Students and alumni are protesting Loyola Marymount University’s decision to allow an on-campus fundraiser for abortion provider Planned Parenthood. 

The Nov. 5 ticketed event is organized by the Catholic university’s Women in Politics student group.

“The Planned Parenthood Fundraiser is an opportunity for us to raise money for a cause we really care about and have fun at the same time!” reads a description posted on the university website’s event calendar. 

Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest provider of abortion. During the 2019-20 fiscal year, the organization reported performing 354, 871 abortions in the U.S.

As news of the fundraiser circulated among students and faculty in recent days, critics are questioning why LMU would allow the event, given the longstanding Catholic teaching that abortion is a “moral evil” that involves the taking of innocent human life.

A petition asking LMU president Timothy Law Snyder to cancel the event was posted this week by RenewLMU, which describes itself as "an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity."

The petition quotes a remark made by Pope Francis in September comparing abortion to hiring a hitman, and suggests that LMU should instead raise funds for a cause that “more effectively supports women’s dignity and whose primary purposes are not at odds with the Catholic Church.”

LMU says it will not move to block the event, which it insists is not a “university-sponsored” although it is being held on the school’s Westchester campus.

“The events, actions, or positions of student organizations, including Women in Politics, are not endorsed by the university,” the university said in a statement provided to Angelus Nov. 2. 

In its statement, LMU affirmed its commitment to its “Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount heritage, values, and intellectual traditions.” It said the activities of its student organizations are “living examples that LMU embraces its mission, commitments, and the complexities of free and honest discourse.”

The drive to block the event was launched by alumna Samantha Stephenson, who studied theology as an undergraduate at LMU and holds master’s degrees in bioethics and theology from the university.

Stephenson told Angelus that she originally reached out to the Women in Politics student group and university administrators to ask if they understood “exactly what Planned Parenthood stands for.”

“I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt,” she said, “and suggest that maybe they direct their funds to a more worthy organization.” 

Stephenson said she still has not heard back from the student group or school administrators. 

The Women in Politics event, she said, goes beyond simply the free expression of ideas. In raising money for the country’s largest abortion provider — which received $618 million in taxpayer monies last year — the event effectively endorses Planned Parenthood’s advocacy of abortion. 

“As a Catholic university, LMU has a responsibility to stand up for Catholic values,” Stephenson said. 

The mother of three and Catholic blogger described herself as  “tremendously grateful” to LMU for introducing her to the Catholic faith. Stephenson converted to Catholicism while at LMU and, since graduating, has worked as a Catholic high school religion teacher and is the host of a Catholic bioethics podcast

She feels the university has missed a teaching moment, by failing to address the moral issues raised by the fundraiser with members of the student group. 

“If you're going to raise money for women's advancement in the Catholic context, rather than alienate many of the community members, you could invite them into your fundraiser and raise funds for one of the many organizations that work for similar causes without being implicated in abortions and the sale of fetal tissue,” she said.