Students gathered in Healy Circle on Jan. 25 to protest the 21st annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. The conference, whose website states it as the “largest collegiate pro-life conference in the United States,” is held in Healy Hall and is sponsored and promoted by Georgetown University.
Held the day after the March for Life, a DC-based march protesting the legality of abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision, the conference is organized and directed by students involved in Georgetown Right to Life and attracts hundreds of attendees each year.
Students from H*yas for Choice (HFC) and Georgetown University College Democrats (GUCD) were present at the protest, holding signs decrying both the conference’s pro-life stance and its endorsement of the eponymous Cardinal O’Connor. O’Connor is considered to be a controversial figure by many, particularly for his opposition to LGBTQ rights and abortion.
As conference attendees filed into Healy Hall, protestors stood next to the steps chanting slogans that criticized the conference’s positions on reproductive and LGBTQ rights.
Prior to the protest, HFC made a series of social media and blog posts detailing homophobic and misogynistic views of several people involved in the conference. The posts criticized keynote speaker Sister Bethany Madonna for her statements condemning “promiscuous” women and recommending lifelong sexual abstinence for gay men and lesbians.
HFC noted that one of the panelists, Catherine Glenn Foster, was a former litigation counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
They also criticized O’Connor for his role in blocking distribution of condoms as contraceptives at the height of the AIDS crisis in New York.
The protestors’ chants and posters reflected these criticisms, with many arguing that Georgetown’s endorsement of such figures created an unsafe campus environment. For example, HFC president Talia Parker (COL ’20) objected to Georgetown’s sponsorship of the conference and willingness to give a platform to such speakers as Sister Madonna.
“The Cardinal O’Connor Conference is named after an incredibly homophobic and disgusting person and brings in homophobic, misogynistic, racist people without fail every year. We come out here to show that this conference has no place at Georgetown to let the administration know that this conference should not be funded,” Parker said.