On October 15, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Director Maggie Little took to the stage to discuss abortion with John Finnis (Oxford) and Peter Singer (Princeton University). The plenary session, entitled “The Moral Status of the Fetus,” was a part of a two-day-long conference at Princeton University on “life and choice” issues in the abortion debate. In contrast to numerous other conferences on abortion, however, the object of the conference was not to persuade but to understand one another; that is, the goal was to find common ground or shared values: in decreasing the number of abortions by addressing some of the root causes women seek abortion (including poverty and injustice), providing support for pregnant women, and expanding access to family planning.
The conference, “Open Hearts, Open Minds and Fair Minded Words,” was organized by Princeton University, Fordham University Department of Theology, University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, and Bioethics International. It was inspired by President Obama’s call, during his Notre Dame commencement address in 2009, for those on different sides of the abortion issue not only to work together where we agree, but also to engage in “vigorous debate” with “Open hearts. Open minds. Fair minded words.”