By Patrick Craine and John Jalsevac


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 29, 2009 ( – The Catholic University of America (CUA) Law School held a discussion Thursday night at the National Press Club between Catholic law professors Douglas W. Kmiec and Robert P. George.  The topic was “The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is there a common ground on life issues? What is the right response by 'Pro-Life' Citizens?” 


The discussion was moderated by former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, who made headlines recently after refusing a prestigious award from the University of Notre Dame due to the university’s honoring of Barack Obama.


Dr. Kmiec, the former dean of the CUA law school, became mildly famous in Catholic circles during the 2008 U.S. election for his staunch and highly public advocacy for Barack Obama, and his insistence that Catholics can vote for a pro-abortion candidate in good conscience. He maintained his stance in the discussion Thursday. 


“Are we as Catholics expected to sit on the sidelines – aloof with the truth – talking to ourselves,” he asked, “or are we to engage our fellow citizens and offer that faith? The 2008 election was very much a test of that.”


According to Melinda Henneberger, who was present at the debate, “Kmiec cited Obama's positions on health care, anti-poverty programs, immigration, and the environment as pro-life in a broader sense.”


“It's wrong to make the perfect the enemy of the good,'' Kmiec said in his conclusion. “And wrong not to recognize the good heart'' of Obama.


Kmiec argued in part that President Obama’s self-professed intention to work to “reduce” abortions is a significant area of common ground that justifies Catholic support for the president. At one point in the discussion Kmiec argued that under President Bush, who stated that he was opposed to abortion, the abortion rate in the U.S. increased.


However, in a posting on the National Review website today, University of Alabama professor Michael New took Kmiec to task for what he says is a false contention. “Data from both the Center for Disease Control and the Alan Guttmacher Institute indicate that abortions fell during the first Bush presidency,” New explained. “And the most recent data from both sources indicates that abortions were falling during the administration of George W. Bush.”


“Indeed, between 2000 and 2005, data from Guttmacher indicates that the number of abortions fell by 8.1 percent and data from the CDC indicates that abortions fell by 2.9 percent.”


Dr. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, was adamant in his remarks that Obama’s position in favor of abortion is irreconcilable with that of pro-lifers and the Catholic faith, and called on those who are pro-life to frustrate the President’s efforts to expand access to and funding for abortion at every turn. 


“If President Obama were interested in reducing the numbers of abortions,” Dr. George said, “he would not subsidize abortion by public money.”


“Citizens must oppose the Obama administration's [efforts] to expand abortion license and stem cell research,” he said. “I call on all pro-life Americans to find common ground with us in this great struggle for human equality, dignity and rights.”


“[Mr. Obama's] views on the status and dignity and rights of the child in the womb are irreconcilable,” he said. “The issue cannot be fudged as people try to do by asking whether it really is a human being.” Further, he said, “Obama's record as an activist, legislator and now as president is that an unborn baby possesses no rights. Throughout his career, he has denied every fundamental legislation that would discourage its practice or limit its liability.”


“He rejects what we and pro-lifers propose is common ground,” Dr. George continued.  “He does not believe human beings acquire rights until after birth.”


To watch the discussion on C-SPAN:


Catholic University Panel on Sanctity of Human Life


See related coverage:


Archbishop Chaput Calls upon Obama Catholic Kmiec to Lobby against Abortion


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