The Few, the Brave and the Unbowed
The pro-life professors of University Faculty for Life
BY ANTHONY FLOTT
August 20-26, 2006 Issue | Posted 8/21/06 at 10:00 AM
Jane Gilroy knows
the impact of words so it was with some chagrin that the English professor at
“He whispered to me that he was
a college chair for the
“When someone finds out you’re pro-life, they’ll say, ‘I’m pro-life, too,’” Koloze told the Register. “They almost whisper it as if they’re fearful that the administration will find out. And I think that fear is justified.”
Today the group has about 250
dues-paying members from more than 100 universities and colleges in the
The group’s formation was spurred
16 years ago by the Supreme Court’s review of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, a case many pro-lifers thought
could lead to the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
At the time, though, serious pro-life scholarship was thought to be lacking,
notes University Faculty for Life President Richard Myers, a professor at Ave
Maria School of Law in
“There were isolated academics who had written on the issue,” he says, “but there really wasn’t an organized presence in the academy.”
The organization was formed as a
response led by Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer (now president of
The group recently drew the praise of Father Richard John Neuhaus in his First Things “On the Square” blog of July 6. “The proceedings of the 15th annual conference,” Father Neuhaus wrote, “is packed with some of the sharpest thinking about the theory, practice and prospects of the pro-life cause.”
The work is wide and varied at
University Faculty for Life’s “Life and Learning” conference, an annual forum
where members address pro-life issues from numerous perspectives: philosophy,
theology, history, law, the social sciences, politics, statistics.
Paper titles from this year’s conference, held at
Other presentations explored embryo adoptions, the effect of state parental notification laws on abortion rates, and how Catholics should vote related to pro-life issues.
The studies can be surprising. Koloze’s work, for example, examines abortion, infanticide and euthanasia as they occur in literature and the arts — from novels, short stories and poems to rap music.
At times, University Faculty for
Life goes beyond presentations. Recently, for instance, the group filed an
amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of
Its main thrust, though, is academics. “UFL is intended to be a scholarly organization, and so I would foresee its greatest impact to be in the scholarly world,” says Jesuit Father Joseph Koterski, board secretary and editor of “Life and Learning” proceedings. “I hope that our scholarship will also be of great help to the larger pro-life community.” (The papers are available for reading at uffl.org)
Seekers of Truth
For many faculty, finding print media willing to publish such work — or even a sounding board for works in progress — can be daunting. Many administrations and faculty turn deaf ears and blind eyes to pro-life scholarship, no matter its merits.
Campus attitudes, says Father Koterski, range “from indifferent to hostile,” creating an atmosphere that can stifle pro-life work even before it begins.
“There can be a lot of peer
pressure to conform, especially on questions where taking a certain stance will
help one to get ahead or to be accepted,” adds Father Koterski,
a philosophy professor at
Or else. Koloze
says a fellow faculty member at
Recently, controversy has swirled
University Faculty for Life’s biggest impact might be among students, not faculty.
“It’s certainly not true among academics, but I think among young people there’s a kind of rise in pro-life sentiment,” Myers says. “To have a group out there doing the intellectual work helping to support those folks is important.”
“The future is promising,” he says. “I think that the intellectual arguments of people in favor of abortion rights are not ultimately convincing to people.”
Thanks, in part, to University Faculty for Life speaking out.
Anthony Flott writes from
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