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King’s University profs say screening of anti-abortion film ‘Unplanned’ is ‘of great concern’

King's University College. King's University College

Professors at King’s University College are calling on the school to issue an apology after screening the controversial anti-abortion film Unplanned.

Over 40 professors have signed a letter condemning the school for what it calls a “public endorsement” of the film’s message.

“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.

The filmed based on a memoir by former Planned Parenthood director-turned-anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson.

Click to play video: 'Controversial movie ‘Unplanned’ sparks protests' Controversial movie ‘Unplanned’ sparks protests
Controversial movie ‘Unplanned’ sparks protests – Jul 9, 2019

The Jan. 9 screening at the school’s Joanne & Peter Kenny Theatre was sponsored by the university’s campus ministry as part of the Veritas Series for Faith and Culture. The series aims to “foster learning and dialogue,” and this year’s theme is renewal.

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Jacquetta Newman, an associate professor in the political science department at King’s, says the issue many have is not that the film was shown, it’s the lack of context that the university provided when it showed the film.

“Doing that in a classroom comes with certain responsibilities to properly contextualize what is shown and explained the significance in terms of why it’s being shown, what are the controversies, and present,” she said.

“Put it in context. Unplanned is a propaganda film and has been criticized in the press and a number of places as being misrepresentative of other truths.”

READ MORE: Anti-abortion movie ‘Unplanned’ to play in more than 24 Canadian theatres

The principal of King’s University College David Malloy said in a statement that “the mission of the series is to endeavour to foster learning and dialogue by gathering our community together, as we seek to live lives of faith and justice.”

“The screening of the film Unplanned was an attempt to address the polarizing issue of abortion,” the statement read. “Showing this film is consistent with King’s mission to be a place where controversial topics can be presented and discussed.”

Although Newman agrees that the purpose of the university is to have an open dialogue, she says it’s questionable whether those who were opposed to the film were able to express their concerns.

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Newman added that many students have said they were not allowed into the screening if they had signs or were chanting.

The letter also said the head of campus ministry Michael Bechard spoke on behalf of King’s, telling media: “I hope it sends a message to women that we are concerned about unborn children.”

READ MORE: Abortion rights group slams ‘Unplanned’ movie screening at Saint John High School

The letter goes on to say that this position is “hostile towards women.”

“Women who have exercised their right to reproductive care risk being stigmatized and traumatized by the ideological position presenting both in the film and in the Director’s statement,” the letter read.

King’s is a Catholic university, but Malloy said the school is “not advocating for any side of this debate but rather being a vehicle for the conversation.”

In response to last week’s screening, professors are holding a teach-in called Women at King’s, which will feature guest speakers and professionals on the topic of women’s minds, bodies and power.

Newman said the event will allow people to discuss the issues presented in the film in more depth with educational resources to help in the discussion.

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The event takes place in the Student Life Centre on Friday from 10:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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