Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life

The largest collegiate pro-life conference in the United States

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Our Twenty-first Annual Conference

2018 Special Guest & Breakout speakers

The breakout sessions at the Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life are meant to educate attendees on the great variety of life issues and to encourage discussion. Each breakout typically focuses on a specific life issue, such as the death penalty, euthanasia, or abortion.



Feminists for Life President Serrin M. Foster is the creator of the Women Deserve Better® campaign. Her landmark speech, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” which she delivered at the Conference in January, has been recognized as one of the “great speeches in history” in an anthology called Women’s Rights. She has focused on developing on-campus resources and support for underserved pregnant and parenting students and is an outspoken opponent of pregnancy discrimination.

Serrin has led Feminists for Life since 1994. Under her leadership, FFL successfully advocated benefits for poor and pregnant women through the State Child Health Insurance Program, worked in coalition with other women’s organizations to defeat the mandatory “family cap” and other punitive child exclusion provisions in welfare reform, and helped to prevent poverty and coerced abortions due to threats to withhold child support through passage of the Enhanced Child Support Act. Serrin also served on the National Taskforce Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act, and she also testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in support of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as “Laci and Conner’s Law.”

In January 1997, Serrin moderated the first-ever FFL Pregnancy Resource Forum at Georgetown University, which became a model for the country and in 2010 became the basis for Pregnancy Assistance Fund grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Serrin’s efforts earned her an honorary doctorate from Belmont Abbey College in 2008. Today, Serrin serves as editor-in-chief of The American Feminist and FFL’s resource website,

“The Feminist Case Against Abortion"

Breakout Session Speakers


Aimee Murphy

"Radical Inclusivity: Every Human Standing for Every Human"

Aimee Murphy is the Executive Director and founder of Rehumanize International, a non-partisan, secular organization dedicated to bringing an end to all aggressive violence against human beings through education, discourse, and action. After a personal conversion to the cause against abortion as a teen due to a pregnancy scare and pursuant death threats from her then-partner who insisted that she get an abortion, she was able to name and defend a holistic ethic of non-violence during her time in university: the Consistent Life Ethic. During the time of her undergraduate studies, she successfully helped the pro-life organization on campus to facilitate fruitful dialogue surrounding abortion by addressing the ethical foundation of pro-life belief and holistic care for all human beings. Through her work with Rehumanize International, Aimee is reaching people all over the globe with the consistent message of human rights and is creating and engaging in effective dialogue to change hearts and minds. 

Aimee was the recipient of the Susan B. Anthony List Young Leader Award in 2014, for her trailblazing pro-life leadership. She currently resides in Pittsburgh with her profoundly supportive husband, their two dogs, and whichever friends wander into the Murphy household.

Sr. Gianna Maria

Sr. Gianna Maria, SV

"Living the Gospel of Life"

The Sisters of Life, founded by John Cardinal O’Connor in 1991, are consecrated to protect and enhance a sense of the sacredness of human life.

Immersed in contemplative Eucharistic prayer, within a vibrant community life, the Sisters act in imitation of the Blessed Mother, bringing the consoling presence of Jesus Christ, conceived beneath their hearts to every person they meet, especially those whose lives are hidden, weak, or wounded. Their missions include caring for vulnerable pregnant women and their unborn children; inviting those wounded by abortion into the healing mercy of Jesus; fostering a Culture of Life through evangelization; retreat works; and upholding the beauty of marriage and family life.

Sr. Gianna Maria was born in Alexandria, Virginia and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. She graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and worked as a registered nurse at Nemours DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. Sr. Gianna Maria entered the Sisters of Life in 2010, and after profession of vows in 2013, served in the Co-Worker of Life mission, educating a network of lay faithful to serve vulnerable pregnant women alongside the Sisters of Life. Sr. Gianna Maria currently assists in the formation of postulants and resides in the Bronx, New York.



"Pro-Life at the End of Life"

Dr. Donovan is the Director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical School, and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics.  He is a clinician ethicist with over 30 years experience in the field. Dr. Donovan received his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame, his M.D. from the University of Oklahoma, as well as his Masters in Bioethics. He trained in pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, completed fellowships in pediatric gastroenterology at the Children's Hospital of Oklahoma and the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, and is board certified In Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Dr. Donovan completed a three-year term as Chair of the Bioethics Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics and was appointed as the first person to serve as liaison from the bioethics section to the Committee on Bioethics of the AAP. He also served on the bioethics committee for the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, the ethics committee of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, and was Medical Ethics Consultant to the Roman Catholic diocese of Tulsa.  He served on the local board of directors for the organ sharing network, the Genetics Advisory Council, and was a founding member and first vice president of the Oklahoma Association for Healthcare Ethics. He also served as chair of the Institutional Review Board at St. Francis Hospital for 17 years.

Dr. Donovan has published articles on both pediatrics and bioethics, and has spoken extensively on both subjects at the local, national and international level on four continent.  He was awarded the Humanism in Medicine award from the Gold Foundation, which recognizes physicians to have successfully integrated humanism into the delivery of care to their patients and families.  Dr. Donovan also received the Founder's Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research and Medicine from the University of Tulsa, an award sponsored by the Oklahoma chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.  He has been listed in Who's Who in the World, as well as Best Doctors in America, and Top Doctors in America.

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Carol Crossed

"Learning from Our Feminist Foremothers: Closing the Gap of Yesterday and Today"

Carol Crossed is the Board President of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Massachusetts. She has also served as co-founder of Feminists Choosing Life, which celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2015. She founded Democrats for Life of New York and was the Executive Director, from 1992 to 1998, of Consistent Life, Inc., an international network of over 200 organizations that oppose violence. She was a lobbyist on hunger and anti-war issues, and as a Native American, she has been a supporter of the human rights of indigenous populations, particularly in South America.  

Crossed has been the recipient of The Susan B. Anthony Award, Peaceful Solutions in Non-Violence Award, and the 2000 Gaudete Medal. Carol was the subject of a story that won second place in the National Catholic Press Association in 2000. She co-authored a recent piece in The Washington Post entitled "Susan B. Anthony would never have joined the Women's March on Washington." 

Carol purchased and restored the birthplace of women’s rights foremost heroine, Susan B. Anthony, in Adams, Massachusetts. The home opened as a Museum in 2010. To recognize this accomplishment, she was awarded the Northern Berkshire Massachusetts Business and Professional Women Award.

Carol attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. There she was introduced to civil rights activism with followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She has been arrested 19 times for opposing violence, including opposition to nuclear war and abortion, and in support of human rights in Central America for indigenous populations.  

Crossed is a Catholic. She and her husband have 6 children and 17 grandchildren, and live in Rochester, NY.

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John Keown, MA, DPhil, Phd, DCL

"Back to the Future of Abortion Law: Roe's Rejection of America's History and Traditions"

John Keown MA (Cantab) DPhil (Oxon) PhD (Cantab) DCL (Oxon) holds the Rose Kennedy Chair in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.

Formerly, he taught the law and ethics of medicine in the Law Faculty in the University of Cambridge. His books comprise: Abortion, Doctors and the Law (CUP, 1988); Euthanasia Examined (CUP, 1995); Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy (CUP, 2002; 2nd edition forthcoming 2018); Debating Euthanasia (with Emily Jackson; Hart, 2012); The Law and Ethics of Medicine (OUP, 2012); Reason, Morality and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis (with Robert George, OUP, 2013) and Bioethics and the Human Goods (with Alfonso Gómez-Lobo; GUP, 2015).  His research on law and ethics at the end of life has been cited by the Law Lords and by the US Supreme Court.

Dr. Keown will speak on "Back to the Future of Abortion Law: Roe's Rejection of America's History and Traditions."  You can find his paper on this topic here.


Cathy Cleaver Ruse, JD

"Arguing Abortion: Fallacies, Facts, and Feminism"

Cathy Ruse has devoted her career to promoting the dignity of the human person, a career that spans the fields of communication, public policy, and law. With over twenty years’ experience in the complicated legal areas of abortion, bioethics and family, religious liberty and free speech, Mrs. Ruse is uniquely equipped to contribute to the public discussion on the most pressing social issues of our day. Wired magazine called her “one of the most influential opinion shapers in the country.”

Mrs. Ruse served as Chief Counsel of the Constitution Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Other policy and advocacy positions include: Chief pro-life spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, campaign spokesman for the Missouri coalition against human cloning, executive director of Life Prizes, legal fellow for Americans United for Life, and legal counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families (a legal organization dedicated to fighting pornography and sexual exploitation). Prior to her policy and advocacy work, Mrs. Ruse practiced law in the District of Columbia.

Currently Mrs. Ruse serves as Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Legal Studies. She is a Governor of Ave Maria School of Law, a regular faculty member of Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Fellowship, and a member of the board of the Montessori Catechetical and Cultural Institute. Mrs. Ruse is also a Certified Dyslexia Therapist with a private practice.

She received her law degree from Georgetown University and is a graduate of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. She has filed amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court and has testified as an expert in congressional hearings in the U.S. House and Senate. She received a Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa from Franciscan University of Steubenville and was awarded an Abraham Lincoln Graduate Fellowship in Constitutional Government from the Claremont Institute.

She and her husband Austin received the John Paul II Award for Advancing the Culture of Life from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences and the Defender of Life Award from Students for Life of America. They are the proud parents of two wonderful daughters.


Father Charles P. Connor

"Cardinal O'Connor: His Career and Pro-Life Legacy"

Father Charles P. Connor is an Assistant Professor of History, as well as Systematic Theology, Pastoral Theology, and Spirituality, at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Scranton, where he also received his Master's Degree in United States History. In 1979, he received his PhD in United States History from Fordham University. He received an S.T.L., Magna Cum Laude, from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Scranton in 1990, he served for ten years as Assistant Pastor of Saint Patrick's Parish in Scranton. He serves as Censor Librorum and Historian for the Diocese of Scranton. 

He has served as an Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Scranton, and his articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals and Catholic publications. He is also a published author; his book on Cardinal O'Connor is entitled A Transformative Element: The Contributions of John Cardinal O'Connor to the Culture of Life in the United States. 

Father Connor has co-produced several series for the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). He had also been a frequent guest of Mother Angelica on her syndicated program. He has addressed several national Catholic conventions, and presented papers at meetings of the American Catholic Historical Association. His latest book is entitled Itenerant Missionaries and Makeshift Altars: The Catholic Church in the Thirteen Colonies. 


Father Stephen Fields, S.J.

"Abortion and the Natural Law"

Father Stephen Fields, S.J., is an Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Systematic Theology at Georgetown University, serving in the Department of Theology. He has served as an Assistant Professor from 1993 to 2000. He entered the Jesuit order in 1977, and was ordained as a priest in 1986. He has been the Bannan professor at Santa Clara and has held the Maclean Chair at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the Loyola Chair at Fordham University. He is also the former president of the Jesuit Philosophical Association.

Fr. Fields received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University, and his B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford. He also holds degrees from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Fordham University, and Loyola College in Maryland. 

Fr. Fields is an expert in philosophical theology and the history of Christian thought. He is the author of Being as Symbol: On the Origins and Development of Karl Rahner’s Metaphysics and numerous scholarly articles. He teaches classes on Christian thought, John Henry Newman, Thomas Aquinas, Christian mysticism, the Catholic vision of love, and the Natural Law at Georgetown University. He also serves as the Faculty Moderator and Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus at Georgetown. He has received the Vicennial Medal for twenty years of service at Georgetown University. 



Rosemary Geraghty

"Radical Inclusivity: Every Human Standing for Every Human"

Rosemary Geraghty is the New Media Coordinator for Rehumanize International and the president of Choose Life at Pitt: the secular, nonpartisan, consistently pro-life student group at the University of Pittsburgh. As a politically independent, queer, pro-life atheist, Rosemary is able to open up lines of dialogue that otherwise may be closed. Rosemary's skills in social media management have been used to spread the pro-life feminist message to new and diverse demographics.

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Emma tacke

"Ending the The Death Penalty and Promoting Restorative Justice"

Emma Tacke is the Associate Director of Community Engagement for Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN). After obtaining a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Gender Studies from the College of Saint Benedict, Emma moved to Seattle, Washington for a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Upon completing JVC NW Emma spent a year with NETWORK Lobby in Washington D.C. working for social and economic issues as a Grassroots Mobilization Associate. As a lifelong Catholic and believer in the sanctity of human life, Emma is thrilled to work for CMN, an organization that promotes the Church's pro-life teachings and prepares Catholics for informed involvement in the public debate to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.

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Caitlin Morneau

"Ending the The Death Penalty and Promoting Restorative Justice"

Caitlin Morneau is the Restorative Justice Consultant for Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a national organization working to end the use of the death penalty and promote restorative justice. After early formation in immersive Catholic service experiences during her undergraduate studies at the University of New Hampshire, Caitlin spent a year as an AmeriCorps Caseworker with Catholic Charities of Baltimore. Since then she has worked in administrative and programmatic capacities with DC area non-profits including Catholic Volunteer Network, Youth Service Opportunities Project and Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. Caitlin is currently an MA candidate in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University and serves on the Board of Directors at Bethlehem Farm in Alderson, West Virginia.