The Catholic University of America has ended its contract with a psychology professor who recently invited a self-described "abortion doula" to address a class of students.
"Now that we have clear evidence that the content of the class did not align with our mission and identity, we have now terminated our contract with the professor who invited the speaker," said university president Peter Kilpatrick in a Jan. 30 statement posted to the school's website.
Reports of the lecture first emerged in a Jan. 26 article by The Daily Signal, an online publication of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington.
The publication said it had obtained audio from a Jan. 23 class at Catholic University, to which The Daily Signal said psychology lecturer Melissa Goldberg had invited doula Rachel Carbonneau to speak as part of a course titled "Psychology 379: Lifespan Development."
The audio clip -- some 10 minutes in length, and without any identifying information for the female speaker or the male who can be heard asking questions of the speaker -- was embedded in The Daily Signal's online post.
The publication said it had spoken with a Catholic University nursing student named Felipe Avila, who described the lecture, and with the school itself, which apparently confirmed the doula had spoken to the class.
In a feature post on the Students for Life of America website, Avila is described as a sophomore at the university and an "up-and-coming student leader" for the organization. He included a link to The Daily Signal article in his Instagram bio.
In his statement -- which did not name The Daily Signal, the professor, speaker, student or course title -- Kilpatrick said the school had first learned of the incident Jan. 24 and "began to gather information from the students and the professor."
"We had been told that one student had a recording of the class, and had plans to send it to the media, but the recording was not shared with the University administration," he said.
The school received media inquiries for comment Jan. 25 and 26, he said.
"While we were unable to confirm what exactly was said in the class, we did determine that the speaker's views on life issues and on the anthropology of the human person were not consistent with our mission and identity as a faithful Catholic university, and that she should not be allowed to address the class again," he said.
After further investigation, the school dismissed Goldberg, who as of Jan. 30 is no longer listed as a faculty member on the university's website. OSV News has attempted to contact Goldberg through what appears to be her Facebook account and is awaiting a response.
Carbonneau, who in an email declined to comment to OSV News, is the founder and CEO of Family Ways, a Rockville, Maryland-based provider of a range of doula services.
The term "doula," from the Greek for "female helper," typically describes a person who offers prenatal and postnatal support, as well as infant care guidance and parental education. In recent years, some abortion centers have enlisted doulas for clients seeking emotional support after their abortions.
Other services from Family Ways include lactation support, birth tub rentals, reiki (a spiritual healing practice developed by Mikao Usui, a Buddhist monk, in the early 20th century) and placenta encapsulation.
In the audio segment, a female voice can be heard saying, "I am an abortion doula as well. And I know I'm at Catholic University. I was a student here myself. So I know that carries a lot of weight for a lot of people."
The speaker then described her work as an abortion doula, saying that it was not "what people think it is," but rather focused on clients who had "really hard situations of 'we really wanted to be pregnant, and we can't be, and now what?'"
Among the situations she cited were prenatal diagnoses of ectopic pregnancies, as well as trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) and trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).
"When is (abortion) elective?" asked the speaker. "Can a baby with trisomy 18 survive? Can a baby with trisomy 21 survive?"
About 5% to 10% of children born with trisomy 18 survive to age 1, although at least one case of a 26-year-old female patient has been documented. The average life span for a person with trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, has in recent years expanded to 60 years and beyond, according to several studies.
"Possibly you hear about these miracle situations … but let's also talk about the risk to the birthing person," said the speaker, noting that "we do tend to default towards women" in talking about who gives birth.
"We are currently at Catholic University, but … we work with trans clients," said the speaker. "I have some men who have given birth. It's amazing. We call them 'seahorse births,'" she added, referencing the male seahorse's monthlong gestation of its young after the female of the species deposits her unfertilized eggs in his brood pouch.
Kilpatrick said in his statement that the university "as a Catholic institution" is "committed to promoting the full truth of the human person, and to protecting human life from conception to natural death.
"In our rigorous pursuit of truth and justice, we engage at times with arguments or ideologies contrary to reason or to the Gospel," he said. "But we do so fully confident in the clarity given by the combined lights of reason and faith, and we commit to never advocate for sin or to give moral equivalence to error."
Citing "the life and virtue of St. Thomas Aquinas," Kilpatrick said "such engagement with opposing ideas helps us both to grow in our command of truth and to respond to error with empathy, compassion, and mercy."
He invited "anyone who has concerns regarding academic matters" to contact "a member of the faculty, a department chair, dean, or the Provost's office."
"Here at Catholic University, we have the unique opportunity and common blessing to pursue truth, to grow in faith, and to exercise charity," he said. "Our studies aim at producing wisdom, which includes excellence in living and sharing the truth with others. May our common study help us to understand life, to love goodness, and to promote and protect the dignity of the human person."