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Mahony on Abortion

July 02, 1989

You published a commentary by Archbishop Roger Mahony entitled, "Abortion: What Does It Say About Us as a People?" (Op-Ed Page, June 22). In my view, the archbishop has answered that question incorrectly and uses a line of reasoning that I, as a citizen of this great democracy, both think and feel is distorted, insulting and terrible.

The fact that every girl and woman in the United States have a legal right to chose an abortion says a lot about us as a people. It says wonderful things. It says that teen-agers and adult women do have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--their rights take precedence over an embryo's rights. And it says, in this free country, we think individual women are full citizens with dignity, intelligence and the capability to make their own independent reproductive decisions without interference from anybody--from the church or from the government.

I would like to correct some misinformation and disagree with Mahony on various points in his column:

- All respected polls (Harris, The Times) that I know of in the United States show that the majority of American people think abortion should remain safe and legal.

- Living in a "free society," my belief is that it is immoral and amoral not to have the right to make one's own decision in one's own family about abortion, about the severely retarded, the comatose and care of the elderly. What is moral is to have a choice and for individuals and families to be able to make choices without outside interference.

- I am also glad, like the archbishop, that freedom of religion and freedom of the press are not up for a vote. This means that the archbishop can say, write and act upon what he believes but that he cannot impose his moral and religious beliefs on free citizens.

- I totally disagree with the archbishop about Roe vs. Wade. It seems to me, and I think to the vast majority of people in the United States, that the decision made in 1973 is deeply worthy of us as a people. That decision shows respect for the individual, compassion for the difficult situations that people get into and the difficult choices they have to make, and supports a pluralistic society in which many different beliefs can be held and in which we don't have to force beliefs on each other.

Hundreds of thousands of women's lives depend on keeping abortion safe and legal and a matter of private choice.

JOAN GRIGGS BABBOTT, M.D.

Executive Director

Planned Parenthood

Los Angeles

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