott

    Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications, 2020).

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