The Catholic Women’s League of Australia has a long history of activism and interest in the often complex and demanding world of bioethics. The CWLA seeks to bring to all its research and involvement with the thorny life issues, the wisdom and clarity of the Christian intellectual tradition along with the creative and healing light of the Gospel.

Bioethics issues which are of concern to the CWLA include reproductive technologies, euthanasia, abortion, contraception, quality of life and clinical decision making, organ donation, stem cell research, genetic screening, just healthcare allocation and, the rights and dignity of women, the unborn, the disabled and the elderly.

Our Bioethics Convenor, Dr Deirdre Little is a general practitioner/obstetrician practicing in Northern NSW. Her involvement in Bioethics has arisen from her medical experience in public and private medical service. Modern medical care and 'best practice' increasingly raise issues of conflict with the Hippocratic Oath.

The CWLA is guided by the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church on bioethics. The CWLA has been particularly inspired by the beautiful teachings of Blessed John Paul II which are highlighted in his major teaching document (encyclical) Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life).

Evangelium Vitae guides the CWLA approach to bioethics as it encourages Christian women, and indeed all “people of life”, to build loving and “life-promoting” relationships and cultures as a viable alternatives to suffering, fear and coercion. Published in 1995, the Gospel of Life remains one of the Catholic Church’s most important and comprehensive documents on bioethics for people at all levels of society and, in all professions and walks of life.

Pope Benedict XVI continued his predecessor’s reflections: “It is women, in the end, who even in very desperate situations, as attested by history past and present, possess a singular capacity to persevere in adversity, to keep life going even in extreme situations, to hold tenaciously to the future, and finally to remember with tears the value of every human life.” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, July 2004)

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis highlights the human rights perspectives of the “Culture of Life” arguing that far from being “conservative”, the defence of the unborn is linked to the “internal consistency” of the Christ’s respect for all people: “Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual… It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”  (EG #213 and #214)

For an excellent discussion about the “Culture of Life”, CWLA recommends icon Professor Nicholas Tonti-Filippini’s paper of the same title.