A Few Reasons Why Ross Douthat’s Ideas Are Problematic


Before we begin, let’s first introduce Mr. Douthat, and why it matters in the slightest that I’m experiencing secondhand embarrassment on his behalf (due to his problematic opinions). A thirty-something year old living in D.C., Ross is a columnist for the New York Times in their Opinion section. He is notoriously conservative in thought, and is quite honestly a very talented writer. That might explain why he seemed an attractive option as a panelist for the O’Connor Conference for Life being held  at Georgetown this weekend.

  1. Ross Douthat isn’t really sure what his opinions are.

He takes on some pretty unforgiving topics, such as oh, I don’t know, abortion. Typically, we’re used to reading clear opinions on women’s reproductive rights — and with good reason (if you’re going to take a strongly unilateral stance, you best be able to defend it to the ends of the earth). But for Ross, there’s a lot of ambiguity. In fact, he openly admits as much in one of his articles, claiming that he hasn’t determined his ‘moral stance’ on a few issues. Because, you know, this one middle-aged White man’s moral stance should play a large factor in our reproductive health decisions .

Even beyond his own confession, it’s easy to see in his articles about Planned Parenthood. In the same article, he claims he approves of access to over-the-counter oral contraception. But he continues on to say that sex-ed programs which provide contraception to teenagers are Not Okay in his book. Let me get this right: teenagers — a high risk demographic when it comes to sexual health, perhaps the group that most needs access to this very resource, should not be given contraception? Cool, Ross, cool. It’s just…. Kind of weird that you apparently think teenagers aren’t having sex.

  1. Ross Douthat’s logic isn’t logical.

In another of Ross’s articles, he references abortion rates in conservative states (where there are significantly more restrictions on access to abortion) as compared to abortion rates in liberal states (where there are fewer restrictions). He says that there are fewer abortions in conservative states, and more abortions in liberal states, and that somehow that difference means we should defund Planned Parenthood (funding for family planning will prevent “future abortions”). The glaring issue with this whole section of his article is that Ross apparently doesn’t understand or want to acknowledge what “restrictions” encompass. Did it not occur to him that perhaps the reason for fewer abortions in these states with heavy restrictions is that people simply could not access the healthcare they needed?

If there are only two functional clinics in my state, and I work six days a week, and there’s a waiting period to get an abortion, those barriers might be preventing me from getting an abortion and lowering abortion rates in my state. But no, according to Ross, the reason rates are higher in liberal states with more funding for Planned Parenthood is that the organization was funded, is more visible, and people think it’s easier to get an abortion than to “family plan,” or avoid pregnancy in the first place. Ross did not consider the fact that accessibility plays a massive role in rates of abortion. Logic…?

  1. Ross Douthat’s understanding of Planned Parenthood seems to be slightly sideways.

Planned Parenthood never claimed to be “pro-life.”  I can assure Ross, and anyone else who might be confused, that Planned Parenthood isn’t pro-life. The easiest explanation for that is that “pro-life” is the wrong terminology — what he meant to write was “anti-choice.” Planned Parenthood as an organization stands for every person’s ability to make their own choices about their reproductive rights and sexual health. Just check out their website, I’m sure they word that sentiment more eloquently than I did. By imposing his “pro-life/anti-choice” value set onto their platform, Ross creates this weird confusion that’s just totally unnecessary. He keeps referencing this “pro-life case for Planned Parenthood” and how problematic he finds it to be. He asks that proponents of Planned Parenthood defend abortion simply as the removal of a clump of cells, or as a procedure that is without any moral context or circumstances. This is quite plainly wrong. He asks the impossible. Supporters of Planned Parenthood do not have to personally ascribe to the pro-choice movement in order for their support to be “valid.” People who are pro-choice do not all have to have the same exact reasoning for their stance, either. That’d be like every fan of a sports team feeling the same way for the same reasons. Somehow, that seems pretty sideways to me. Regardless of his understanding (or lack thereof), however, Ross seems to also have made the assumption that his opinion on what females should do with their bodies is necessary for understanding the issue as a whole. Unfortunately for Ross, we don’t need another guy telling us what to do with our uteruses.

Generally speaking, it’s problematic that think-pieces by a man have the potential to be taken more seriously than a person’s desire to choose how they manage their reproductive capabilities. Being pro-choice means respecting the ability of other human beings to make their own choices for themselves. If you are someone who thinks people generally can’t or shouldn’t be able to make their own decisions, you should probably go back to Nineteen Eighty-Four, where Orwell will welcome you with open arms.

To be fair, objectively speaking, Ross seems to be an intelligent, well-spoken guy — when he isn’t falling into some strange logical black hole, or showcasing his ignorance of the fight for reproductive rights. He writes well, he communicates effectively, and he has interesting opinions on issues other than reproductive rights. But that’s not why we at H*yas for Choice find his ideas to be problematic. Seemingly “moderate” pieces like his are the very ones which normalize ideologies which are dangerous for reproductive healthcare and rights across the board (even though his pieces aren’t very moderate at all). We find his anti-choice rhetoric fraught with issues and quite frankly, dangerous.

Emma Vahey (COL ’20) is on the leadership team of H*yas for Choice


Why We Are Protesting the Cardinal O’Connor Conference


Today, January 28, Georgetown University hosts the annual largest student-run anti-choice conference in the country, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference.  The Conference, run by Georgetown University Right to “Life,” shames our community and is a disgrace to every member of the Georgetown family.  We should be ashamed that our community hosts this conference for three reasons: its shameful speakers, its shameful ideology, and its shameful namesake.

This week, multiple members of H*yas for Choice’s leadership have pointed out the problems with the speakers at this year’s conference.  Sophie Septoff highlighted some quotes of conference panelist Charles Camosy, on how women have “obligations” while fetuses have “rights,” and downplaying the importance of consent.  Apparently, rape is excusable to the conference organizers as long as a woman chooses “life” and not abortion.  And as our powerful Communications Director Michelle Bolt wrote, the conference seems focused only on White voices and experiences.  Michelle explained the specific impacts that the Hyde Amendment has had on communities of color, something which we should pay increased attention to given the fact that its author, Henry Hyde, is a past speaker at the conference.  Could they not find a single person of color to speak at their conference?  Why don’t the conference organizers care what people of color have to say?

On their website, conference organizers claim the Cardinal O’Connor Conference “strives to promote intellectually rigorous discourse on the sanctity of human life a well as build a culture of life both within and beyond the Georgetown community.”  They go on to talk about their goal to “encourage discussion among men and women of all faiths and backgrounds.”  How can they claim to value discussion when they never invite pro-choice speakers to share their perspectives?  How can they write about all backgrounds when, again, just because it cannot be said enough, every single speaker at the conference is White?  Is your idea of religious diversity four Catholics and one Anglican, like your speakers? Seriously?  How can they honestly claim to be a conference about life when they fail to talk about the death penalty or war or police brutality or intimate partner violence or gun violence anything that actually endangers human life?  They try to obscure their true purposes by hiding behind ideas like sex-selective abortion (practically a myth in the United States, please see this 46-page report for comprehensive data), but their real purpose is to control our bodies and sexualities.

As a cisgender man, I realize that I have no right to dictate what a pregnant person does with their reproductive system.  Unfortunately, Cardinal O’Connor failed to recognize the same. He believed his religion gave him the right to impose his so-called morals on others, without any exception or space for bodily autonomy.  When asked about abortion in the case of rape or incest, he maintained that abortion was immoral because he considered rape a “legally lesser evil” than abortion.  When discussing the deaths of women dying from unsafe abortions before legalization, he shrugged off their deaths saying “the mothers involved could have chosen not to abort.” To call him “pro-life” is particularly rich; what he really was is “pro-fetus.”  He used his position as a cardinal and the Archbishop of New York to attack access to reproductive and sexual health, and dedicated himself to working against gaining access to basic healthcare.


Beyond his shameful history of weaponizing religion to control people’s bodies, he was through and through a homophobe.  He is history of discrimination against queer people is long.  When gay rights activists won the anti-discrimination ordinance, which banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, he fought viciously to have it overturned.  He banned Dignity, the gay and lesbian Catholic organization, from using any Church facilities to practice their religion.  He also prevented Dignity from demonstrating on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which the Supreme Court later ruled unconstitutional.  As the AIDS epidemic raged and decimated the gay community, he worked to prevent condom distribution and called for “marital fidelity” as a response to the crisis.  For him, abstaining for condom use was more important than preventing the spread of AIDS.  As he actively worked against groups like ACT UP, President Reagan awarded him for his action with a seat on the AIDS commission, famous for its inaction in the face of plague.  In 1989, ACT UP led a 4,500 person protest outside of a mass over which Cardinal O’Connor was presiding, in what at the time was the largest action against the Catholic Church ever.  Meanwhile he pathologized “homosexual inclinations” and equated gay men with pedophiles in response to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal John O’Connor was a hateful person.  As a queer person, I am deeply hurt that my University condones the honoring of a man who believed that my very existence is immoral.  But as a human being I am disgusted that we let Georgetown’s name be associated with his hate, and I am embarrassed to see my University celebrates him.  For Georgetown to allow its buildings to be used in the name of a man who dedicated his career to hating queer people is an inexcusable attack on its queer students, and sends us a message that we are unwanted and unprotected.
H*yas for Choice is protesting this conference because it demeans every member of the Georgetown community.  We will not stand idly by while anyone uses our home to spread a message that goes against everything we know Georgetown stands for.  I am proud to be part of an organization that recognizes this conference for the tragedy it is, and refuses to be silent in the face of its hatred, its oppression, and its betrayal of Georgetown’s values.

NOTE: “Life” remains in quotation marks because neither a zygote, nor an embryo, nor a fetus is a life.  The rhetoric of life employed by the organization is dangerous to the actual lives of the people they would force to carry pregnancies to term against their wills.  To say otherwise is, in the words of Kellyanne Conway, who spoke at yesterday’s March for “Life,” an alternative fact. 

Kory Stuer is a sophomore in the College studying Women’s and Gender Studies and English.  He is H*yas for Choice’s Organizing Director.

No Choice for Women of Color


This Saturday, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the country, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, will be held here at Georgetown. Every single speaker at the conference is white, presumably middle class, and cisgender. In light of Trump’s global abortion gag rule, Friday’s March for Life, and the impressive intersectionality I witnessed from speakers at the Women’s March, I’ve decided to explain how low-income women and women of color specifically are harmed by anti-choice policies.

Low income women are most affected by a lack of access to reproductive healthcare, and women of color are disproportionately likely to come from low-income households. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black, Hispanic, and Native American women have poverty rates that hover around 25 percent, while white women have a 10.3 percent poverty rate.

It’s commonly known that men outearn women; however, white feminism erases the ways in which the pay gap fails to account for further discrepancies in pay by race, which negatively impact both men and women of color. While white women earn 82 cents to the white man’s dollar, white feminist narratives often fail to mention that black women make 65 cents to every white man’s dollar and Latinas make 58 cents to every white man’s dollar. While Asians may stand out for their higher average wages,  most studies that address racial disparities in wages do not account for the fact that there is a significant disparity between the wages of East Asian and Southeast Asian women.

This is where intersectionality comes in: sexism, racism, and other oppressive systems interact, making women of color more likely to experience poverty, to have difficulty finding affordable housing, and less likely to be able to afford privatized healthcare, and as a result many women of color rely upon Medicare to meet their healthcare needs

In light of systematic racism and sexism that women of color experience, and the importance of Medicaid to communities of color, the pro-life movement does a terrible job of addressing how women of color’s reproductive healthcare needs could be met within their ideological framework.

As a result of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, taxpayer dollars do not fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life was at risk. The amendment only affects those on Medicaid, a federal healthcare program for low-income Americans, effectively punishing women for their poverty. When politicians cut funding to Planned Parenthood, they do so by decreasing the amount of Medicaid funding that the nonprofit receives. As a result, when Planned Parenthood clinics are shut down, low income women are often left without a primary provider of health services, and because of the Hyde Amendment, many low income women are unable to get abortions simply because they can’t afford them.

While middle class and wealthy women can turn to other healthcare providers or other abortion clinics, low-income women are often left without critical health services and unable to get abortions because of their socioeconomic status. The effects of defunding Planned Parenthood and Medicaid on women of color cannot be understated, particularly when financial barriers to reproductive healthcare and sexual health resources cause Black and Hispanic women to have higher unintended pregnancy rates and therefore higher rates of abortion.

Planned Parenthood provides critical services essential to women’s healthcare such as mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and prevention. Frankly, Planned Parenthood saves lives. It’s clear that most Americans support women’s healthcare initiatives, but because of the influence of anti-abortion groups and politicians opposed to funding Planned Parenthood, many women may lose access to basic healthcare coverage, particularly under the Trump administration. To conclude, I have a few questions for pro-life advocates:

  1. What is the pro-life movement doing to improve the quality of life for low-income people of color? Trans women? Indigenous women?
  2. What are pro-life advocates doing to prevent climate change and to protect people living in developing countries who bear the heavy burden of developed countries’ pollution?  
  3. How can pro-life advocates support restricting women’s access to fundamental health care like mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and still claim to be pro-life?


Michelle Bolt is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is currently the Communications Director for H*yas for Choice. 



Charles Camosy: Controversy in Disguise



Charles Camosy, set to speak at this weekend’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, specializes in using theology, ethics, and policy to support the anti-abortion movement. He teaches at Fordham University and writes primarily about how he thinks abortion laws should look in this country. Here is a collection of some of the most head-scratching sentences that he has said and written, where he co-opts the language of social justice and feminism in support of his anti-choice work. Below, you’ll also see pictures that represent my reactions to his statements.


  1. “Abortion has made women free not to have children, but it has arguably made it more difficult for women to choose to have children. What else have women gained? A hook-up culture which breeds sexual violence, increasing numbers of STDs, less-committed and even child-like male partners who couldn’t identify responsibility if it hit them in the face, and a culture that values them only when they are young and skinny. Is that freedom?”


2.“Women, like their prenatal children, are victims of our horrific abortion policy. Instead, physicians who profit from the violence of abortion ought to be punished.”


3. “Christians oppose abortion because, more generally, we are committed to standing for voiceless, marginalized populations who are threatened with violence. We stand with such populations because those in power find their dignity inconvenient, and will “other” them in an attempt to have their dignity ignored.”


4. “A pregnant woman, whether or not she has explicitly consented to the existence of the child, has a moral obligation to the now-existing and dependent fetus. No pro-life feminist would dispute the important observations of pro-choice feminists about the extreme difficulties that bearing an unwanted child in our society can entail. But the stronger force of the fetal claim presses a woman to accept these burdens: the fetus possesses rights arising from its extremely vulnerable situation.”


5.“Happily, not least because of the radical failure of the Democratic Party to have anything like a reasonable position on abortion, there is a growing call for a new politics consistently on the side of the most vulnerable. Consistently on the side of nonviolence. Consistently on the side of those without privilege.”



These statements from this “expert” fail to have any sort of compassion or respect for women and what it takes to have a baby. Even more elementary, Camosy does not believe in a person’s rights over their own body, over their own choice. “Pro-Life” allies for next weekend present Camosy as a more evolved and open, but his insistence on his using religious duty to control women makes that hard to believe.



Sophie Septoff is a freshman at Georgetown University. She is a member of the H*yas for Choice leadership team. 

A Roe Day Message from the Board


A Statement from the Executive Board of H*yas for Choice (Emily Stephens, Brinna Ludwig, Kory Stuer, Lane Easterling, and Michelle Bolt):

Forty-four years ago today, the Supreme Court recognized the right to an abortion in a 7-2 majority.  Even after one of the largest protests in U.S. history, significant apprehension remains about the future of access to abortion and reproductive healthcare in this country.  We as a Board feel this concern.  We have had friends ask about IUDs so that they are protected for the next for years; we have heard the concerns of students, faculty, and staff about the future of their health insurance; and we have seen our communities come under attack as multiple students have reported having slurs and other hate speech yelled at them.  

Still, we have also felt an outpouring of support and generosity.  After the elections, donations to H*yas for Choice increased, as did the caring and encouraging words of community members who approach the table. On this celebratory anniversary of the Supreme Court’s recognition of what many of us have always known – that individuals have a right to privacy and a right to control their own bodies – we choose to highlight the progress we have made, despite opposition, and look forward to making Georgetown a more inclusive, healthy, and just campus.  

For over 25 years, H*yas for Choice has confronted resistance and sometimes hostility from University administrators and other community members.  We understand, although we cannot know, the challenges that lie ahead.  As we prepare for the challenges that the coming days, weeks, and months will bring, we know that we have the momentum to carry us through.  Last semester, we again successfully provided thousands free condoms and dental dams to students.  We maintained a strong campus presence by tabling every Monday through Friday, rain or shine.  We advocated for and successfully secured free and anonymous HIV testing on campus.  After our urging, on World AIDS Day, the Georgetown Student Health Center, Georgetown Medical AIDS Advocacy Network (GMAAN), and MedStar Georgetown Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases sponsored a free HIV testing event for Georgetown students.  The Student Health Center also clarified sexual health questions on their website.  The questions came directly from H*yas for Choice members and we were an important voice in crafting the language.  

Within the H*yas for Choice community, we launched #NoShameNovember, a month-long effort to normalize sex positivity and pro-choice politics, which included a photo campaign, leadership Facebook features, and a sex toy party.  To compensate for our community’s lack of accurate sexual health education, we hosted Sex 101, with a Planned Parenthood sex educator, and organized Kink etiquette, which one of our own members planned and led.  Throwing over two events per month kept us busy, and we plan to be even busier this semester.  

Our tabling will continue, as will our work with the Student Health Center.  By the end of this semester, we hope to have another HIV screening day and push the Student Health Center to provide IUDs that are approved for non-contraceptive purposes.  We also plan to increase the accessibility of menstrual hygiene products by mobilizing student groups.  

Our activism will continue.  We plan to participate in the a counter-protest at the March for Life and protest the Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life, scheduled only one week after the historic Women’s March.  Although the new administration does not make our work easier, H*yas for Choice has succeeded and triumphed over University opposition, and we will succeed and triumph over the heightened opposition of this new political climate.  

Our work and the work of our allies will continue.  We will not back down, and we will not go away.  More than ever, we are committed to our mission to realize reproductive and social justice for our community. Below, our board members have offered a few pieces of advice, tips, and important things to remember as we stay motivated and engaged in the coming months.        

  • Emily: One very small but common action I try to personally undertake is to always read the article if a headline makes me uncomfortable, or if my initial reaction is to think “I’m not sure I’d go that far”. The only way to feel empowered enough to work for substantive change is to listen to people who have been working on these issues a lot longer than you have!
  • Brinna: Privilege is a funny thing, it’s most evident to those who don’t have it.  I don’t presume to know what I would do if I got pregnant at this point in my life, but I know I want there to be a choice for myself and others and that this choice should not be a privilege.  
  • Kory: Remember the words of Angela Davis when she said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change.  I am changing the things I cannot accept.”  And when we find something we cannot accept, remember that direct action gets the goods.
  • Lane: Take time for self-care. Never forget that being engaged and motivated take a lot of energy and can wear you down. Listen to music, go to Yates, take a nap, or talk to a friend. Even the small things are good.
  • Michelle: Increase collaboration with other like-minded, intersectional activist organizations and work to explore the intersections of reproductive justice and identifiers like race, gender, religion, sexuality, and more.