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When does life begin?

Before putting abortion rights in Maryland's constitution, we must agree on the moment when a fetus becomes a person.

The Baltimore Sun recently editorialized its support for a state constitutional amendment to provide a right to an abortion (“Here’s why an abortion rights amendment in Maryland would matter,” Aug. 2) and Sarah Bregel excoriated pro-life protesters because of the way they exercise their right of free speech (“Anti-choice protesters: If you care about kids, stop terrifying mine,” Aug. 6). As a pro-life Democrat who supports causes that benefit low-income mothers, access to birth control, well-women exams and sex education, I would like to offer another view.

By the words selected to name their cause, pro-choicers seem to skip over the primary question which causes the controversy. That is, when does life begin? As a strong supporter of women's rights, I am naturally drawn to support an issue relating to women's rights and choices. But first, we need to answer the key question of when life begins if we are to make a responsible decision about abortion. Remember, half those abortions end the development of unborn female babies.

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We don't often hear real, specific debates on when life begins. Too often, it's framed as women's rights versus right wing, religious radicals. I don't mind admitting to some discomfort with being aligned with right wing and in some cases, nasty people, but I refuse to be swayed from looking at the crux of the issue by political dogma.

The Roe v. Wade debate raised the question of "viability" as being a relevant consideration as to when abortion might be reasonably regulated. Indeed, that definition has proven to be a moving target as scientific advances have been made since that decision was rendered. Heartbeats are now detectable at six weeks after fertilization. When does life begin?

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My pro-choice friends are not irresponsible people, but I don't understand how anyone can take a position on abortion without first answering the question of when life begins. The answer is very important if we are to call ourselves a just, moral society. Until that question can be definitively answered, I will err on the side of caution. To do otherwise seems like blowing up the derelict building before checking if anyone is inside. Is that responsible? Let's have a real debate about the key question before we jump on political bandwagons. When does life begin?

L.G. Connor, Ellicott City

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