‘Did Not Align With Our Mission’: Catholic University Fires Professor Who Brought in ‘Abortion Doula’

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FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Catholic University confirmed to The Daily Signal that it has terminated the contract of the professor who invited a self-declared “abortion doula” to speak to students about coaching women through abortions and “pregnant men” through a “seahorse birth.”

Catholic University President Peter Kilpatrick announced to students on Jan. 30 that the university “terminated our contract with the professor who invited the speaker” after obtaining “clear evidence that the content of the class did not align with our mission and identity.”

“We first heard of the incident on Wednesday and began to gather information from the students and the professor,” Kilpatrick explained. “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.”

“We received one media inquiry Thursday, and one on Friday, asking for comment,” he continued. “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.”

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Kilpatrick emphasized that Catholic University is strongly 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. As witnessed by the life and virtue of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we just celebrated as a community, 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.”

“Here at Catholic University, we have the unique opportunity and common blessing to pursue truth, to grow in faith, and to exercise charity,” he added. “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.”

The Daily Signal first reported the story of the “abortion doula” last week after a Catholic University nursing student detailed the abortion lecture. The student noted that the guest speaker said she also practices Reiki, a controversial Japanese method of spiritual healing and self-improvement.

“It was really unsettling,” nursing student Felipe Avila, 20, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Friday. “The fundamental point is to understand human development from conception to natural death, right? And they brought in someone who counsels women to terminate life.” 

Psychology lecturer Melissa Goldberg (who did not respond to requests for comment) invited the doula, Rachel Carbonneau, to address her class, titled Psychology 379: Lifespan Development.

The term doula usually refers to a professional who provides physical and emotional support to a woman before, during, and shortly after childbirth. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, defines an abortion doula as someone who “provides physical and emotional support to a patient during their abortion process.”

Carbonneau identified herself to the class as an “abortion doula,” according to the audio recording obtained by The Daily Signal. The founder and CEO of the LGBTQ-aligned doula company Family Ways also was an English lecturer at Catholic University from 2005 to 2008, her LinkedIn profile says. 

Avila, the nursing student, said he first recognized the doula’s misalignment with the Catholic school’s values when Carbonneau began “using terms like birthing persons [and] pregnant person.” The lecturer was “very strategic in avoiding the word ‘woman,’” Avila said.

One of Avila’s classmates repeatedly asked Carbonneau how abortion ties into her work as a doula, which prompted the lecturer to share her pro-abortion stance openly. 

“This is a space I feel comfortable navigating,” the doula said in response to questions. 

Carbonneau also described what she called “seahorse birth.” 

“We work with trans clients,” Carbonneau told students, according to the audio. “I have some men who have given birth; it’s amazing, we call it seahorse birth. It’s lovely, especially when it’s a water birth; it’s fantastic.” 

Female seahorses still produce eggs and male seahorses fertilize them, but male seahorses incubate the young in a special pouch, from which the young emerge. This does not mean male seahorses become female, but they do appear to “give birth,” in a sense, so pro-transgender activists claim that when a “transgender man” gives birth, that is similar to a male seahorse doing so.

She insisted: “It’s not my business as a doula or a human being to pass judgment on how anybody else chooses to live their life.” 

When discussing the stigma of “pregnant men,” Carbonneau urged students to “normalize” the discussion of women who identify as men giving birth. 

“I think just normalizing it, right? Using the gender-neutral language, talking about pregnant men as pregnant people, pregnant women, pregnant men, pregnant humans,” she told the class. 

Carbonneau acknowledged the tension between her support for abortion and the Catholic position on the issue, saying she herself had studied at the university.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that abortion is a “moral evil” and “gravely contrary to the moral law.” 

The doula’s presentation Tuesday at Catholic University felt “unsettling,” Avila said. The student pointed out that “one of the many reasons that students like me and many of my peers made the decision to attend Catholic University is for that Catholic identity.”  

“The university should not wait for there to be public pressure or a public outcry for there to be some kind of change … if they want to preserve the Catholic identity, then they need to take these things a lot more seriously,” Avila added. 

Carbonneau said she uses Reiki, a Japanese spiritual healing technique condemned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as incompatible with Christian teaching and scientific evidence. In 2009, the conference said that “it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions … to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.” 

Catholic University acknowledged the contradiction between Carbonneau’s support for abortion and the institution’s own values on Friday in a statement to The Daily Signal.

“The Catholic University of America was appalled to learn about reports regarding this guest speaker,” the university told The Daily Signal. “It does not reflect our mission and values as a university that is committed to upholding the dignity of life at all stages.”

“The guest speaker will not be speaking again to the class, and we are re-communicating the terms and expectations by which all outside speakers are vetted and invited,” the university, added, referring to Carbonneau.

Virginia Allen, Mary Elise Cosgray, Tyler O’Neil, and Noah Slayter contributed to this report.

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state. 

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