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Is It Morally Consistent to Oppose Abortion and Support the Death Penalty?

Sunday, January 2, 2005; Page C11

Yes. Without getting into the debate about what the Old Testament and New Testament teach, I say look at the obvious. The person who is on death row awaiting execution is there as a result of his/her own actions. The unborn child who is aborted dies from the action of another. The child has not done anything warranting such a harsh penalty.

Michael Spenard, Columbia

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My belief is that this is morally inconsistent. I'm Catholic, and my church teaches that human life is sacred. This includes unborn fetuses as well as adult criminals who have committed horrible acts.

The basic thought is, we as humans do not have the authority to decide who lives and who dies. In our belief, that decision is up to God alone. By having abortions or instituting the death penalty, we humans are arrogantly presuming an authority which simply is not ours.

Arthur Liu, Gaithersburg

The death penalty is essentially a state decision. No individual has the right to impose the death penalty on another as a matter of private justice. Abortion, on the other hand, puts the individual in the position of imposing the death penalty on the unborn child.

How about turning the question around: Is it morally consistent to be in favor of abortion and against the death penalty?

Gordon Nelson, Bowie

If one believes that abortion is immoral because it is the premeditated termination of "innocent" life, then one may hold that the death penalty remains moral because the life being terminated is devoid of "innocence."

However, it is incumbent upon those who adhere to this moral framework to seriously question their own suitability in judging the guilt or innocence of another human being. If this ability to judge is found wanting, then individuals who oppose abortion while supporting the death penalty ought to seriously reconsider their moral outlook -- abhorring the death penalty with the same ardor they reserve for abortion.

Jonathan Eisenman, Washington

You can't have lethal injections and protected fetuses, too, pro-choice supporters argue. They hit the pro-life camp with its own words: Murder is murder.

But how can anyone equate the execution of a Ted Bundy with the killing of an unborn child? When civilization reserves the death penalty for mass murderers and serial killers, that punishment becomes a moral act. Society must protect its citizens from irredeemable evil. Abortion supporters cannot lump serial killers with innocent unborn. That's like yoking King Herod to those male children 2 years old and younger in first-century Bethlehem.

Lawrence P. McGuire, Waldorf

The distinction is an innocent life versus a convicted life. Assuming the legal system is working properly, the death sentence is justified as retribution for the criminal's act, protection of society from further acts, and possible deterrence of others. An unborn baby is aborted because her mother sees her as a burden, not because of any act of the baby. The death penalty is a system's response to volitional acts, abortion an individual's response to mere existence.

Jim Hayes, Richmond

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