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Letters to the Editors

Abortion's middle ground is untenable

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 23, 2000


Re: Ostracized when differing from party's abortion dogma, July 16.

Philip Gailey laments that extremists from each party have radicalized the selection process for vice presidential candidates to the detriment of those potential candidates who hold the middle ground. Compromise is normally the touchstone of democratic politics, but Gailey must realize that for this issue there can be no middle ground.

For the right-to-lifers, abortion is simply the murder of an innocent human being. It cannot be tolerated in any manner. They know that the euphemisms used to describe the unborn baby and the abortion procedures are meant to de-humanize the process. When the abortion clinic protesters march holding placards showing graphic photographs of aborted babies, they are violently re-humanizing the process. Is it disturbing to have these bloody visuals forced upon us? Yes, of course it is. Abortion is a brutal choice.

For the pro-choicers, the stakes are just as high. They cannot afford to give up any terrain in the fight, even if it means approving such a loathsome procedure as partial-birth abortion. If the unborn baby has no legal or moral right to exist, then it should not, indeed, it must not matter how that baby's life is terminated. To permit an abortion restriction of any kind is to begin to admit that an unborn baby does have a legal or moral right to its own existence. And from that moment they are on the slippery slope to complete abolition.

Those who profess to remain in the middle have not thought the whole business through. Allowing abortions until some legally defined time is practicing magic. What mystical event happens at the beginning of the fourth month, or the seventh month, that imbues the baby with humanity? Today it is a human protected by the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, but yesterday it was -- what? And as horrible as it is to contemplate pregnancy as the result of rape or incest, is the baby any less innocent than the violated mother?

No, the extremists are the clear thinkers here: Either the unborn baby is human, or it is not.

I'm sorry, Mr. Gailey, but the abortion issue will always be an in-your-face, brass knuckles, down-in-the-mud street brawl. And it should be. For the issue of abortion is about life and the taking of life.
-- Earl Gehant, St. Petersburg

Protect the process

Re: High court scatters its shots to kill petitions, July 17.

I was impressed with Howard Troxler's cautionary column concerning the decision by the Florida Supreme Court killing the Ward Connerly petitions.

Many of us, and perhaps most of us, support affirmative action. The price in what Troxler correctly called a "strained and even intellectually dishonest" ruling should distress anyone who is interested in preserving the constitutional process. To abuse the process in pursuit of killing something we don't like sets a precedent that can in the future deny every Floridian rights of redress, which are supposed to be guaranteed by the very Constitution this court is sworn to defend.

I cannot improve on Troxler's analysis or his logic. Frankly, his ability to look at this decision and understand its future implications as a layperson is impressive. The legendary trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams wrote a very powerful book, One Man's Freedom, in which he forcefully explained the necessity of defending the most despised individuals' constitutional rights. The principle is the same. The judicial system, either judges or jury, will always have a tendency to overreach its constitutional boundaries when the individual or the issues are horrific and the consequences seemingly unacceptable. That is when we need to be most vigilant.

We have seen it with Japanese-Americans in World War II, fellow travelers in the '50s and defendants such as Jimmy Hoffa, Frank Costello or a number of terrible criminals. The end seldom justifies the means when our freedoms are at stake. Many editorial writers understand the principle when the First Amendment is threatened by society's distaste for disgusting free speech, etc. Your editorial rationale that Florida's initiatives were calculated to be "difficult" does not mean "impossible" whenever the justices decide they don't like something. The desired tailored precision was meant to ensure that voters had a clear and unambiguous idea of what they are voting for. In my opinion, Howard Troxler has a more insightful understanding of the danger this ruling poses to the constitutional process (long-term) than either the court or your editors. The right of citizens to petition their government is elementary and basic to a free society.
-- M.E. Tillman, former Supreme Court justice for the 7th District of the State of New York, Clearwater

Consumers will suffer

Re: New law could backfire on debtors, July 16.

The new state law regarding title loans is indeed going to have severe repercussions in the Tampa area and all across Florida. As a manager with more than seven years' experience in the title loan industry, I guarantee it.

Most title loans are much like a pawn transaction in that they are based on a 30-day contract. When a customer makes a payment on a title loan, it is up to the company to decide whether or not to write another 30-day contract. This is a fact; no title loan company is going to write a contract at 30 percent annual percentage rate. It just won't happen. The sad result is that any customers who cannot pay their loan in full before their contract expires are setting themselves up for repossession.

I find it most troubling that our Florida lawmakers would pass such a law without taking into consideration the possible consequences. No one can say that the title loan industry did not advise them of our position. Perhaps they thought it was all just a bluff. I assure you that it was not. The fact is, for what ever reason, the lawmakers ignored every bit of evidence we showed them that proved we couldn't stay alive at 30 percent. They refused to listen or compromise locally, as well as on the state level.

Now, who will protect the innocent consumers who cannot pay off their loans before Oct. 1? The simple answer was given in your story -- no one. Another consumer advocate victory gone terribly wrong, and there's nothing we can do about it.
-- Sean M. Mantler, Tampa

A place for them

Re: An unneeded story, letter, July 16.

I cannot believe your paper would print such a homophobic letter about an article on the Suncoast Resort Hotel in St. Petersburg. I, along with many loyal readers, have loved ones (in my case, a son) who are gay. I welcomed this article coming into my home. This was a positive story about just another lifestyle.

There are countless young people who read your paper who may be confused or ashamed about their sexual identity. This type of article would show them they are not alone and that there is a place in the world for them. Too many teens go so far as to commit suicide over feelings of shame and isolation. That is the best real reason I could find for that article.
-- Donna Lee Smith, St. Petersburg

Rules should be respected

The front-page notoriety being given to the ejection of a young man from Tyrone Square Mall is contributing to the attitude of young people today. That is, rules are made for somebody else. The dress code was clearly stated without prejudice and with an effort to protect the shoppers. His failure to obey this dress code was the reason he was ejected from the mall.

Now his parents are crying "racial discrimination" instead of giving him the scolding he needs to make him grow up and respect the law. It comes down to this simple rule::

Respect yourself.

Respect others.

Assume responsibility for your actions.

Encouraging our children and grandchildren to believe they don't have to obey rules will lead them into serious trouble and serious consequences.
-- Georgette T. Burry, Spring Hill

Not a helmet problem

I seem to have a hard time finding stories about helmet-wearing, motorcycle riding friends who are killed by motorists. Of course, if you're on a motorcycle and not wearing a helmet then it seems that the news media strongly suggest that the death or injury was caused by not wearing a helmet.

Let's make the rules for reporting these motorcycle accidents the same in all cases. Report them all on the front page and be sure to include that the fault in the majority of the cases lies with the nut behind the steering wheel who shouldn't even have a license.

It's not a helmet issue. It's really an issue of getting lousy drivers off the road, and until that happens, I'll keep wearing my helmet.
-- Kent Trompeter, New Port Richey

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