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Anti-abortion radicals are different

Re: Acts of civil disobedience shouldn't lead to bankruptcy, by Robyn Blumner, April 26.

Blumner's comparison of the NAACP's protesting the Jim Crow laws, Greenpeace activists protesting the spewing of toxic waste into the ocean or General Motors workers staging a "sit-down strike" to the pro-life protests is backward. The examples she gives were people all protesting against wrongs perpetrated against themselves. The acts of civil disobedience the anti-choice radicals are practicing seek to take away someone else's civil rights.

They are entitled to their view of abortion, but to use civil disobedience to protest someone else's personal or religious view of a perfectly legal right to have an abortion is exactly the opposite of the previous examples.

You write about being involved with escorting patients inside abortion clinics. Hooray for you. My husband and I have also locked arms with pro-choice activists outside clinics. However this is not the same as the trauma suffered by a patient inside the clinic waiting for the procedure to be done or the trauma suffered by the doctor who must listen to the racket outside that not only may threaten his life but may also risk danger to the patient if his hand should slip because of the distraction.

It's unfortunate that the National Organization for Women must resort to the RICO Act to stop the violence when the police and the federal agencies should be doing it.

Most hospitals have quiet zones around them. Why don't women's clinics?

Joan Boisen, Holiday

Target the individuals

Re: Abortion foes used extortion, jury rules, April 21.

Should this ruling stand, the green light would be on for various interests to invoke RICO against their opponents. Oil companies could sue Greenpeace for sabotage against drilling, logging companies could come down on Earth First! for eco-terrorists' spiking trees and blocking roads and McDonald's could milk PETA if over-the-top vegans burned down franchises for selling meat.

It's only fair.

Or is it? Is it not more fair to hold individual extremists more accountable for their own actions rather than to bludgeon the Bill of Rights (specifically the rights of speech and assembly) by targeting organizations with spurious connections (if any) to the acts of a zealous few? Where is the ACLU weighing in on this one?

Matthew Morris, Tallahassee

Justice gone awry

Re: "12 years, your honor,"

April 26.

When will we ever learn? Dorothy Rabinowitz's article presented a chilling picture of how a zealous legal system can team up with a more-zealous psychotherapy system to produce an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

Grant Snowden's only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, causing him to be caught up in the child abuse hysteria of the '80s and early '90s. Unfortunately, Snowden's case is not unique. The bizarre testimony of small children coached by benighted therapists, and the wild-eyed crusades of prosecutors and judges, have resulted in the false imprisonment of innocent men and women across the country: the Souzas and Amiraults in Massachusetts; Bruce Perkins in Texas; Paul Ingram in Washington; and scores of men and women in Wanatchee, Wash., for example.

By abandoning legal principles (presumption of innocence and rules of evidence), prosecutors and judges are undermining the pillars of our judicial system. This system is far from perfect, but it is the best one devised so far by human beings.

Robert and Janet McKelvey, Hudson

The light of awareness

Re: "12 years, your honor."

As sad as this story is, I am grateful that there seems to be a slow but growing understanding of past injustice and mistaken beliefs.

Articles like this one help us to see how our sense of horror over increasing reports of child abuse created an atmosphere in which false accusations could be made and believed, and innocent people charged with the most horrendous crimes.

Irene L. Miller, St. Petersburg

For equity in divorce

Re: Supply lawyers in support cases, April 21.

What a surprise! I never thought I'd see the day when the Times would take a stand such as this. When it comes to civil divorce proceedings involving custody, visitation and support issues, the entire process is a "kangaroo court." Every day fathers are removed from their homes due to allegations of domestic violence by falsely filed ex parte injunctions, filed as a precursor to divorce and custody litigation. There is no "due process" of law here, as supposedly guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, just as the Sixth Amendment right to court-appointed counsel is ignored in cases of parents being jailed for failure to pay child support _ this usually being fathers.

Non-custodial parents, again usually fathers, have no rights in today's family law courts and are deemed worthy of nothing but a child support check. If they can afford an attorney to represent them, they'll usually find themselves tens of thousands of dollars poorer at the end of divorce proceedings and more likely than not still a non-custodial parent and headed for bankruptcy.

The role of a custodial parent shouldn't be decided by who can monetarily last longer with legal representation. Lawyers should be court appointed in all proceedings involving custody, visitation and support issues, thus making the battleground of today's family law courts more equitable to both contesting parties. Primary residential custody should go to the best parent, regardless of gender, and both parents should remain an active, loving, supporting part of their children's lives regardless of their personal differences. We owe this much to our children.

Bruce Cherkas, Pinellas Park

Set standards for all

Re: Quality, not quotas, should be schools' concern, by Doug Tuthill, April 26.

Azalea Elementary School is on track, but I would go even further. That school's goal is that no student leaves second grade without a grade-level competency in basic skills. That I agree with; but why not do this in every grade? In other words, if you don't meet the basic standards for your grade, you don't go to the next grade.

I would imagine, after all, that the standards for one grade effectively determine the basic standards for success at the next level. As the grade level goes up, so do the subject areas required: At some point a basic knowledge and understanding of Florida and U.S. history and government must be expected.

What happens otherwise? Take the case of a second grader at a school without Azalea's goal. He performs below second grade level, but is passed to third grade. Because he is "behind the power curve" from the start, he probably won't succeed, yet he'll get passed to fourth grade, and so on.

And you wonder why kids graduate from high school but can't read? Set tough but reasonable standards and be firm in enforcing them. It works.

Ernest E. Lane, Palm Harbor

A welcome viewpoint

Re: Gun control becomes a shell game, April 18.

Congratulations! For the very first time (to my knowledge), you have published a guest columnist who could speak with authority on this subject, using substantiated facts instead of personal prejudice to make his points.

I am moved to wonder if the adverse reaction to The opinion makers (April 12) has had a salutary effect on your editorial policy. I certainly hope so.

Joseph R. Gately, St. Petersburg

A pleasing paper

Congratulations to your staff writer Thomas French for winning a Pulitzer Prize. I came to live in St. Petersburg in 1992 and did not get to read the Times' five other Pulitzer winners, but even so, I've been very impressed with the newspaper in general. It covers a broad range of topics, publishes a multitude of differing political opinions and its concern for community and country is obvious.

I wake up every morning, pleased that it will be at my doorstep. There are many times when I disagree with your middle-of-the-road or even conservative slant, but then you balance these with other points of view. All in all, I feel fortunate to live in a place that has such a newspaper. Thank you!

P.S. I loved reading about the inside workings of the Times staff and wish it had been a longer piece.

Eleanor Carlson, St. Petersburg