- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Partially correct description of partial-birth abortion

The article "'Partial-birth' abortions shown increasing" (Nation, Jan. 14) states that "Opponents of the procedure call it partial-birth abortion because in some cases the fetus is old enough to survive outside the womb." This statement is only "partially" true.

Yes, in many cases, the fetus is old enough to survive outside the womb. However, the term "partial-birth abortion" derives from the fact that most of the baby's body is outside the womb and in plain sight when the abortionist kills him.

This is because the abortionist reaches into the womb, pulls the baby out in a breech position (feet first) with only the baby's face and mouth still covered by the vaginal opening. At this point, the baby waves his arms and kicks his legs, but cannot breathe yet. Thus, any cries he might utter are kept silent while the back of his skull is punctured and his brain is vacuumed out.

If this graphic description is disturbing, consider that to be the price of complete truth. Now consider whether a civilized society should continue the practice of treating human babies as if they are pieces of property. We have other choices.


NICK FLETCHER

Scottsdale, Ariz.

No government responsibility for illegals' literacy

No government responsibility for illegals' literacy

Writing in response to "Study shows GOP errors in outreach to Hispanics" (Friday, Nation), Mauro Mujica, chairman of U.S. English, assails political leaders for not adequately addressing the illiteracy rates of the immigrant population in this country ("GOP should speak with one tongue," Letters, Sunday). As a result of this negligence, he says, our immigrants "will continue to be marginalized, held captive on the sidelines of society, never reaching their full potential."

Of the 21.3 million (to use Mr. Mujica's number) foreign born living in the United States, 8 million to 11 million are illegal aliens. Their first action in this country was to break our law. They are, by definition, criminals. Our government (i.e., the taxpayers) should not spend one penny educating people who have refused to play by our rules. We should be spending that money educating our legal citizens, immigrant or otherwise, who respect our laws and are reading well below their level. The money also is better spent identifying and deporting those who have come here illegally.

It is not the job of the law-abiding citizens of this country to pay for criminals to reach, in Mr. Mujica's words, "their full potential."


JOHN PHILLIPS

Vienna, Va.

Polls should be democratic

Cal Thomas' rant against polls and pollsters ("Meaningless polls," Commentary, Sunday) offers the usual elitist, knee-jerk attack that gushes forth every time pollsters report opinion findings contrary to the claustrophobic worldview of Mr. Thomas' ilk. This "kill the messenger" assault seems to have been set off this time by President Bush's slippage in the polls, particularly on pocketbook issues.

"What qualifies the surveyed to have an opinion on Mr. Bush's economic or foreign policies?" Mr. Thomas demands to know. What qualifies them is that they are Americans, they have pocketbooks, they have families to feed, they need economic opportunity, they pay taxes, they vote, they may have served their country in the military, and so on. Would Mr. Thomas reinstate the literacy test for voting as well?

Mr. Thomas seems to suggest that those of us who read such "biased" sources as the New York Times or The Washington Post or listen to the big three broadcast networks should be ignored by pollsters because we automatically are prejudiced against Mr. Bush's policies. It sounds as the only folks whose opinions Mr. Thomas counts are readers of The Washington Times and Fox News devotees.

Public-opinion pollsters provide invaluable linkage between the public and its leaders. Politicians are not spineless slaves to the polls, as Mr. Thomas suggests. Rather, most use polls as a reality test and as a way to determine how to win support for the policies they favor.

Would Mr. Thomas prefer that our leaders be left to guess what the public thinks, based upon the spinmeisters and talking heads?


MARK A. SCHULMAN

New York

'Just like preschool, only longer'

My granddaughter is in the first grade, and like most children in the United States, she is enrolled in a public (i.e., government-run) school. I recently asked her how she liked school, and she replied that it was "just like preschool, only longer." After reading Sunday's editorial "Per-pupil spending," I think I understand what she meant.

The editorial discloses some startling statistics about one public school system in particular. It begins by noting that D.C. public schools will spend a little less than $11,000 per student this year for results that should demand jail time from those in charge. What kind of results? The editorial mentions a recent study by Hoover Institution scholar Herbert Walberg based on 1998 data that shows "the District spent an astounding $420,000 to produce each fourth-grader able to read at the proficient level." Furthermore, the editorial estimates it would cost $700,000 to "produce one fourth-grader proficient at math."

Given these numbers, it's baffling that D.C. School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, after the board just approved another $107 million for "education," had the nerve to suggest, "We have a crisis in education in this city that is the result of years and years of neglect." Huh?

The editorial wants to know what Mrs. Cafritz has to say "about this disgraceful state of affairs." My answer is, who cares what she has to say. If she sincerely believes that throwing more money at the problem will help, she needs professional help.

How much longer are parents and taxpayers going to allow the public school system and the National Education Association to prevent education reform?


TOM PFISTER

Springfield, Va.

Autism and vaccines

In his letter Saturday, Steven D. Roberts argues against a rider in the Homeland Security Bill ("When tort court is the only option"). This rider requires parents who claim vaccine-related injuries to their children to go first through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Mr. Roberts argues this would be unfair to parents who claim that their child has become autistic as a result of thimerosal a 50 percent mercury preservative component in mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccines. The problem, he argues, is that a child exhibits autism long after the deadline imposed by the VICP, making the parents ineligible to sue the drug manufacturers.

Yet there is no proof that MMR vaccines containing thimerosal are linked to autism. Various groups, encouraged by trial lawyers, argue that a sharp increase in autism in recent years has been caused by thimerosal, but this increase is more likely the result of better reporting and a broader definition of autism. We also don't understand why, if thimerosal is as harmful to the brain as Mr. Roberts believes, it supposedly targets the brains of male infants. The claim that it does negates a study of more than 500,000 children in Denmark that showed no connection between vaccinations and autism, let alone thimerosal targeting boys.

Stripping the rider from the bill in question would open the door to some small-town jury finding against the main vaccine producer, Eli Lilly, and add its name to those fine companies already driven to bankruptcy by our flawed legal system.


WILLIAM T. SMITH

McLean, Va.


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