|A total of 41 speakers and moderators voiced their views at the conference.|
October 27, 2010. A top-flight array of speakers, scholars, bioethicists,
lawyers, and policy advocates gathered at Princeton University this past
October 15 – 16 to participate in a conference entitled
“Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Fair Minded Words.” The
conference was an effort to bring about more substantive dialogue
between pro-choice and pro-life advocates.
A total of 41 speakers and
moderators voiced their views at the conference, including pro-choicers Peter
Singer of Princeton University and Frances Kissling, president of Catholics
for a Free Choice. One of the most outstanding pro-life
advocates present was Helen Alvaré, formerly the spokeswoman for the
US bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities and currently a law
professor at George Mason University. Jennifer Miller, president of Bioethics
International (and a graduate of the Regina Apostolorum in Rome)
was also one of the speakers, as was Legionary priest
Fr Joseph Tham, a bioethics professor at the Regina Apostolorum.
and panel discussions at the conference ranged from issues such
as the moral status of a fetus, when a fetus
might feel pain and what ought to be done about
it, how far the right of conscientious refusal to practice
abortions may extend, whether abortion in America ought to be
a constitutional question, and more.
The importance of intelligent dialogue
interview with Our Sunday Visitor, Fr Tham commented that
such efforts at reasoned and courteous dialogue are significant steps
“It is a great challenge because the differences are
really extreme,” he acknowledged. “But for us to really have
charity in truth, true charity means going out of your
comfort zone and trying to engage those who have different
Following the conference, Fr Tham also published a short blog advocating an in-depth, rigorous intellectual preparation for those who
will carry on the pro-life cause in the future. Too
often, he said, pro-choice scholars regard pro-lifers as “fundamentalists, extremists,
and uneducated.” The burden is on the pro-life side to
|Fr Joseph Tham, second from the right, participates in a panel on preventing unintended pregnancies.|
“The paucity of pro-life intellectuals is a great weakness
of the pro-life cause because ideas make the world turn,
and wrong ideas can have devastating results in culture. Universities
have considerable influence in educating the future generations, and it
will be a great loss if the pro-life position is
portrayed as incoherent or naïve from an intellectual point of
view,” he observed.
“I believe that there is a calling for
those who are more gifted to enter into the intellectual
battlefield to defend the pro-life cause. It is interesting to
see that among the four organizers of the recent abortion
conference at Princeton, the two pro-life academics were in their
30s, whereas the two pro-choice counterparts were in their 60s.
This is a sign that young academic pro-lifers can engage
culture and make a difference,” he said.
To find out more
about the Princeton conference on abortion, visit the “Open
Hearts, Open Minds and Fair Minded Words” web site. To
learn more about how the Regina Apostolorum’s bioethics department is
preparing the youth to engage effectively in cultural debate, visit
the college’s web site at www.uprait.org.