- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Groups with agenda blur point at which pregnancy begins

The late Dr. Jerome Lejuene, father of modern genetics, taught that our entire genetic makeup is complete when the male sperm fertilizes the female egg in the fallopian tube. At that moment, all our physical characteristics are determined, including the color of our hair, eyes and skin and our bone structure and intellectual capacity. No genetic material or anything else is added to the pregnancy to alter the physical makeup that individual will carry throughout life.
It is patently false and disingenuous for groups such as Advocates for Youth, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League to claim that a pregnancy begins at some point after fertilization ("In an emergency," Jan. 2). The pregnancy moves from the fallopian tube where it started to the womb where it will be completed. This change of location does not alter the beginning of pregnancy nor what the individual will be like.

Right to Life of Montgomery County

Afghans have Voice of America on their dial

In the Jan. 2 article "U.S. to restart news broadcasts," you state, "Voice of America broadcasts less than one hour of news and information per day [to Afghanistan]." VOA, which has broadcast to Afghanistan in Dari and Pashto since 1980 and 1982 respectively, now broadcasts three hours per day in each of those languages. In addition, VOA broadcasts 51/2 hours daily in Farsi, the language of Iran, which can be understood by Dari speakers, along with 21/2 hours daily of Urdu to Pakistan and one hour of Uzbek.
The evidence suggests that Afghans listen to VOA. According to research conducted in 1999, some 80 percent of Afghan males (we were unable to interview female Afghans) tune in to our Pashto and Dari broadcasts at least once a week, and 67 percent listen once a day.

Office of External Affairs
Voice of America

Catholic bishops out of touch with church laity

As a Catholic who lived in the Washington area for 40 years, I was interested to see the Dec. 24 article "Pro-choice poster campaign targets bishops." The article reports that the organization Catholics for a Free Choice has launched a drive to say that our Catholic bishops, by opposing condoms and contraception, are causing innocent people to die of AIDs.
The rest of the article reads like a press release from the U.S. Catholic bishops. It states that "the Catholic Church opposes artificial means of birth control, including condoms, and says the best prevention of AIDs is abstinence." The article goes on to quote only Catholics who support the position of the bishops.
Ever since Pope Paul VI banned what he called "artificial contraception" in 1968, an enormous gulf has been growing between Catholic laity and our bishops; the bishops speak only for themselves on family, marital or sexual matters. In no way do they speak for the laity. Their pretension to speak for "the church" on these questions hearkens back to the centuries when the bishops condemned usury the borrowing or lending of any money for interest at the same time the laity frequently were borrowing money and paying interest. Today, it is rare to find a parish building that has been constructed without the borrowing of money.
Those who follow how Catholics really think do so through Gallup surveys, voting records or by asking a large cross section of people in the parishes. By doing so, they come to appreciate that the moral choices of the laity arise from their practical experience on matters of sexual morality that our male, celibate bishops lack. Catholics overwhelmingly use contraceptive methods that our hierarchy condemns, including condoms. Almost certainly they do not believe that abstinence and/or natural family planning by themselves are realistic moral choices for increasing love between spouses, for preventing unwanted pregnancies or for restraining the spread of communicable diseases such as AIDs.

Fripp Island, S.C.

No tolerance for drunken driving

As the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), I am writing to state my concerns regarding the Dec. 2 editorial "Sobering 'drunk-driving' stats." The editorial is rife with misinformation and errors.
To begin with, you imply that the federal legislation passed last year to lower the drunken driving limit to .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) is not effective in fighting drunken driving, and you cite as evidence last year's increase in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. However, the 11 states that adopted .08 BAC as a result of the federal legislation did so after Jan. 1. Therefore, the effects of this lifesaving legislation have yet to be documented. The unfortunate increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths in our country makes the .08 BAC legislation all the more timely and pertinent.
Thank goodness our nation's leaders and lawmakers had the foresight to enact this legislation to help save lives and prevent injuries in the future. MADD hopes the remaining states will join the 29 states (and the District) that already have .08 BAC laws for the following reasons:
The "truly impaired" include those with BAC levels of .08 and higher. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), .08 BAC is the level at which the risk of a fatal crash significantly increases and virtually everyone is seriously impaired, affecting all of the basic critical driving skills: braking, steering, lane changing, judgment and response time.
To reach .08 BAC, an average 170-pound man would have to consume four drinks on an empty stomach in one hour. An average 137-pound woman would have to consume three drinks on an empty stomach in one hour.
The risk of a driver being killed in a crash at .08 BAC is at least 11 times that of drivers without alcohol in their system being killed. At .1 BAC, the risk is at least 29 times higher.
Science clearly tells us that .08 laws are part of a comprehensive solution to drunken driving. Although the methodology of the studies varies, the results are consistent and show that .08 BAC laws save lives. The results of a 1999 study on .08 BAC by the NHTSA mirror the findings of a 1996 study by the Boston University School of Public Health: .08 laws in every state would save more than 500 lives each year in our country.
A .08 BAC means real impairment. Those of us whose families have been affected by individuals at this blood alcohol level applaud the legislators who made this important step in the fight against drunken driving.
Finally, MADD is not a prohibitionist organization. MADD's mission is to stop drunken driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.

National president
Mothers Against Drunk Driving

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