The fourteenth annual meeting of University Faculty for Life (UFL) was held June 4 and 5 at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. This was the first time that UFL had met in that city, and attendees were most impressed by the facilities at the Law School building and by the university's warm hospitality.
UFL is an interdisciplinary, non-denominational organization de-voted to using scholarship to advance the cause of respect for life. It believes that by looking more deeply at the roots of the issues of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, UFL can help shape a more effective response. The organization publishes an annual collection of pro-life scholarship entitled Life and Learning, and has presented briefs in court cases involving life issues.
As with all its previous conferences, presentations consisted of a mix of plenary speakers and sessions in which scholars took on a wide variety of topics. Following each plenary speaker, a "commentator" added to and critiqued the presentation.
The first of the plenary speakers was Dr. Jorge Garcia of the Philosophy Department of Boston College. His topic was "Intentions, Virtues, and Medicine," an examination of questions relating to the principle of "double effect." This is a concept of enormous importance in the area of medical decision making. It is of particularly significant in relation to the care of the terminally ill when a treatment may have the effect of both lessening suffering and also of shortening life.
Garcia provided a rigorous and sophisticated critique of current critics of double effect theory. The commentator was Dr. Thomas Cavanaugh of the Philosophy Department of the University of San Francisco.
Dr. Ian Dowbiggin delivered the other plenary address. He is an historian at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada, and author of A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, which was reviewed in National Right to Life News. Dr. Dowbiggin's talk was titled, "Dead End: The Cautionary History of Euthanasia in the Twentieth Century."
He concluded his paper with this trenchant observation: "As the twenty-first century begins to unfold, the battle over euthanasia is shifting rapidly from the nation's courts and legislatures to its hospital, hospice, and nursing home wards.As a society we must decide if we are willing to invest in the resources necessary to provide compassionate and ethical medical care to the terminally ill and people with disabilities. If not, and we continue to either consciously or unwittingly ration health care, we must decide who are the neediest and most deserving patients. Either way, the choice is ours." Comment was provided by Prof. Teresa Collett of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
The other papers covered a wide variety of life issues, from a large number of disciplinary perspectives. There was a strong contingent of philosophers, who discussed topics ranging from Loyola Marymount University's Dr. Christopher Kaczor's analysis of David Boonin's theories of personhood to the examination by Dr. Damian Fedoryka of Ave Maria College of the use of force in a culture of death and later his reflections on the moral status of "compromise" abortion laws.
Other philosophical presentations included one by Dr. Laura Garcia of Boston College of abortion and conscience, Dr. Andrew Peach of Saint Mary's University speaking on the grounds of parental obligation, Boston College's Fr. Paul McNellis on abortion and men, and Thomas Cavanaugh on "The First Principle of Practical Reason: Doing Good While Avoiding Evil." Several of these sessions featured commentators, such as Fr. Joseph Koterski of Fordham, Fr. John Conley, also of Fordham, and Dr. Mary Lemmons of the University of St. Thomas, each of whom provided excellent critiques.
A number of law professors made significant contributions to the conference. William Duncan of Brigham Young Law School spoke on "The Statutory Response to 'Wrongful Life' and 'Wrongful Birth' Actions," commented on by Professor Collett. Professor Ronald Rychlak of the University of Mississippi spoke on "Abortion, Law and History," while Professor Richard Myers of the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor gave his observations on the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case.
Several medical doctors also took part, including Dr. Marcella Colbert, who discussed "The Medicalization of Death and Dying."
Another discipline well represented at the conference was English. Dr. Jeff Koloze of Clark State Community College presented a paper on poetry and life issues, with a comment by Professor Anne Gardiner, a professor emerita of John Jay College. Dr. Koloze spoke later on logical fallacies in the literature on embryonic stem cell research, and Professor Gardiner examined "The Transvaluation of Religion in the Service of Abortion."
Sharon Gray of the Computer Science Department at Augustana College and a long-time member of Feminists for Life spoke on "Peace in the Womb," dealing with the issue of women and forced abortion.
One of the new areas of research presented at the conference was Pepperdine University's Dr. Andrew Yuengert's discussion of the economics of abortion, entitled "Abortion from the Supply Side: A Literature Review." The closing banquet had three notable events. One was Fr. John Conley's remarks on the late king of Belgium, entitled "Remembering King Beaudoin, Witness to Life." Another was the announcement by Dr. Jeff Koloze and Dr. Jane Gilroy of the University Faculty for Life Scholarly Achievement Award in English Studies, given to Ms. Cecilia Ollhoff, a student at Clark State Community College.
The Rupert and Timothy Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions to Pro-Life Scholarship was presented for the first time. The award was named in honor of two Canadian businessmen, a father and son, who generously supported pro-life causes during their lifetimes, and after whom a foundation carrying on their work has been named.
The recipient was the late Thomas W. Strahan. The award was accepted by his widow, Carol.
Thomas Strahan was a Minneapolis attorney who devoted more than 20 years of his life to researching the disastrous medical, psychological, and social consequences of abortion. The author of a series of annotated bibliographies of material on the topic and editor of the newsletter of the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change, his pioneering work became the basis for the research of others in the field.
In her acceptance speech, Mrs. Strahan spoke of the way in which her husband had responded to the Gospel call to serve "the least of these" by giving up a comfortable career as an attorney to devote the bulk of his time to working on behalf of the unborn.
At the UFL Board meeting on Sunday, Professor Richard Myers was elected to replace Fr. Thomas King, the founding president of UFL. Next year's meeting will take place at the Ave Maria Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from June 3 to 5. Information about the conference will be posted on the UFL web site (www.uffl.org) as it becomes available. The web site also has the programs of past conferences, and the text of a number of papers given at those conferences.