Catholic U. Won't Let Pro-Abortion Member of Congress Speak

Source: Washington Post; February 3, 2003

Washington, DC -- The managers of Catholic University's bookstore have canceled an appearance by pro-abortion Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) after several students raised objections to her advocacy of abortion.

Norton has visited several college campuses recently to promote a new biography of her, "Fire in My Soul." She was scheduled to sign copies at the Catholic University of America's bookstore this Wednesday, but members of the College Republicans and a student pro-life group complained that a politician of her views should not be welcomed at the Roman Catholic campus.

University officials disavowed responsibility for Norton's booking or cancellation, saying that both decisions were made by the store's manager, an employee of the private Follett Corp. that is contracted to run the bookstore.

But the officials said the incident, first reported in the Tower campus newspaper, is prompting them to review their policy on hosting speakers and signers at the bookstore.

The bookstore's on-site manager could not be reached to comment, and calls to Follett's corporate headquarters in Illinois were not returned. Aides to Norton declined to comment, as did representatives of Simon & Schuster, publishers of "Fire in My Soul."

The book, by Joan Steinau Lester, was released last month. According to a publisher's synopsis, the book charts the life and career of Norton, the District's nonvoting representative in Congress.

The synopsis makes no mention of Norton's support of abortion. Though she has not recently been a front-and-center figure in the movement, Norton has long expressed herself as an abortion supporter and participated in several rallies. In 1993, she led a fight to overturn a pro-life ban on the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for residents of the District. The same year, she co-sponsored the FACE bill derided by pro-life groups as infringing on First Amendment rights to free speech.

Sean McConeghy, a 21-year-old senior from Staten Island, N.Y., said he was startled to learn last week that Norton was scheduled to visit campus. After complaining unsuccessfully to the president's office, he asked members of the College Republicans and Students for Life to join him in complaining to the bookstore.

"This is nothing specifically against Ms. Norton. It's against the viewpoint," he said. "We felt that giving someone with those viewpoints a forum on this campus would not be in keeping with the principles for which we stand."

The bookstore manager, Barbara Hoy, told the Tower last week that she received about 25 e-mail complaints about Norton's scheduled appearance.

Victor Nakas, director of public affairs for the university, said Hoy reported the complaints to his office. He said he responded that "since it was Follett's decision to book Ms. Norton, it was their decision" how to respond.

Nakas said he would not speculate on whether the school administration would have allowed Norton or another pro-abortion politician to appear if it had direct management of the bookstore.

Follett has managed the bookstore since 2000. Nakas added that administrators intend to clarify speaker guidelines for Follett. "This is the first time they've booked someone from the outside who wasn't part of the faculty or associated with the university," he said. University policy states that the administration may prohibit student organizations from inviting speakers "who advocate policies counter to church teaching," Nakas said.

Norton spoke last month at Georgetown University -- another Catholic institution -- for a commemoration of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., without sparking controversy. Find pro-life books, materials and merchandise at Life Cycle Books. Go to