Maggie Little to Speak on the Ethics of Conscientious Objection to Providing Abortion Services

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine@williams.edu

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 23, 2013—Maggie Little, director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and a member of the philosophy department at Georgetown University, will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, in Griffin Hall, room 3, on the Williams College campus. Her lecture, titled “Abortion, Conscience, and the Ethics of Provision,” will consider the role of conscientious objection in abortion services. This event is free and open to the public.

In her Weiss Lecture address, Little posits that access to abortion is a fundamental right; its availability critical to women’s well-being and ability to meaningfully author a life. Yet the morality of abortion is also something about which truly good and reasonable people disagree.  Given this fact, how are we to think about the role—and limit—of conscientious objection in the provision of abortion?  Some reject any role for conscientious objection; others defend its role as absolute. Maggie Little argues that neither approach suffices, and that the social life of abortion needs to be acknowledged as a nuanced one, reflecting the fundamental complexity inherent to the issue.

Little’s research interests include issues related to reproduction, clinical research ethics, and the structure of moral theory. A fellow of the Hastings Center, she has twice served as visiting scholar in residence at the National Institutes of Health in the Department of Bioethics. She is a founding member of the Ob-Gyn Risk Research Group, which brings together experts from medical epidemiology, obstetrics and gynecology, philosophy, bioethics, gender theory, and the medical humanities to study a wide variety of issues in reproductive health and clinical research ethics. She co-founded, with Ruth Faden and Anne Lyerly, the Second Wave Initiative, an organization working to promote responsible research into the health needs of pregnant women.

Little has written extensively on topics including abortion, feminist bioethics, the ethics of clinical research, and risk and values in pregnancy. She has co-authored works in numerous publications, including The New York Times, American Journal of Public Health, and Bioethics Forum. Her work has also been discussed in TIME Magazine and The Washington Post.

The Andrew B. Weiss Lecture on Medicine and Medical Ethics was endowed by the late Andrew B. Weiss ’61 and his wife, Madge Weiss. The Weiss Lecture is hosted by the Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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