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Planned Parenthood and the Seattle University Website Questions and Answers

Posted by Seattle University on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 3:57 PM PDT

Why was the referral to Planned Parenthood removed from the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Center website in September?

In 2011, President Sundborg made the decision to remove referrals to Planned Parenthood from the university’s website. There were three instances removed at that time. It was the first time the issue was brought to his attention. He recognizes the tension inherent in the decision is not something that is able to be resolved because people on both sides have strong-held views and beliefs. He also made the decision that it would be as narrowly defined as possible and in a way that would not infringe on the university’s commitment to academic freedom—nor prevent anyone from seeking the health care services they feel they need. Every member of the university community—students, faculty and staff—has the right to seek the resources and care they choose. The decision does not apply to the individual interactions, advising and relationships faculty and staff have with students.

As president, Father Sundborg believes the decision is consistent with his responsibility—one that is articulated in university bylaws—to represent Seattle U publicly in a way that upholds the university’s commitment to its Catholic purposes. The university by-laws state, “the President shall, as a primary duty, be specifically responsible for articulating, maintaining and advancing the distinctive nature, culture, heritage and commitment of the institution as a Catholic and Jesuit university.”

After being made aware of the referral listed on the Advising Center website this past August, President Sundborg directed that it be removed. The decision was made in keeping with past practice.

What is the reason behind the decision to not allow referrals?

The central teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion is that it is a significant moral issue. It is a strongly held position of the Church that abortion is morally wrong. Respect for the sanctity and dignity of life is an issue of paramount importance for the Church and as such, it is important to Seattle University.

President Sundborg sought to draw as narrow line as possible that focuses on the promotion or advertising of referrals on the website. He wanted it narrowly defined so as not to limit the academic freedom of faculty in their teaching, scholarship and associations.

What about the non-abortion, health care services Planned Parenthood provides?

The decision relates specifically to the organization’s stance on abortion, not other health care services. President Sundborg recognizes Planned Parenthood provides many health care services beyond abortion that people of all backgrounds need and find beneficial and affordable. He is not judging anyone in regard to their personal choices. Students, faculty and staff all have the right to make their own health care choices as they deem most appropriate to their individual needs.

Does this policy apply to faculty and staff informing students about resources that could meet their needs?

No, this policy applies to the website and does not apply to the individual interactions, advising and relationships faculty and staff have with students.

Why was the process for the decision handled in a way that did not include faculty, staff and students?

The process should have been handled differently. President Sundborg recognizes that he should have consulted with others before making his decision. He is currently engaging in, or planning to engage in, a series of conversations. He has already had a constructive dialogue and open exchange of perspectives with representatives from Academic Assembly and hopes to meet with staff and student representatives in the near future. He believes there is a need for the campus community to engage more deeply in dialogue on policy and processes around the Catholic character of Seattle University and how we carry it out.