Responding to Kmiec

posted at 11:38 am on March 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Dan Gilgoff at US News asks readers to contribute to a debate between Robby George and Douglas Kmiec, two Catholic legal scholars, on the nature of human life, abortion, cloning, and stem-cell research.  Gilgoff oddly refers to Kmiec as a conservative despite Kmiec’s support for Barack Obama and defense of Obama’s stem-cell policies and apologetics over Obama’s abortion stands.  Kmiec asked Gilgoff to solicit answers to a series of questions that the two will eventually debate in face-to-face meetings, and the first one is a dead giveaway to the spin Kmiec will provide:

Q. Assume we need a relatively clear answer to the question “When does life begin?” in order to avoid ethical arbitrariness and to show proper respect for the dignity of the human person. The Supreme Court, of course, has selected viability, but this is objectionable to many since it does not seem to be anything but an arbitrary point designed as a jurisprudential compromise. Since either fertilization or implantation is a bright line, is there a basis to decide between the two that is not dependent upon faith?

That issue has not been about faith for decades, if not a century or more, when biology began to be understood on a cellular level.  Life for multicellular organisms is absolutely and unequivocally demonstrated by the cellular multiplication process known as mitosis.  When a cell divides and multiplies, the organism is alive.  When the human zygote transforms into a blastomere as it travels down the Fallopian tube, it is alive — and since it has a unique DNA, it is a unique human life apart from its mother (or father) regardless of whether the blastomere implants successfully or not.

Kmiec is trying to make this question more complicated than it is, a quite obvious gambit from the rest of the questions he asks Gilgoff to publish.  The question of life is not one of faith, but science.  However, abortion advocates have been trying to distract people from the scientific certainty that abortion destroys human life.  They speak of “ensoulment” as if one could measure it, or implantation as if that has anything to do with the issue of abortion.  It does impact the issue of embryonic experimentation, though, because if Kmiec and others can argue that life somehow doesn’t exist until transplantation, then it gives hEsc researchers an ethics carte blanche to do whatever they want with IVF-produced embryos.

Faith does not speak to when the biological process of life begins or is present.  It speaks to what we do with human life once established.  Kmiec’s questions are designed to confuse the issues through overcomplication and sophistry.  Kmiec and other hEsc and abortion apologists want to avoid the obvious scientific conclusion that abortion and experimentation destroy human life and instead argue on the fringes about irrelevancies.  I’d have a lot more respect for Kmiec if he just argued that he sees human life as having only a practical value — but then he wouldn’t get described as a conservative any longer, and would have to get lumped in with more honest advocates like Peter Singer.

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