To the editor: A letter writer suggests that distinguishing potential from actual persons makes an important point about abortion. Actually it contributes little or nothing. ("GOP's moderate women prevent an abortion disaster," Readers React, Jan. 24)
The crucial thing is to recognize that "person" is not merely a description but implies an ethical status. That a fetus is of the human species is a matter of fact. The question of whether that fetus is a "person" is an ethical one. It concerns whether, among other things, a fetus is entitled to certain rights.
This is not a simple question. Yet the letter writer does not even address it. He offers only the empty assertion that the potential is not the actual. I'm sure we all agree that an infant is only a potential adult. But that trivial observation would hardly address the morality of infanticide.
The central question of abortion is whether a human at any particular stage of development, before or after birth, should qualify for the status of "person." Those who answer in the affirmative deserve a serious response. Labeling them "ideologues" is mere name-calling.
Jim Hawkins, West Los Angeles
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