Kmiec’s claims against Denver archbishop irrelevant, false and deceptive, say analysts

Prof. Douglas Kmiec / Archbishop Chaput
Prof. Douglas Kmiec / Archbishop Chaput


An online ethics publication has responded to pro-Obama professor Doug Kmiec’s essay criticizing Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on his strong pro-life stance in the U.S. presidential election.


Last week, Professor Kmiec went after the Denver prelate in an essay published in the National Catholic Reporter, in which he claimed that an Obama presidency would save more lives than a McCain presidency. However, on Monday, Public Discourse editor Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis responded to Kmeic’s assertions by putting them in the category of “the irrelevant, the false, and the fallacious.” 


The Irrelevant Claims


The article begins by focusing on “the irrelevant” claims.  In his address to the archbishop, Kmiec remarked that voting for a candidate “need not imply support of all his positions” and that neither candidate can be regarded as fully committed to protecting all human life. 


Additionally, he maintained that overturning Roe v. Wade “would not directly save the 1.2 million American lives killed by abortion each year.”


Anderson and Girgis respond by explaining that no one has denied these irrelevant points, but that the real issue is “whether society has an obligation in the meantime to protect the unborn against the crime of feticide, or instead to sanction it, widen its availability, and even fund it while purporting to address its deeper causes.”


Looking at Roe v. Wade, they note that overturning the 1973 Supreme Court decision “would not completely restore justice to the unborn, but it would remove a grossly unjust and otherwise insurmountable obstacle to their legal protection, something that ethical principles--and Church teaching--require.”


The False Claims


The pair of writers then focuses on the “false” claims of Kmeic’s essay.  They call to attention that Kmiec insists that his disagreement with the Denver archbishop, “is not over the essence of Church instruction which gives primacy to the promotion of human life, but rather, the preferred means of implementing it,” a line that Public Discourse calls “patently false.”

“A fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching--and any sound political philosophy--is that all members of the human family possess inherent and equal dignity, and deserve the protection of the law. This applies regardless of sex, race, or creed, but also regardless of age, size, stage of development, or level of dependency. Chaput affirms this principle. Kmiec equivocates--at best. Obama denies it.”


Anderson and Girgis go on to show Obama’s record in denying protection to the unborn and his opposition to legislation “to protect children who are born alive after failed abortions.”


In defense of Kmiec, the writers points out that he touts Obama’s support for pregnant women.  However, Anderson and Girgis note that, “As a matter of rhetoric, this might be true; as a matter of record, it too is demonstrably false.”  Obama “did not endorse the Pregnant Women Support Act, a bill sponsored by Democrats for Life aimed simply at making it easier for women to choose alternatives to abortion. Obama has even opposed this bill's extension of health insurance to unborn children and its provision that women considering abortion be informed of possible health risks and the gestational age of their child.”


Kmiec’s contention that Obama would save more lives under his policies, than McCain  would under his was also examined by the Public Discourse duo. They claim that the evidence proves this is false, especially when embryonic stem cell research is taken into consideration. 


First, write Anderson and Girgis, “President Obama would likely sign into law a bill he co-sponsored as senator that would sanction the mass production by cloning of embryonic human beings for research and effectively require their subsequent destruction. This bill alone--which McCain opposes--would multiply the killing of tiny human beings on an industrial scale.”


Kmiec conveniently skips this point and only focuses on the “significant impact” Obama’s welfare programs will have on the “reduction of abortion.”


However, research is not in the Obama-camp’s favor.  “As political scientist Michael J. New has demonstrated, such programs have been shown to have next to no effect at all. But pro-life legislation--limited after Roe to modest measures like informed-consent and parental notification laws and public-funding restrictions--have dramatically reduced abortion rates. Obama would eliminate all of these laws.”


The Deceptive Claims


Turning their attention to Kmiec’s “fallacious” claims, Anderson and Girgis zero in on Kmiec faulting Archbishop Chaput “for suggesting that our vote in the presidential election should be guided by possible Supreme Court appointments. Kmiec argues that this legal-judicial pro-life approach has not worked in the past and relies on uncertainties about the timing and number of upcoming Court vacancies.”

“Never mind that abortion-rights activists fear a McCain presidency because they see as clearly as anyone--except, apparently, Doug Kmiec--that it could mean a fifth vote to overturn Roe. Never mind that the four justices that think Roe was wrongly decided were appointed by Republican presidents.”


However, Anderson and Girgis note a deeper fallacy underlying “Kmiec's central thesis about the justifiability of voting for a pro-choice candidate.”


Putting aside Kmiec’s falsehoods, “What about his argument that Church teaching--including Pope Benedict's stated views on the matter--would leave room for a principled defense of a vote for Obama? Is Kmiec right to claim that there can be reasons to vote for a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life one that are proportionate to the possibly unintended harms of doing so?”

Anderson and Girgis consult Notre Dame legal scholar Gerard Bradley’s thought experiments.  “What if it were not unborn babies being denied legal protections, but some other class of people? If 1.2 million American women a year were being killed by abusive husbands, he asks, would we vote for a candidate who was ''pro-choice'' about the ''private'' matter of lethal domestic violence but favored addressing its root causes (say, with anger-management classes and education)?”

”Given Obama's record, we can even strengthen the analogies: What would we think of a candidate who favored financially supporting legalized domestic abuse or extermination of the unwanted?”


While some could object that this case differs from the lives of the unborn, Kmiec has stated that he accepts unborn babies are human beings.  “So every pro-life citizen should see the radical unsoundness of his argument that there are proportionate reasons to accept the publicly funded and sanctioned killing of unborn human beings when another candidate would remove obstacles to their legal protection,” Anderson and Girgis write.


The article concludes that Kmiec’s response to the Denver prelate is filled with red herrings, baseless factual claims, and glaring non sequiturs “in the service of a conclusion whose logic would be laughable if it did not threaten countless innocent lives: that the most pro-abortion politician in American history would be a blessing for the unborn.”


“Barack Obama offers the unborn no hope to believe in but much change to deplore. Doug Kmiec offers Barack Obama cover for his assaults on the sanctity of human life.”

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