Doris Gordon {Letters to the Weekly, Jan. 7} insists that all women be compelled by government to conform to her (and Pope John Paul's and Jerry Falwell's) opinion that fetuses are persons from conception on. She would thus deny all women freedom of conscience and the right to be independent moral agents.

Doris Gordon is entitled to her opinions on this matter, to apply her opinions in her own life and to try to persuade others of their correctness. But it is simply wrong for government to impose those views on all through laws.

In any event, her view of fetal personhood is a minority view with no support from science and not much from religion. In the Jewish and Protestant Biblical traditions, personhood has almost always been regarded as beginning at birth. The Catholic tradition was ambiguous until the 19th century. The science of neurobiology, moreover, has found that the brain and nervous system are not "wired up" and ready for the functions of personhood until at least 28 weeks of gestation, a view parallel, interestingly, to theologian Thomas Aquinas' conclusion that personhood requires a "physical substrate" that is not present at conception.

Doris Gordon supports Gov. William Donald Schaefer's reneging on his campaign promise to expand Medicaid funding of abortions for poor women. She thus supports using carrots and sticks to influence or coerce poor women to bear unwanted children, many of whom will be neglected and possibly abused.

If she has the right not to be taxed to fund Medicaid abortions -- which are the carrying out of a constitutional right -- then all taxpayers should be exempted from taxes to pay for any government services they object to. Many object to tax support of the Nicaraguan contras; many object to paying for government services they do not use. If Doris Gordon has her way, government will indeed be condemning poor women to "compulsory pregnancy" and "mandatory motherhood."

EDD DOERR Executive Director, Americans for Religious Liberty Washington