Catholic midwives can be forced to supervise abortions

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom today rejected the right to conscience claims of Mary Doogan and Connie Wood. Doogan and Wood are midwives who “are practicing Roman Catholics who believe that human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offence against human life.”  Doogan and Wood may now be forced to supervise abortions carried out by other members of the hospital staff. Links to the Court’s opinion and a press release are provided below.

The Abortion Act of 1967 (as amended) sets forth a right to conscientious objection. The Act protects persons who have a conscientious objection to participating in abortions allowed by the statute. In this case, the Supreme Court interpreted the scope of the conscientious objection provision narrowly. A lower court had ruled in favor of Doogan and Wood, finding that the exemption extended to “any involvement in the process of treatment, the object of which is to terminate a pregnancy.” The Supreme Court rejected that view and found that the statutory protection only extended to hands-on participation in the treatment, and not supervising the process, which is the role that Doogan and Wood objected to performing.

The Court did not consider the argument that Doogan and Wood’s rights under the European Convention of Human Rights and another statute (the Equality Act of 2010), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religious belief, had been violated. The Court said that those issues were more subject to resolution in a proceeding brought by the midwives in an employment tribunal.

Richard M.

Supreme Court refuses to review decision invalidating Arizona abortion restriction

On Monday December 15, 2014, the Supreme Court refused to review a Ninth Circuit ruling that held unconstitutional an Arizona “law that requires abortionists to use federal standards in administering chemical abortions.”  The FDA protocol, which was developed in 2000, calls for RU-486 to be used only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy.  Since that time, many abortion clinics have departed from the FDA standards and the Arizona law was designed to prevent these “off-label” uses.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling is inconsistent with rulings from other federal courts that have upheld similar laws in Texas and Ohio. The courts have disagreed about whether these laws are consistent with the “undue burden” standard the Supreme Court developed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the Arizona law is not a ruling on the merits and does not have precedential effect. That has not stopped speculation about the Court’s refusal to review the case.  Many observers believe that the Supreme Court will soon agree to hear a same-sex marriage case and it may be that the Court is not inclined to consider an abortion case at the same time it considers same-sex marriage.

Richard M.

William E. May, RIP

William E. May, moral theologian and UFL member, has died at the age of 87. He was a long-time professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., holding the Michael J. McGivney Chair in Moral Theology. His contribution to moral theology was substantial and influential. He was the recipient of UFL’s 2012 Rupert and Timothy Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions to Pro-Life Scholarship.

Grondelski on artificial reproductive technology

UFL member John M. Grondelski has written an article, “The Family & Biology: Challenges of the Artificial Reproductive Technologies,” in Teologia i moralność (Theology & Morality), 15:1 (2014), 149-65.  The journal is published by the Theology Faculty of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland.


International Center on Law, Life, Faith and Family

The International Center on Law, Life, Faith and Family (ICOLF) has established new web site which features “a broad range of resources and materials for a number of interested parties working on ‘Law, life, faith and family’ issues on the national, regional and international levels.”

Contributors include:

  • Helen Alvaré
  • Ryan T. Anderson
  • Teresa Collette
  • Ursula Cristina Basset
  • Carmen Domínguez Hidalgo
  • Robert Fastiggi
  • Maria Hildingsson
  • Gudrun Kugler
  • John Klink
  • Marguerite Peters
  • Grégor Puppnick
  • Elizabeth Schiltz
  • Marie Smith
  • Aleksander Stępkowski
  • Vincenzo Vitale

HT Teresa Collett.

Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life

The annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference for Life in Washington D.C. will be held on Saturday, January 24, just after the March for Life.


The conference features great speakers and break-out sessions.

The Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the USCCB and Archbishop of Louisville.

For more information, see the conference web page.  You can also find videos from previous conferences there.

The Conference is co-sponsored by the University Faculty for Life, as well as Georgetown Right to Life, Catholic Daughters of the Americas, and the Georgetown Knights of Columbus.