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Protecting life is the right policy for a hospital

Re: Mayor warns on abortion policy, Aug. 7.

St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer feels compelled to warn Bayfront-St. Anthony's Health Care that "religious doctrine must not play a role in medical decisions." While the official concern is that the policy is discriminatory, what people are really afraid of is a policy that is the epitome of non-discrimination _ a policy that would universally accept fetal life regardless of its sex, race, color, creed or physical perfection.

Meanwhile, Times columnists Mary Jo Melone and Twila Decker are beating their breasts over the idea that a woman might have to carry a "defective" fetus to term. So much for non-discrimination. We build accessible playgrounds but prefer "terminating" potential users.

When did the protection of human life in a hospital become "religious doctrine"? Or is it just fetal life that is a matter of "religious doctrine"? The existence of life in the womb is a biological fact that is dramatically confirmed by thousands of sonograms performed each year.

Contrary to your columnists' recent assertions, abortions are virtually always performed for purely socioeconomic (a k a, "elective") reasons. Statistics for 1998 from the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services report 82,335 abortions performed in the state last year. "Personal choice" was cited as the reason for 98 percent of these abortions. Fetal abnormality and maternal health combined accounted for about 1 percent of all abortions performed last year in the state of Florida.

The Times' recent columns are prime examples of how the media's blatant, irresponsible disregard for abortion-related facts polarizes Americans on this issue. The gulf between the pro-life and pro-abortion viewpoint is largely one of knowledge: The more you know about abortion, including its after-effects on women who "wanted" it, the less comfortable you will be asserting that what is currently legal is also morally defensible.

Decriminalization of abortion, however misguided, did not mandate abortion. If physicians or institutions choose to discourage elective abortions as a "treatment" for pregnancy, then we should consider it to be an informed decision that reflects both their medical expertise and commitment to healing. Since when did the criteria for evaluating medical options become reduced to "let's do it because it's legal?"

The history of the U.S. Supreme Court includes the upholding of slavery and the denial of constitutional rights to women and minorities. So forgive me if I am underwhelmed by its current defense of abortion and prefer instead to join a noble tradition of dissent that echoes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s prophesy: We shall overcome!

Janice Gittino, Palm Harbor

Abortion policy doesn't discriminate

Re: Mayor warns on abortion policy.

There seems to be much ado about nothing here. St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer seems so concerned about political correctness that he fails to see the validity of his own lease language. The fact that the city lease to Bayfront mandates that medical care be provided "without regard to sex, race, color or creed" typically only means that whatever the policies and procedures are at the hospital, they will be applied the same regardless of sex, race, color or creed. That would be true whether it is a policy concerning nursing, administration of medication, or surgical procedures (of which abortion is one).

When did patients, municipalities and even mayors become responsible for unilaterally changing hospital policy? If the policy of the hospital is that elective abortions will not be performed, then exceptions should not be made and the policy should be applied across the board, regardless of sex, race, color or creed.

James M. Hammond, Clearwater

Support hospitals' choice

Re: A hospital's trust, Aug. 7.

The tone and content of this editorial reveal the true concerns your editorial staff has with the BayCare network. After devoting two paragraphs to concerns that the network is not disclosing enough business information, the writer devotes five paragraphs to decrying the choice of the network to cease providing elective abortions. The writer seems to have a problem with health care providers who decide not to engage in practices that can only be defined as "health" by the loosest and most convoluted logic. And God forbid if those decisions are made in concert with the Roman Catholic Church.

Acknowledging that "The BayCare network was created for the right reasons and financially it has paid off so far," the writer, in the following paragraph, indicates that "Baycare now faces much more than a financial dilemma." So, providing abortions is more important than the existence altogether of the hospital? The true issue is apparent. It seems that the non-religious hospitals' worth is being measured in terms of their willingness to provide abortion on demand. For the information of the writer, these hospitals provide other services and deserve our support whether or not they choose to associate with Catholics.

The mixture of "concerns" voiced in this editorial creates a smoke screen to hide its real aim. The issue of disclosure should be properly addressed. But it surfaced only once and was not the theme. The "choice" of the administrators is the issue, and freedom of choice seems to be contingent upon the editorialist's concurrence.

Chuck Gerhart, Spring Hill

BayCare deal is bad news

Re: BayCare hospital deal under scrutiny, Aug. 8.

Anyone with a living will should be aware of what is happening with many of our hospitals. The Catholic Church will be using its influence on these local hospitals and may possibly make your living will worthless! It is not right for their beliefs to be forced on others.

This BayCare hospital deal is bad for the public.

Ralph Beck, Pinellas Park

Abortion should be a family choice

Mary Jo Melone's column in the Aug. 5 Times (Her story tells of her secret grief, stolen away), dealing with abortion and Down's syndrome, made some very good and important points. The issue being raised by the city as the result of Bayfront Medical Center's limiting abortions due to the dictates of St. Anthony's Hospital should not exist with our separation of church and state under the Constitution.

Opting for or against an abortion on the part of the woman and her mate is always a most difficult decision. It is impossible to predict how you or the family member will accept or react to the introduction of a handicapped child. Initially, the program is basically one of care _ care quite similar to that required by a normal infant except that the care continues for a much longer time. As the child grows, however, the problems compound.

The parents wonder, "Shall we take a chance and have another child?" Then, how do the siblings react to having a severely handicapped child in the home? Do they feel comfortable having friends visit? Is the handicapped child taking all the mother's attention? Is the handicapped child inhibiting the siblings from having a normal childhood? Will the mother's constant care and attention to the handicapped child affect her marital relations with her husband?

The last point was studied in the early 1960s at the Institute for Research on Exceptional Children at the University of Illinois. The institute found that the incidences of separations and divorces were significantly higher in families having a severely handicapped child living at home than was true for the general population.

Another very important consideration is this: Who takes care of the handicapped person when the parents (usually the mother) are no longer able to? Parents often assume that siblings will take over the burden. As a special educator and psychologist, I have seen many family breakups over this issue, with the normal children rejecting that role and rejecting family relations by leaving home.

Whether or not a woman opts for abortion should be a family choice based upon good, non-biased counseling where the concerned parties are informed of potential problems as well as helped to understand their feelings of becoming a parent. Here religious dogma should exist only insofar as the individual's beliefs are concerned. It has no place in whether or not an abortion is available.

G. Orville Johnson, professor of special education, emeritus

(University of South Florida), St. Petersburg

Stop the Catholic bashing

I read with disgust your two Aug. 3 articles attacking the Catholic Church. I think it is another case of the continued "Catholic bashing" that seems to be part of the editorial policy and a theme of the feature writers. Twila Decker's Closeted Catholics and Mary Jo Melone' The church wins round, and women lose again were malicious attacks on Catholics for what they believe.

To be a Catholic, you must believe all that the Catholic Church teaches. There isn't any room for "cafeteria Catholics." For 2,000 years, the beliefs that Decker and Melone attacked have been the beliefs of all Catholics. There isn't any section of Catholic faith for the "politically correct." Abortion is killing, and homosexual acts are a violation of the Sixth Commandment. This is also true of heterosexual acts outside marriage. There are no exceptions or excuses.

You wouldn't think about publishing an article about any other race, ethnic group or religion, attacking them as you have the Catholic Church. Maybe a little more acceptance of the teachings of the Catholic Church would lead to an increase in the moral and ethical standards in the United States. Such mores and ethics would lead to an elimination of many problems facing the country today.

Edward O. Wood, New Port Richey

Questioning church's position on gays

As a lifelong Catholic and a mother of a gay teenager, I was most interested in Twila Decker's Aug. 3 article Closeted Catholics. It is an issue I have been struggling with since my son told me he was gay in 1997.

I appreciate the factual article, and it is truly helping me sort out my feelings. While the church shows some wisdom in acknowledging that homosexuality is not a choice but more likely an affectionate orientation resulting from biological factors, it is refusing to allow our gay friends and family members to experience what every heterosexual person takes for granted: the freedom to have a loving relationship without condemnation from the church.

The church is frozen in its thought and seems incapable of change. This is most disturbing to the Catholic mother of a gay child. Do I stay in the Catholic church and work for reform in treating our gay parishioners as equal to our heterosexual parishioners or do I find a religion and church that value each and every one of us and respect our desire to lead an honorable life filled with love and commitment?

I am proud to be the mother of a gay child. I worry more about my child being able to love someone, be loved in return and have a fulfilled relationship than I worry about whom he loves. Whether he is able to love and lead an honorable life filled with good deeds and kindness to all will be a true test of his worth.

Kathy Miller, president of PFLAG Pinellas (Parents, Families

and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), St. Petersburg

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