Reader feedback - 7.5.06 


Cynthia Boaz's letter, "To the pro-lifers on University Avenue" ("Which Role Models?" The Mail, June 7) deserves a response. As one who has been involved for 10 years in the effort to reduce the number of abortions at Planned Parenthood on University Avenue, I hope I can clear up some of her misconceptions about this activity. In doing so, I don't claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim to speak for everyone involved in pro-life activities in Rochester.

Ms. Boaz objects to our signs, some of which show the results of abortion at various stages. Unfortunately, we have to have the signs to show the reality of abortion, because in this regard Planned Parenthood has been less than forthcoming.

Women who have had abortions at Planned Parenthood have told us that the staff did not show them any pictures of fetal development before the abortion. Perhaps Planned Parenthood has since changed this policy. It is difficult to understand how someone can make an informed choice without knowing fully what is being chosen.

We are not trying to show these signs to children and often turn the signs around if a child is walking nearby. However, some parents have actually stopped their cars and asked us to show their children the signs so that the children will know what abortion does to an unborn child.

Ms. Boaz accuses us of judging others. Actually, in asking someone to reconsider a potential abortion, we are showing great respect for the dignity of the mother and her child. We realize that in a moment of crisis the abortion seems like a solution, but we've seen the evidence of what abortion does, not only to the child but also to the mother.

Look up the "Silent No More" website at and read the testimonies of women who are speaking up about their abortion experiences. We've had women and men thank us for being there on the sidewalk as they share the pain of a now-regretted abortion experience.

I should add here that I don't think abortion is just a woman's issue, because often it is the father who is angry and regretful over an abortion decision involving his child: a decision that he had no legal means to stop.

The main purpose of our presence as pro-lifers is to offer information. We give away at least 600 information packets a year. These packets contain listings of doctors, pregnancy resources, post-abortion counseling resources, and other information that Planned Parenthood chooses not to offer.

We often are able to share this information with teenagers. It is especially disturbing to see how many very young teenage girls without their parents go to Planned Parenthood for birth control and sometimes abortion. After leaving Planned Parenthood, these teens often stop to talk to us on the sidewalk and hear from us a message of values, self-respect, and self-control. Parents, be aware of where your teenagers are and what they are doing, because if you don't, Planned Parenthood will take your place, and you may not like the results.

Finally, I encourage critics to come over and speak to us. We respect those who disagree with us. Often we find that those who are most angry about our presence as pro-lifers are those with a past unresolved abortion experience. There is a path to healing for both women and men, but how can it be found if so many keep pretending that abortion is nothing more than a choice?

Rob Pokalsky, Five Mile Line Road, Penfield


Jared Diamond's new book, "Collapse," is not an easy read. Although it is thorough and well written, it is extremely discomforting to see how we are following the recipes for catastrophic failure that were followed by the ancient peoples of Easter Island, the American southwest, Greenland, and other cultures that disappeared entirely or were forced to abandon places that had been their homes for centuries.

As the world's supplies of trees, water, fish, and fertile soil decline, an increasing population will put more pressure on the remaining reserves. Booming economies and powerful armed forces will not save us; Diamond's historical record clearly shows that the richest were merely the last to starve.

According to Diamond, there are two possible outcomes, one of which our children will be alive to see: global environmental collapse, followed by social and economic collapse, followed by chaos, unimaginable suffering, even extinction --- or coordinated global response to restoring and managing resources, stabilizing population growth, and living at a comfortable but significantly lower standard.

"Collapse" shows that not only has the economy become global, but so have social and environmental problems, all of which will eventually show up on our shores.

The good news is that Diamond believes that even though a strong, coordinated effort could fail, the first scenario is not inevitable. He believes that stocks of timber and fish can be restored and managed sustainably, and that farming can be done in a way that does not ruin the soil.

The planet also has the most and best educated population it ever has, informed by an amazing global communication network. We have the ability to save the planet for our children and the children of other species. All we need is the political will, the resolve to accept less so all will have enough, and imagination.

What if the United States did not spend half its federal budget on war? What if we did not waste half of our scientists and engineers on military projects? What if two small families shared one house, one car, and one computer?

What if six families shared one lawn mower, one snowblower, one pick-up truck or van? What if we all agreed to work only 20 or 30 hours a week so that everyone could have a job?

What if we used our extra time to educate and mentor our own children; grow some of our own food; create unique and beautiful clothing, furniture, or art to be bartered among ourselves; plant trees; pedal bikes; paddle streams....

Is it possible that a lifestyle of reduced consumption could actually be more fun?

John Kastner, Ericsson Street, Rochester


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