Franciscan at Center for NaProEthics Collaborates with Blackstone Legal Fellow

Paul Keggington

September 20, 2011

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Renee Mirkes at the Center for NaProEthics, Omaha, NE writes about her summer experience with a Blackstone Legal Fellow who worked on a project involving  the intersection of law, ethics and healthcare.

One thing (or one project) led to another.   About a year ago, I was invited to serve on a national working committee on healthcare rights of conscience.  I traveled to Washington, DC for several meetings and met a whole new set of wonderful people, some specializing in healthcare, some in law. 

Eventually, one of the latter, an attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund suggested that I and my Center for NaProEthics consider directing phase II of a Blackstone Legal Fellowship (BLF).   He explained that this program grants scholarships to approximately 130 out of 1,000 law student applicants from across the country and concentrates on life, family & marriage, and religious liberty issues.  The legal fellow spends two weeks in lecture/course work in Phoenix and then six weeks of practicum at a host organization (usually a law firm, public policy think tank, judge’s office, or an advocacy group).  My office is the first healthcare clinic setting and would involve an issue that involves  the intersection of law, ethics and healthcare.  Since I couldn’t resist being a part of a program that trains pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious liberty lawyers, I decided to apply.  In February, I received word from the BLF folks that the Center for NaProEthics was accepted as a host organization. 

I was then asked to describe a focus issue and a program so it could be put in the hamper with the programs of other host organizations.  In March, I was informed that Andy Mathews, a second year law student from Notre Dame Law School, had opted for my practicum program and research/writing project on the issue of “Threats to health care rights of conscience from sexual liberty interests.” 

The picture included here was taken during our exit interview on July 29th, the last day of Andy’s six-week practicum.  The smiles tell it all.  Andy rose to each challenge that I put out there and received kudos from the 5 lawyers who evaluated his weekly research/writing projects.  The focus issue proved to be a steep learning curve for me and, I think, for Andy.  He presented on threats to healthcare rights of conscience at the Institute’s professional organization’s annual conference, receiving kudos from many in the audience.

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