A group of law students at Catholic University, angry that the undergraduate student government voted recently to cancel a speech by Eleanor Smeal, president of the National Organization for Women, announced yesterday that they would sponsor the speech next week.
John Gilmore, a third-year law student, said that three law school organizations had agreed to pay Smeal $1,500 to speak about "Women in the '80s" on Tuesday. That is the date originally scheduled for the speech she was to give.
"I think it is a disgrace, really," Gilmore said. "I was quite ashamed, frankly, that something like this happened at a university. As soon-to-be attorneys, we have an obligation to protect the rights of those whose views we disagree with."
The student government at Catholic had invited Smeal and agreed to pay her $1,000, but canceled after receiving complaints that Smeal holds views that are anti-Catholic. Smeal and NOW support a woman's right to choose an abortion.
Smeal said yesterday that she speaks often at Catholic universities and had received a "magnificent reception" for a speech last year at the University of Notre Dame.
"I think it is a bad precedent to censor any feminist speaker, or any speaker for that matter," Smeal said. "After all, this university had Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy."
Smeal said her standard speech for university audiences is not solely on abortion, but more on civil rights and affirmative action issues. But she said she would devote some time to the abortion issue during next week's speech at Catholic.
The law school groups that are sponsoring Smeal are the Catholic University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Women's Law Collective, and the Catholic University Law Review.