London

King's University profs want apology after anti-abortion film Unplanned screened

More than 40 faculty members from King's University are calling on the school to formally apologize for screening the anti-abortion film Unplanned and for misrepresenting the institution's values. 

44 faculty members are signatories on a letter sent to Principal David Malloy

The King's University Veritas Series for Faith and Culture screened the controvertial film Unplanned in the school's Kenny Theatre. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

More than 40 faculty members from London's King's University College are calling on the school to formally apologize for screening the anti-abortion film Unplanned and for misrepresenting the institution's values. 

In a letter sent to Principal David Malloy Wednesday, professors from across disciplines, signed their names to a three page letter describing the "furor and fear" expressed by the school community when the movie was screened last Thursday. 

"The public endorsement of an anti-abortion stance at King's University College by the Director of Campus Ministry is of great concern to the viability of our institution as we work to recruit and maintain excellent students, staff and faculty," the letter reads. 

Unplanned is based on a memoir by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director turned anti-abortion activist. The movie has been called "a piece of hate propaganda" against women and abortion providers by the head of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. 

When it was screened at select theatres last July, including at London's SilverCity, there were protests across the country

Dozens of men and women rallied outside King's University College last week, while the movie was playing, carrying posters that read "Trust Women" and "I am a woman not a womb."

The movie was described in the King's event calendar as "an inspiring true story," the faculty letter said. It goes on to detail Reverend Michael Bechard's comments to CBC London about why the Campus Ministry decided to show the movie.

"We chose to show the movie Unplanned because it's really consistent with our general ethic of life at King's," Bechard told CBC London. 

But the academics say that is untrue, that the university's mission is to "engage in the open pursuit of truth." 

They say the priest took a position on behalf of the institution, organized an event without input from experts in the field of reproductive rights and underestimated the school's commitment to "deep debate."

Women who have exercised their rights to reproductive care risk being stigmatized and traumatized by the ideological position presented both in the film and in the Director's statement.- Letter from 44 King's University faculty  and staff

 

As well as asking for an apology from Bechard, the signatories are asking the Principal to assure the King's community that the Unplanned event did not match with the school's values of difficult and critical dialogue of difficult subject matter.

They're also calling for material resources to be made available for International Women's Day. 

Principal Responds

In a statement distributed to the King's community Wednesday evening, the university's principal responded to the letter.

"I regret that people in our community have experienced anxiety, stress and frustration as a function of this event. As Principal, I take responsibility for this and will strive to create a more open format for future events," Malloy's statement said. 

A call for Bechard to apologize was not included, instead Malloy suggested the media created confusion around where King's stands on abortion. 

There was some confusion generated in the media between where King's stands and where Campus Ministry stands on issues such as abortion- King's University Principal David Malloy

"There was some confusion generated in the media between where King's stands and where Campus Ministry stands on issues such as abortion," Malloy wrote.

"The presentation of the film and the belief of life beginning at conception is the stance of Campus Ministry and not of King's as a whole ... King's does not have a position on abortion."

Hear what the Campus Ministry's Rev. Michael Bechard said in his interview on Jan. 10 on Afternoon Drive 

Campus ministry at King's University College in London is screening "Unplanned," an anti-abortion film, tonight. We heard from Rev. Michael Bechard as well as Robyn Schwarz from Pro-Choice London. 9:10