Ohanian Comment: The following exchange was printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I admit I was shocked out of my tree when I read Herman's letter the first time. I reacted rather like Lasusky, thinking his argument represents what can happen to a professional who daily comes up againt the devastating results of children abused by poverty, disease, government policy.
How is one to interpret this sentence, when the protection he advocates is federal funds for women on Medicaid who desire abortions?
What kind of morality do we practice as a society in failing to provide protection for children who, being unborn, are truly innocent victims?
In the following exchange, Herman says that's not what he meant at all. Judge for yourself. It's too bad the correspondents insist on slinging mud at each other's professional qualifications. It would be more productive if they discussed what the Federal government is doing--and what No Child Left Behind means in this context.
In this exchange, what is the issue:
a woman's right to an abortion
Herman's use of the word protection
the real meaning of government rhetoric
the quality of professional discourse
Re: "Facts of life never relied on legalese and semantics," Currents, June 5:
I am a psychologist who evaluates children in the city. Many of those I see have a history of abuse. Often, they live in foster homes and have little or no contact with either parent; frequently, the rights of the parent or parents have been terminated. Not infrequently, those parents are drug abusers who may be too ill to care for them and/or may have died. The children not infrequently have as many as nine or 10 siblings. In a significant number of cases, they have been exposed to toxic substances, including illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other substances before birth.
The substances often cause behavioral and emotional problems, including fetal alcohol syndrome, learning problems and mental retardation.
I understand that federal funds have been cut for women who desire abortions but receive Medicaid. While the Bush administration gives lip service to No Child Left Behind, there is ample evidence that the children I describe are often left behind (and not by the educational system). Where are their rights? Many of them are poisoned in the womb because family-planning options are unavailable to their mothers. What kind of morality do we practice as a society in failing to provide protection for children who, being unborn, are truly innocent victims?
David H. Herman
I am submitting the following letter to the Inquirer and wanted to share it with you as well. Please be assured that I write with genuine care for your practice. You sound like you have had a hard time observing suffering among your client base.
"In a letter to the editor published on Monday, June 20 ("Innocent Victims"), the writer describes himself as a psychologist who evaluates children in the city, and states his observations that many of his clients are in foster homes, have been victims of abuse, have many siblings, and have been exposed to toxic substances during gestation, leading to behavioral and emotional problems. The writer then indicates that these children are "innocent victims" because Medicaid did not pay for their mothers to abort them.
As a professional social worker, I have a serious concern about a professional working with and evaluating clients who he believes would be better off if they did not exist. What sort of services or therapies does he prescribe to children whose ideal treatment, he seems to say, would be death?
Who would choose to have one's child evaluated by a psychologist with this attitude? Unfortunately, Medicaid doesn't offer these children a wide choice of mental health providers. In this sense, they certainly are "innocent victims".
One of the core values of the National Association of Social Workers is respect for the dignity and worth of the person. I respectfully suggest that this writer needs to examine his practice in light of the ethical standards of his own profession. "
Possibly I misunderstood your letter - I read it many times with increasing empathy and sadness.
Pat Lasusky MSW,
I do appreciate your writing. What is of concern to me is not whether I have a hard time observing the suffering of my clients; rather, the difficulty is the many challenges they face in their lives. My ability to provide them with some degree of support is limited, but I do as best I can.
Actually, you did quite badly misunderstand what I wrote. And candidly, I am concerned for you and your clients if you so severely distort the meanings and intents of others. In fact, I feel that your interpretation attributes to me something that I would consider immoral. It is not for me, nor you, nor anyone to decide whether or not another person exists. I perceive in what you wrote a powerful need to find an excuse for pointing a finger of blame at anyone who suggests that poor women who have had funds taken away for family planning is ipso facto guilty of saying that their children should not exist. For you to find that meaning in what I wrote is extraordinary! And wholly misses the intent of what I wrote. In fact, I
feel that you are attributing immorality to me: bearing false witness.
So kindly do not preach to me about the standards of your professional association until you are capable of understanding the intent of another person without severe distortion. Of course, you are free to write as you wish, but I believe that bearing false witness is immoral.
I challenge you to respond to each point I have raised.
David Herman & Pat Lasusky
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES