Don't Pin Hopes on Ribbons

Regarding “Pro-Lifers Step up the Pressure” (April 29-May 5):

The demand of the pro-life group Life Dynamics that President Bush appoint a blue-ribbon panel of experts to find a way to stop abortions is preposterous. Who will be on this panel? The same political gamblers who convinced us the election of Ronald Reagan would guarantee the end of abortion through U.S. Supreme Court appointments?

By now it should be apparent that saving the unborn calls for a different strategy than saving Social Security. President Bush should not squander his political capital on a public-relations display producing great expectations with no chance of success. If after 28 years the pro-life movement still doesn't understand what legal mechanism must be used to change Roe v. Wade, all the blue ribbon panels in the world won't be of any help.

ROBERT A. NICKLAUS

Cologne, Minnesota

Give Bush a Break

Your editorial “Who Wants to be a Republican?” (May 6-12) contains two statements that require corrective comments.

You state, “Yet Republican presidents gave us a pro-abortion Supreme Court majority …” This is only true because of a reversal of position on the part of Justice [Anthony] “Flipper” Kennedy.

You add, “and Republican Congress pressed partial-birth (bans) only when it could embarrass Clinton, but have tabled it when it can actually get signed into law.” You overlook the reality that the Supreme Court has recently labeled such laws unconstitutional, overturning a 99-1 vote in the Nebraska legislative body.

It is true that we defenders of the right to life must hold our new president's feet to the fire on the issue (he is not an ideologue), but give him a break. He's trying.

WILLIAM F. COLITION JR. M.D.

Bethesda, Maryland

Bush Isn't the Enemy

Being an advocate of a no-exception human-life amendment [to the U.S. Constitution], I was hesitant to write regarding Eve Tushnet's article “How Pro-Life is the Bush Administration?” (May 13-19), but, frankly, I fail to see how shooting at the best leader this country has had on the anti-abortion issue will help save babies.

Whether we like it or not, this country is not ready to support an end to abortions. They need, first, to understand that abortions are not anything but a treacherous operation that results in the death of at least one defenseless human being. If we push for legislation that has no chance of passing, we only give the enemies of life ammunition to argue they have the population's interest at heart.

The president has taken numerous steps to educate this society. Let's not weaken him by failing to recognize who the enemy really is — a poorly informed, self-deluded voting public.

ALLEN LYONS

Clinton, Connecticut

Bullying Smarts

I am a certified pediatric nurse practitioner currently working as a school nurse and I am writing in response to your answer in the May 13-19 Family Matters column, “School Phobia II” by Dr. Ray Guarendi.

You brought up many good points, but I believe there are other concerns that must be addressed regarding the sudden onset of a child not wanting to go to school.

Parents, faculty and staff should be concerned that something improper may be happening at school and the child is trying to avoid it. It is important that something is done to determine if the child has become a victim of teasing or bullying either by his classmates, other school students, or has been ridiculed by a teacher. It is also important to determine if something has happened to embarrass him at school — forgetting an assignment, doing poorly on a test, being the victim of a joke, spilling a lunch, etc.

Bullying or embarrassing episodes can account for the sudden development of a child not wanting to go to school. If the school is no longer a comfortable place for him to be, he will want to avoid it. It is important for the parents to talk with the child and the school to find out if there has been a problem. Children are often not willing to volunteer that there is a problem, especially that they are the victim of another person.

If it is determined that the child has been a victim of a joke or a bully, it is very important for the child to have the opportunity to discuss the situation and how they feel about it. In addition to expressing their feelings they must work with an adult/counselor to develop a plan to overcome the damage that has been done and ways to prevent it in the future.

Bullying and cruel practical jokes are a menace in our society. One only has to look at the news over the last few years to see the results of bullies. In each of the school violence episodes, the aggressor was a victim of bullying. In many instances the victims of bullies are told that they must just toughen up or just ignore it. It is as impossible to ignore the wounding of ones spirit as it is to ignore the wounding of one's flesh — it hurts.

Please address these issues in your column in response to the child's refusal to go to school.

LINDA FRYE

Middletown, Kansas

Bullies Beware

I just read Dr. Ray Guarendi's Family Matters column “School Phobia II” (May 13 –19).

Something that concerns me is that you did not seem to spend much time on the possibility of problems at school. My children are now ages 14 and 21. They have both gone through problems of not wanting go to school — and every time it has had to do with problems at school such as being bullied or classroom difficulties in certain areas. There were even problems on the school bus in one instance. All of this happened even though we live in a small town. I don't even want to consider how much greater the problems must be in larger towns.

At one point in my daughter's junior year in high school, a couple of girls on her bus kept accusing my daughter of hitting them. She was called into the principal's office, given warnings of suspension and more. Needless to say my daughter was distraught — and I just didn't know what to think or do about the whole situation. Finally, I allowed my daughter to spend a few days at home. While my daughter was absent from school, the complaints continued … they apparently didn't realize that my daughter wasn't even on the bus those days.

So, my daughter was finally exonerated. It turned out that these girls just wanted to cause problems for my daughter for no particular reason, but in the end they were “found out.”

If bullies are keeping our children away from school, we need to correct the problem — even if it means letting them stay at home.

THERESA MULHOLLAND

Merritt, Wisconsin

Questions and Answers

Regarding the recent commentary on Planned Parenthood's 1999-2000 annual report (“It Is a Tangled Web They Spin,” April 29-May 5): I have examined the report and have a number of questions that were not covered in the essay.

1. Exactly how does the “Clinic Income” break down? While it is probably easy to make a crude guess about their income from abortions, where is the proof? Also, even if the $54 million is an accurate estimate of their abortion income, that still leaves more than 75% of their clinic income unaccounted for. Where is that money coming from?

2. If Planned Parenthood is getting about one-third of their income from government, what are they using it on? Given that government funds come with heavy strings attached, especially anything that goes to an organization involved in abortion, I cannot believe that there are not very strict audits to keep the money away from abortion-related activities. The article did not say a word about the details on this.

3. I'm also interested in a breakdown of their “Medical Services” category. The “Affiliate Service Summary” in the report showed a lot of activity in areas like contraceptive services, HIV testing, pregnancy tests and breast exams. Exactly how much money does each of their activities bring in?

I hope you will be able to publish an article taking a much more detailed look at Planned Parenthood's income and expenses. I think it would be very enlightening.

Julie A. Robichaud

San Antonio, Texas

Dave Andrusko responds: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to answer your questions. While neither a single, brief essay nor a public letter give us the opportunity to go into great detail, here at least is a general response to some of your questions.

In January 1995, the Los Angeles Times published a figure of $296 as the average cost for a standard first-trimester abortion. Unless a) the cost of abortions has gone down in the past several years (unlikely), or b) Planned Parenthood is providing a substantial number of its abortions free or at a substantial discount, their minimum income from the 182,854 abortion they reported for 1999 would be at least $54 million. Since we know Planned Parenthood clinics offer and perform later, more expensive abortions (check the Web sites for your local Planned Parenthood clinics), this figure is probably much too low.

Planned Parenthood doesn't specifically say where it gets or how it uses the money it receives in “Government Grants and Contracts.” Thanks to pro-life stalwarts in Congress such as Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), very little, if any, federal money directly funds abortion, but the money they do receive promotes the Planned Parenthood brand name and frees up other resources for promoting the abortion cause. State and local government monies, which reflect a portion of this, do not always come with the sort of restrictions the federal government imposes.

Does Planned Parenthood offer and promote other services besides abortion? Yes. But what is relevant here is that they put abortion — the deliberate, violent destruction of human life — on par with HIV testing, breast exams and other medical services. They invest relatively little of their time on prenatal services (19,281 clients in 1999), infertility (516 clients in 1999) or adoption (2,999 referrals in 1999) — activities that have anything to do with parenthood. They state publicly that one of their four major goals is to “ensure access to abortion,” and they devote a great deal of their time and resources to accomplishing that goal.

Last, we agree: a more detailed look at Planned Parenthood would be very enlightening indeed.