- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2010


In the wake of U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s chicanery on partial-birth abortion (“Kagan’s abortive ethics,” Comment & Analysis, Friday) it is appropriate to revisit what one of Ms. Kagan’s supporters, Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, wrote in his now-famous April 2007 blog entry “Our Faith-Based Justices.”

In the posting, Mr. Stone observes that all the justices who upheld the constitutionality of the law banning partial-birth abortion in the decision Gonzales v. Carhart are Catholic, and he writes, “The five justices in the majority in Gonzales have put at risk the health of women.”

It is interesting to compare Mr. Stone’s medical analysis with the recent statement of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who, as you mentioned in your editorial, wrote:“Ms. Kagan’s amendment to the ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] Policy Statement - that partial-birth abortion ‘may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman’ - had no basis in published medical studies or data. No published medical data supported her amendment in 1997, and none supports it today. … In fact, partial-birth abortion has risks of its own, and could injure a woman.”

Mr. Stone’s piece should not be viewed as a gratuitous denunciation of Catholics. Rather, it represents a marvelous example of the classical logical fallacy, “post hoc ergo propter hoc,” or “after the fact, hence on account of the fact.” Here, in his own words, is how Mr. Stone commits the fallacy:

“What, then, explains this decision? Here is a painfully awkward observation: All five justices in the majority in Gonzales are Catholic.”

The late pro-choice professor John Hart Ely made the following observation about a related Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that effectively legalized abortion on demand.Mr. Ely wrote that the decision in Roe “is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

If one wants to improve legal reasoning, a required course in logic should be obligatory not only for law students but also for law professors and Supreme Court nominees. A logic course should also be required of journalists.


Buffalo, N.Y.

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