The Aug. 10 news story "Theory Ties Abortion to Crime Drop; Study: Fewer Poor Born to Break Law" reports that the authors of the study only "intended to shed light on the causes of crime." But this notion carries with it frightening implications for societal engineering through abortion.

In certain cultures that value male children more than females, female infants are systematically eliminated through abortion. This type of societal engineering through abortion strikes most people as immoral. Yet the clear import of the abortion study is similar: Recent drops in crime are attributable to aborting mostly poor, mostly African American babies. The authors imply that our world is a better place because there are fewer poor, minority children born to commit crimes.

Societal engineering aside, the study assumes that we can know anything about the 40 million Americans who have been aborted. In their absence, the study assumes that they would have been disproportionately criminal in nature, and that abortion has therefore helped cause an absence of crime. Perhaps. But wouldn't some of those 40 million have been productive citizens? When you cut down 40 million human lives, you lose some criminals, but you also lose some doctors and leaders and peacemakers and good mothers and positive role models.

Finally, if we are searching for what the author of the study rightfully called the "massive social effects" of aborting 1 out of 4 American children, perhaps we should look to Littleton, Colo., or Jonesboro, Ark., to witness the fruits of raising our children in a world in which human life is valued only conditionally, where we celebrate as an American freedom the "right" to end another's life. Our nation gives human life in its most precious stages no moral or legal standing, and we applaud as sympathetic heroes those who would prematurely end the life of the most frail among us. In such a nation, can we pretend that increases in violence stem only from guns and not from the devaluing of human life we celebrate as freedom?

If we really wish to discover the social effects of aborting millions of babies a year, our attention would be better focused on the attitudes of the living rather than on unfounded, unprovable, race-based stereotypes about lives that were tragically terminated.

MARK L. RIENZI

Cambridge, Mass.