College Democrats pushed to uninvite pro-abortion rights speaker


Concern about an abortion activist who was slated to speak at a campus event sparked an administrator to nix her invite — leaving the organizers frustrated and questioning their rights.

Two nights before the College Democrats’ April 4 pro-abortion rights panel featuring local politicians and activists, organization president Dylan Ritter received a call from Alicia Bourque, executive director of student affairs, advising that he uninvite one of the speakers because her views were “too extreme,” according to Ritter.

He did.

Amy Irvin, executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, was the only planned speaker associated with an organization that explicitly funds and sponsors abortions.

Bourque said that Irvin’s views contradict those of the university.

“I was concerned that inviting a representative from the New Orleans Abortion Fund, which raises money to pay for legal abortions, ran counter to our Jesuit, Catholic values and the university’s official pro-life stance and fell outside the realm of the general intention of the program that was communicated to me,” Bourque said in an official statement after declining an interview with The Maroon.

The panel was funded exclusively by the College Democrats and according to the Student Code of Conduct, featured speakers do not have to have views that align with those of the university.

“Any segment of the academic community is free to invite and hear any personality and idea presented in the University forum. Sponsorship of speakers does not imply approval or endorsement of the views expressed, either by the sponsoring group or by Loyola,” according to the code.

However, certain members of the administration, including Bourque, have the authority to uninvite speakers if, “there are reasonable concerns regarding the safety of the university community or in the event a speaker will unreasonably impact the operations of the University.”

While Bourque did not directly uninvite Irvin, Ritter did not express that Bourque ever communicated safety concerns as the reasoning for her request.

Ritter and his fellow members had felt Irvin was a “vital addition” to the panel due to her current job as well as her history in public service.

“Being a social worker and working for women all her life, that embodies Jesuit values,” Ritter said.

The panel was created in response to Wolf Pack for Life’s anti-abortion rights diversity panel back in February which featured a variety of speakers from different local organizations.

“We felt the pro-life club had just as extreme of panelists as we did. Obviously taking a stance and saying that a woman should have no right to choose, have no right to reproductive sovereignty, that is almost more extreme than providing funding for abortions. The Supreme Court has said that it is a right to have an abortion,” Ritter said.

The College Democrats submitted Irvin’s credentials for approval on March 25, before the credentials of the other speakers and did not receive negative feedback until the call from Bourque on April 2, according to Ritter.

While the group’s executive board initially refused to uninvite Irvin, he said they felt pressured by Bourque.

“I asked (Bourque) multiple times in multiple different ways, ‘Is the school going to not allow us to have this panel if we invite her?’ and she said every time, ‘We really want you guys to disinvite her,'” Ritter said. “She said something along the lines of ‘How you guys organize this panel and this discussion will set a precedent for future discussions for this topic.’”

Ritter uninvited Irvin on April 2, in what he saw as the best way to preserve the future of his organization.

“Pretty much the entirety of the club are freshmen and I know we have four years left on campus to organize and work on issues like this. I wanted to be able to ensure that going forward we had a good relationship with the school,” Ritter said.

Irvin expressed that she was disappointed in not having the opportunity to speak with Loyola students.

“I very much was looking forward to serving on the panel and talking about the important work that we are doing especially in lieu of the legislative session that begins next week where already there are several anti-choice bills that have been pre-filed,” Irvin said. “Students have been involved in forming and sustaining the work of the New Orleans Abortion Fund.”

While the College Democrats were able to find two replacements for Irvin, state legislative candidate Mandie Landry and Executive Director of Lift Louisiana Michelle Erenberg, Ritter said he is afraid that the situation has impacted the organization’s reputation as well as their ability to express themselves.

“It’s tricky because I understand (the university’s) need to save face and that ultimately their approval and funding comes from the archdiocese. But it’s tough when you know that there are very blatant restrictions on your free speech and your ability to organize on campus,” Ritter said. “They basically, they bullied us into disinviting her and it sucks. It sucks a lot.”


Read Alicia Bourque’s full statement here.