by Rose Brennan, A&E Editor
As many of us are likely aware, the Manhattan College chapter of the Knights of Columbus is being reactivated. It has been well-advertised, especially at weekly Sunday masses, which I attend, as I am a practicing Catholic. I was led to believe that the Knights of Columbus was simply a social group for Catholic men, and I was not opposed to it. In fact, this was originally supposed to be an article about the reactivation of the chapter.
So last Sunday, I picked up a few pamphlets for some preliminary information about the organization before I endeavored to write an article about it. I read some of them, and I was absolutely disgusted.
In one of the pamphlets distributed to students, possible activities for the Knights were listed. Most of the activities were harmless, and good-natured, but some of them were titled “Life Programs,” and this is where my support for another Catholic organization on campus completely dissipated.
One possible “Life Program” listed for the Knights included volunteering at pregnancy centers. To someone who is unaware of what a pregnancy center is, he or she might infer that it is a center for pregnant women. And in a way, it is. But the true implications of a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) are actually much more horrific than one might think.
The goal of a CPC is to persuade a pregnant woman not to get an abortion by any means necessary. Often, they will masquerade as women’s health clinics, and women seeking abortions might be inclined to believe that they can obtain one at such a center. But once she enters the center, she will learn that is not at all the case.
According to the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics, “[CPCs] strive to give the impression that they are clinical centers, offering legitimate medical services and advice, yet they are exempt from regulatory, licensure, and credentialing oversight.” This means that the people who work at CPCs are not medical professionals, even though the employees will lead patients to believe otherwise. The Journal of Ethics notes that this deception can occur in several ways, including employees wearing white coats and having meetings with patients in exam rooms.
The Journal of Ethics further notes, “Because the religious ideology of these centers’ owners and employees takes priority over the health and well-being of the women seeking care at these centers, women do not receive comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information about all available options.” Part of the goal of CPCs is providing misinformation regarding pregnancy and abortions in order to persuade a pregnant woman to carry to term. Furthermore, they are actually protected under the First Amendment to spread these falsehoods and lies.
For instance, many CPCs advertise that they “provide medical advice on a variety of issues, including sexually transmitted infections, early pregnancy, and abortion.” However, the extent of their advice regarding abortion is, “Don’t have one.” Furthermore, people who work at CPCs also refuse to give referrals to actual women’s health clinics where abortions are provided.
The horror of CPCs does not end there. One activity that often occurs in a CPC is conducting an ultrasound for the pregnant woman. Sometimes, this is done without consent and with the hope that viewing the fetus on a screen and hearing its heart beat might change the woman’s mind regarding her desire to have an abortion. One might think the Knights of Columbus might want to distance themselves from such a horrible practice, but they actually proudly advertise these coerced ultrasounds as a fun “Life Program” in which Knights can participate.
One of the core principles of Lasallian ethics is “respect for all persons.” The Knights might argue they are supporting the unborn fetus through their efforts, but in my opinion, they must also respect the woman, including her decision to terminate her pregnancy if she decides she is not ready to be a parent. Trying to commandeer such a life-changing decision because it does not bode well with one’s religious beliefs shows blatant disrespect toward the woman and her right to choose. Furthermore, it is not a Knight’s place to do so, as someone who will never have to make such a decision himself due to his inability to conceive.
This ethic of “respect for all persons” extends beyond doctrine and into social justice implications. The American Medical Association also notes that CPCs will primarily target low-income women and women of color. Therefore, not only are CPCs anti-woman and anti-choice, they are also engaging in classist and racist power structures by specifically targeting such communities.
Furthermore, the language used to describe women in the aforementioned pamphlet is blatantly disrespectful. In the Life Program simply titled “Ultrasound,” the description refers to women seeking an abortion as “abortion-minded women,” as if abortion is their only defining characteristic. The Knights do not care how the women ended up in the situation, nor do they care where they are going from there. They only care that the women in question want abortions. And once a woman makes the decision to carry the pregnancy to term, the Knights likely would not care what happens to either her or the child afterward.
Reproductive rights for women in America are already consistently threatened by the government. This strain should not be coming from faith as well. In fact, I might argue that a woman who has had an abortion might need her faith more than ever in the immediate aftermath. Instead, women are often turned away or even excommunicated from the Church. Leaders of the Church have recognized this, and in 2016, Pope Francis himself actually gave priests the permanent ability to forgive the “sin” of abortion if a woman confessed to having one during the sacrament of Reconciliation.
While I personally do not believe a woman needs to be “forgiven” for having an abortion, I still recognize that what Pope Francis did was groundbreaking in terms of Catholic doctrine. But the way that the Church reacted made me feel as if the world was coming to an end. It turns out the Church did not actually want to forgive women who had abortions, and they wanted to continue removing them from the faith as punishment. Deliberately excluding women from participating in their faith also falls under direct violation of the Lasallian principle of “inclusive community.”
As a Lasallian and a Catholic who considers herself to be in good standing with the Church, I cannot condone the proposed actions of the reestablished Knights of Columbus chapter on campus if affiliation with a CPC is even a remote possibility. And perhaps after learning about the true implications of their activities, maybe you will think twice about supporting them as well.
For more information on the mission of CPCs, I encourage you to read “Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers are Legal but Unethical,” which was published by the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics and was my primary source of information in writing this editorial. Unlike the people that work at CPCs, the authors of this article are actual medical professionals (they are obstetrician-gynecologists) and provide medically accurate information, as well as information regarding the true aims of CPCs.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in The Quadrangle are those of the individual writers and do not not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board, the College or the student body.
Rose Brennan is a junior English and Communication major, and is The Quadrangle’s Arts & Entertainment Editor/Managing Editor. She is a Catholic and a feminist, and she does not believe the two are mutually exclusive.