Letters: Morals of abortion

The moral gravity of procured abortions is apparent

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Sir: Three cheers for those in medicine who refuse to assist in abortions (letters, 18 April). Procured abortion is the deliberate killing, by whatever means, of a human being in the initial phase of existence, extending from conception to birth. The term "choice" may sound democratic, but the person who opts for abortion is neglecting to consider the fundamental right to life of the mother's unborn fetus.

To claim the right to abortion and to recognise that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance, that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom. Today, in many consciences, the perception of the gravity of abortion has become progressively obscured.

The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law, is a telling sign of a dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognise that we are dealing with murder. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.

PAUL KOKOSKI

HAMILTON, ONTARIO

Sir: As long as abortions are legal (and long may they remain so), doctors refusing to perform a recognised procedure should have their salaries cut because they are not performing their full range of tasks. If they have such strong objections, they could always find another profession. Shame on these people.

JOHN FOSTER

SKIPTON, NORTH YORKSHIRE

The agony that is gripping America

Sir: I write with great disappointment on reading Rupert Cornwell (18 April) regarding the horrific shootings in Virginia this week. Mr Cornwell's remark that our national tragedy was marked by a lack of soul-searching is insensitive, incorrect and distasteful.

Yes, it is true that many were killed round the world on 17 April, tragically and unjustly. The Mayor of Nagasaki was indeed murdered. Dozens were wrongly killed in Iraq and other war-torn lands.

But the deaths of the 32 people who were killed in Virginia - and the injuries of the others who still lie in hospital beds with the unimaginable horror of those moments still locked in their minds - were equally tragic and equally human.

Like yours, our citizenry laments the absence of peace in the world. We, too, struggle over our nation's policy in Iraq. We, too, ask how better policies might improve our society. But to use this dreadful event as an opportunity to impeach our American conscience, intellect and dignity is wrong.

Massacre is certainly not, as your paper's headline asserts, "a part of everyday life in America", which is why we are now, as a people, in such great shock. Our press's outrage over this incident is the symptom of an outraged and, in fact, very reflective public. Feel free to challenge our nation's policies, but please don't diminish our nation's sorrow.

ANDREA FORD

NEW YORK

Sir: It seems to escape most that keeping and bearing arms in the US is grounded in our constitution and that, contrary to popular belief in Europe, that this is somehow wrong. Who says so?

I am from the South and I pack a weapon as I pack my lunch every day. I work in an area in which I have had to pull it out four times in the past year, to prevent one carjacking (mine); one attempted robbery (of me); stopping assault on a black woman, and one break-in (my home) where my 6ft2ins daughter and 6ft4ins son stopped the perpetrator.

My daughter pulled the gun and held him as they waited for police. The perpetrator had 23 arrests and 11 convictions in just 12 years since graduation and he was on the streets. If they had not had a weapon the outcome could have been much different, because he was armed too.

If everyone or even five people in that campus had been packing a weapon the outcome would likely have been much different. They could have shot the killer on the reload or ended it with the first six or seven victims.

Right-to-carry laws are coming up everywhere in the US because of these types of incidents. We carry weapons legally, in accordance with the law. That law was made for people who obey it.

M RANDOLPH KRUGER

COLLIERVILLE, TENNESSEE

Sir: The amount of shocked, over-the-top press coverage in Australia given to the Virginia Tech massacre - and no doubt other predominantly white, right-wing, imperialist Christian nations - will give comfort and reinforcement to those who still smugly believe that an American life, or a Jewish, British or Australian life, is so much more valuable and important than that of someone of Middle Eastern or other origin.

DAVE DISS

GLENGOWRIE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Sir: Rupert Cornwell says nothing changed after the shootings at Columbine High (17 April). Wrong. America continued to realise that preventing our citizens from protecting themselves and those around them with firearms leads to the kind of tragedy we have just experienced, and actively passed laws in almost every state to restore our individual right to bear arms.

Unfortunately, the administration of Virginia Tech imposed their own gun-control rules that disarmed honest visitors, effectively making everyone on campus a "fish in a barrel".

Mr Cornwell says the rank-and-file policeman support more gun control. This is a distortion. A political group, the National Police Chiefs Association, a group of political appointees, has supported gun control. Actual police officers overwhelmingly support the right of private citizens to bear arms.

The so-called "assault weapon ban" was allowed to lapse because independent studies showed it had no positive effect on crime and may have actually increased crime. Congress was wise in allowing a destructive law to die on the vine.

And one can only wonder how many lives would have been saved had the Virginia Tech shooter had come face to face with an honest, law-abiding, gun-carrying citizen on campus.

JEFF MULLER

CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY

Sir: The extensive coverage given the Virginia Tech shooting is interesting. In Iraq, thanks to the US and Britain, such butchery would be considered a "slow day", with only a brief mention in your paper. But those are Muslim peasants, brown-skinned people whose lives don't count.

Besides, publicising the carnage caused by the US and British governments might impair the interests of the multinational oil cartel that both governments are subservient to.

TERRY L CLARK

ARCATA, CALIFORNIA

Sir: I can't help but feel that if this tragedy had occurred in the one of the black or brown parts of the world we would be hearing little about it. It's hard to imagine an atrocity of this scale in Africa getting this much coverage.

Comparison only has to be made to the careless way Iraqi war casualties have been covered in the media to conclude there is a racial hierarchy structuring our concerns about human life. The headlines may as well read, "Tragedy: White, middle-class English-speakers killed".

GAVIN LEWIS

MANCHESTER

Sir: Perhaps before we in the UK become too sanctimonious about the free availability of guns in the US, we should remember our own culpability in this matter.

Until recently, the UK was the world's second-largest manufacturer and exporter of armaments. And just in case those methods are insufficient, we feel it incumbent upon us to be one of the pathetic handful of countries still retaining nuclear weapons as well.

Many of the ghastly instruments of warfare which wreak such misery proudly bear the "Made in the UK" label. London regularly hosts gigantic arms trade fairs at which we show off our appalling expertise. So let us not hear too much about British tolerance and reasonableness.

TONY CANTLAY

LONDON SE1

Sir: The National Rifle Association is right: guns do not kill people; people kill people.

The unfortunate truth is that in the time since the end of the Second World War, the US has gone from being a place where everyone wanted to live to an ugly and violent international bully and that has to do with prevailing attitudes, not hardware.

Ownership of guns, according to Michael Moore, is the same per head in Canada as in the US, yet the death rate in Canada is low, similar to that in Europe. The difference is the mindset.

My old Army firearms instructor's observation remains true. "The most dangerous part of a gun is the nut on the trigger."

VAUGHAN THOMAS

USK, GWENT

Snobs looked down on the Windsors

Sir: Mrs Middleton and her family may feel that they have fallen foul of upper-class snobbery (report, 17 April). They should comfort themselves with the reflection that the aristocracy have never had a particularly high opinion of the House of Windsor either.

When Lady Alice Montague-Douglas-Scott married the Queen's uncle, Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester, it was felt that she had married beneath her, Prince Henry being the idiot younger son of a German immigrant family.

W J CASEY

LONDON NW7

Sir: I am a contemporary of Her Majesty the Queen, and I remember reading, during the 1930s, an account of a visit made by her and her sister to a recently built aircraft. Princess Margaret was heard to say, "Look, there's even a toilet!"

I was unfamiliar with the term, but on enquiry concluded that "toilet" was what royal children called the lavatory.

AUDREY SMITH

PRAWLE POINT, DEVON

Sir: It is the hangers-on and toadies surrounding the royal family that bring it into disrepute. They should remember that money, new or old, or lineage does not of itself create a gentleman, lady or indeed a person worth knowing.

My father's watch fob is inscribed, "Live each day so that you may look every damn man in the face and tell him to go to hell", something I have done for 80 years. I suggest Mrs Middleton do the same and thank her lucky stars that her daughter no longer has to associate with such pigs.

MURIEL WICKENDEN

ROCHE, CORNWALL

In the name of accuracy

Sir: Mr Dominic Lawson's tirade is a sham (Comment, 13 April). The idea of pinning the Russia debacle on me is laughable, but even more is the idea of summarising my economic policy activities during the past 22 years by the two years (December 1991 till January 1994) that I served as an adviser to President Boris Yeltsin.

If Mr Lawson had the slightest command of the facts, he would know that I actively warned against and campaigned against Russian corruption, a point noted this week by Garry Kasparov on the BBC.

Mr Lawson is a notorious name-caller. I dearly hope readers interested in serious analysis will listen directly to the Reith Lectures, rather than having them filtered through a dyspeptic and inaccurate controversialist.

JEFFREY D SACHS

DIRECTOR, THE EARTH INSTITUTE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK

Pray for insight

Sir: With Adam Smith's appearance on the £20 note (letter, 18 April), I now hope to see his great friend and equally great philosopher, David Hume, on the £50 note. The accompanying quotation? "When I hear that a man is religious, I conclude that he is a rascal."

TREVOR PATEMAN

BRIGHTON

BBC bias

Sir: Johann Hari is right ("Yes the BBC is biased - but to the right", 9 April). Spokesmen from the rabid right-wing "think tanks", the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, are frequently interviewed on the BBC, with no countervailing views aired. War pimps like the sinister Richard Perle and the preposterous John Bolton are regularly invited to spew their nonsense, whereas the intelligent voices of Americans such as Howard Zinn, Edward Herman, Anthony Arnove, Phyllis Bennis, are nowhere to be heard. Where is the balance here?

ANNIE MCSTRAVICK

PARIS, FRANCE

RCN reality check

Sir: On day one of the nurses' conference there were complaints that nurses are being laid off in record numbers (report, 14 April) and on 16 April their union leaders complain about how small their pay rise is to be (which affects me). Perhaps Milton Friedman would have been a good person to explain the realities of life to the passé RCN.

TREVOR KEABLE

READING, BERKSHIRE

Gallery anomaly

Sir: The anomaly of a journalist, Jon Snow, becoming a gallery trustee sworn to withhold information is rightly highlighted by David Lister (Opinion, 14 April). He might also have mentioned that another Tate trustee is an art dealer (Melanie Clore) and yet others are artists seeking its patronage.

DR SELBY WHITTINGHAM

LONDON SW5

Tunnel nightmare

Sir: If Barry Mitchell wants the Isle of Wight to remain a holiday resort (letter, 16 April), the last thing he wants is a tunnel under the Solent. A tunnel would result in the Isle becoming a dormitory town for workers in Portsmouth, Winchester, Bournemouth etc. We all agree the ferry costs are exhorbitant; so perhaps he should go to the Continent.

PAUL HOOPER

CHALE, ISLE OF WIGHT

Sir. There is no need for a tunnel to the Isle of Wight. Our roads and towns are already full. Locals are priced out of the housing market. Building a fixed link would do irreparable damage to our colony of red squirrels, and ruin the unique character of the Isle.

DARYLL PITCHER

WOOTTON, ISLE OF WIGHT

What's the use?

Sir: My favourite sign is next to the motorway. It reads: "Sign not yet in use". On closer inspection, it is attached to the base of a larger, unfinished electronic traffic information sign. But I still enjoy the surrealism.

LINDSAY CAMP

BRISTOL

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