The lead story Dec. 21 (Part I) was the controversy aroused by the expected nomination of Dr. Louis Sullivan to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Whether Sullivan is the best candidate for the oversight of such tasks as AIDS research and infant-mortality reduction has been eclipsed by the litmus test of his acceptability to the anti-abortion lobby. This single-issue, political-religious body will extract, if it can, the right to veto the nomination if the candidate does not come up with the right formula of words on the issue of what women can and cannot do with their own bodies.
The formula that President-elect George Bush seems to favor, and which presumably those who worked for his election accept, is that abortion is impermissible under any circumstances that do not involve rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. This is the formula mouthed by Sullivan to his interrogators, according to The Times. My question to the anti-abortionists is, how can they justify even these exceptions to the right of a week-old human embryo to fulfill its embryonic destiny? If a fertilized human egg is a full citizen in the eyes of its protectors, it is not less so for having been fertilized by force, or by a close relative of its mother.