Limiting Life?

Ah yes, Daniel Callahan. After reading "Is a Longer Life a Better Life? Our Society Has Lost Sight of Quality" {Second Opinion, Sept. 8}, I'm moved to share my own vision with you.

The trains go by. Their occupants are women and men -- perhaps 83 would be a good cutoff age -- going off to the showers. Not the kind of moisture that prolongs their own juices, however slowed they may be, but the merciful kind. You know: the one perfected during World War II at the recreational camps.

But something troubles me, Mr. Callahan. What about the latecomers? The ones who missed the boat -- oops, train? Like Sen. Claude Pepper, for one, and some of the justices of the Supreme Court? What about Alf Landon, who just celebrated his 100th, with the President -- no youngster he -- in attendance? Is it O.K., Mr. Callahan, to leave them off the troop trains because they have bucks? Will a pre-departure means test be administered?

Let me know. I'm far from needing to make reservations, but I and others in my stage of life might like to scout up failproof investments so that we might fly, rather than go by train. Barbara Rich Charlottesville

The Politics of Abortion

Concerning the article "The Politics of Abortion" {Cover Story, Sept. 8}, the fact that we have a debate at all is because men are doing most of the talking. And to men who are creating this debate, abortion is an abstraction, a perfect form of sex discrimination, impacting on women alone.

As those who actually experience pregnancy, women are apparently thought too partisan to be listened to on reproductive issues. Whether it's abortion, "surrogate" motherhood or the medical use of fetal cells, the "experts" who debate the ethics and legality of the issues are predominantly men.

The problem goes back to the Constitution. Women's access to legal abortion rests insecurely on First Amendment rights of free speech and privacy. But privacy -- meaning making a decision in consultation with a physician -- stops far short of acknowledging women's right to make decisions about their bodies. The 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law would have been secured for women by the Equal Rights Amendment. With that guarantee refused, women's right to bodily integrity continues to be violated by court decisions made in a man's world. Twiss Butler Alexandria

While I appreciated "The Rise of Medical Vigilantes" {Commentary, Sept. 8}, I am writing to take exception to your description of the National Right to Life Committee as a "mainstream advocacy group." Had you attended their recent mid-June annual convention in New Orleans, you might have found it difficult to describe their organization as mainstream.

I believe that the mainstream in this country is composed of those who have real concerns about abortion and are working hard to obviate the need for it by using responsible, reasonable, ethical, honest and humane means. The hate-mongering, horror-show fabrications and histrionics of career anti-choicers who make their living by proliferating half-truths and falsehoods fall far beyond the limits of the mainstream.

While the National Right to Life Committee often issues press statements regarding its abhorrence of vigilante tactics, the incendiary rhetoric of its leadership inspires less self-controlled listeners to acts of violence and harassment. Douglas Gould Planned Parenthood Federation of America New York

The article reports that Dr. Alan Ross was forbidden by a Montgomery County circuit court judge to perform abortions at his Bethesda office because "demonstrators were disturbing other businesses in the office complex." Ross was in fact prohibited from performing abortions because he violated a statement he had signed well over a year ago assuring the owners of the condominium complex that he did not, and would not, perform abortions there.

I also take exception to the fact that the picture used with the commentary was not exemplary of the type of medical vigilantism outlined in the article but rather showed a nonviolent protest (not a bombing or break-in or burning) of an abortion clinic. In the interest of unbiased reporting, let's at least be clear on that issue. Donna M. Boccabella Olney

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