Taking steps to reduce the federal deficit sounds like a necessary and noble goal, but be careful whenever a good end masks a great injustice.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and other congressional leaders have pushed to eliminate federal funding for family planning programs.

Their main target is Planned Parenthood, but the harm will be felt most acutely by the millions of women who would be denied basic health care, including contraceptive services, testing for STDs and HIV, and screenings for cervical and breast cancer.

Taking health care away from women and families who can’t afford to pay for it on their own is bad enough. Even worse is that these funding cuts won’t reduce the deficit, create any new jobs or improve the economy. Instead, ending the highly successful Title X programs will only result in creating more pain and suffering, more unplanned pregnancies, more lives lost to preventable diseases, and more suffering for those barely holding on.

The biblical measure of justice and compassion is twofold. Look to see how those on the margins are affected for good or for ill, and then ask whether you’re willing to trade places with them. My wager is that Pence and his crowd would be up in arms if they were “done to” in the way they are seeking to “do to” Planned Parenthood and other family planning programs.

Where is the justice, compassion or even common sense in this diabolical move to defund heath care programs that save women’s lives and protect their families?

Rev. Marvin M. Ellison

Portland 

I fervently hope that Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will look at the big picture when they have the opportunity to cast their votes in support of Planned Parenthood and the services it provides.

I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that all of us benefit when our young women grow up knowing that they have the right to be healthy and to make informed and healthy decisions for themselves.

By providing access to these very basic rights, we are providing the foundation for all kinds of wonderful possibilities.

If we take this away, we will have women who haven’t had the benefit of understanding and controlling their reproductive systems, who haven’t had various cancers discovered in the early stages, and some who haven’t had access to basic medical care.

Planned Parenthood’s focus on prevention of disease, unintended pregnancy and unhealthy choices saves lives and money. Planned Parenthood has done an incredible job of educating and caring for so many women in Maine. As I said, we all benefit from this. Please let them keep up the good work!

Jennifer Goodspeed

Falmouth 

Defunding Planned Parenthood has been in the news a great deal lately, and with good reason. Its connection to the big pharmaceutical companies, like Merck, has been instrumental in promoting Gardasil as a vaccine for young people. Therefore, a further examination of this unholy alliance is most certainly warranted.

Gardasil’s manufacturer, Merck, has scared parents into using their product to immunize their daughters against the sexually transmitted disease HPV.

Since one cannot catch this disease through the air or by casual touching, this means that girls must engage in sexual activity in order to be exposed to this virus.

In Merck’s ads promoting Gardasil, they do indicate in smaller print that many side effects may occur. Among the lesser effects are fever, nausea, vomiting and fainting. Words from the ad read: “Some people who faint might shake or become stiff.” (And yes, Merck does advocate these shots for girls as young as 9 years old!)

In 2009, an analysis of data from VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), a government watchdog organization, found 235 cases of permanent disability and 47 deaths from this chemical cocktail. Yet the push for this vaccine continues. Why? Just follow the money, because Merck is making millions on the backs of our daughters — and now on our boys as well.

To bring this full circle, Planned Parenthood is aiding and abetting this push, and calling it “preventative health care.” I feel this is a false claim, and that their other health care offerings are mere “window dressing.”

It masks the ulterior motive of their existence, which is to defile our young people with their promiscuous sex-ed materials and to cover up for the blood money they have made from tens of millions of abortions.

State and federal funding to this organization must be stopped!

Pat Truman

Hallowell 

There have recently been a number of passionate letters about the abortion issue — how could they be otherwise? The principle of doing away with abortion has undeniable moral appeal.

We’ve never met anyone “pro” abortion. Our concern is that to be against abortion is only part of a larger moral dilemma, and this failure to deal with the issue’s larger implications is where we see anti-abortion advocates (M.D. Harmon et al) fall far short of true humanity.

A recent letter to the editor about fetal surgery for spinal bifida was most touching and illustrates our concern: How many young families, let alone single mothers, are in a position to afford such a procedure? How many even have reasonably priced assured access to any health care in a country with a disgraceful infant mortality rate compared to other industrialized countries?

How many have proper nutrition to support a fetus during pregnancy and as a growing child? How many have safe and secure housing to properly raise and care for a growing child?

M.D. Harmon wrote of a more than hundredfold disparity between the number of abortions and adoptions at Planned Parenthood. Where are the resources to handle such an increase in adoption services?

The current congressional anti-abortion debate exemplifies the hypocrisy we see. At the same time, opponents profess religious abhorrence of abortion, they vote to reduce all the programs (family planning, job creation, housing support, food and medical care, etc.) that would insure successfully raising a child in this world.

There’s a special place for someone who forces life into this world and then abandons it to the world’s evils. We don’t think it’s Heaven (Luke 16, 19-31, Matthew 25 31-46).

Laurent Hourcle and June Wortman (Hourcle)

Saco 

In difficult times, the government must make tough decisions. Tax dollars should not be funding private companies. A well-managed organization can raise the funds it needs.

Family Planning Association of Maine (MeFPA) is a private business that depends on the government for 63 percent of its funding. Its 2010 annual report provides a breakdown of its financial sources. George Hill, the CEO of MeFPA, gave his opinion as to why MeFPA should continue to receive tax dollars in the Feb. 26 paper.

Hill didn’t mention that he makes $108,526; the senior vice president of finance makes $95,389 (from MeFPA’s 2008-2009 tax returns). Our tax dollars are paying huge salaries for a private business.

MeFPA has been in existence for 39 years. At this point it should be self-reliant. Successful businesses raise the money they need to pay their staff and to serve their customers.

Janet LeBlanc

Waterville 

‘Get Fuzzy’ out of comics, rerun Calvin and Hobbes 

This is a suggestion for the comics page. Since the paper is recycling “Peanuts,” what about doing the same for old “Calvin and Hobbes” strips? They could replace “Get Fuzzy,” which is, sadly, quite lame.

David Moltz

Portland 

Conservatives do bidding of the rich and big business 

In the wake of the Tuscon shooting, some members of the media jumped to the false conclusion that prominent conservatives provoked the violence with their rhetoric. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of just what the conservative leadership is all about.

The last time this country faced challenges similar to today was the Great Depression. During that time, grifters and flim-flam men traveled the roads bilking the naive out of what little they had.

Three-card monte and shell games were played on street corners offering the hope of easy money. Quacks plied “miracle” patent medicines to those desperate for quick fixes. Fortune tellers and Tarot card readers claimed to be able to tell you the future — all for a price, of course.

Today, Glenn Beck spends several hours a day telling his listeners that their money is worthless and predicting inevitable hyperinflation and economic collapse.

How convenient for us that Mr. Beck is sponsored by no fewer than four different gold investment companies, all of which offer to soothe our fears of economic disaster — for a price, of course.

Rush Limbaugh still maintains his post as a champion of “traditional” values and seems to feel the pain of the struggling taxpayer. (I’d like to congratulate Mr. Limbaugh on his recent fourth marriage and his fine taste in paying Elton John a seven-figure fee to play at his reception.)

Former Gov. Sarah Palin, for her part, has marketed the Palin brand masterfully in nearly every form of media, recently even feeling it necessary to apply for a patent on the family name, following in the footsteps of previous entertainment icons such as the Three Stooges and Elvis.

The characterization of these conservative icons as inciters of violence is incorrect. They are simply a continuation of a dishonorable American tradition of the charismatic and devious taking advantage of fear and uncertainty to make money.

Jeremy Smith

Old Orchard Beach 

Without Clifford School, neighborhood is very quiet 

Oakdale is much quieter nowadays. The sound of schoolchildren running around before and after school has vanished, leaving those who live nearby with the sad realization that it just won’t be the same.

As a former student, when I can’t recall the Portland High fight song, or the King Middle alma mater, I take pride in being able to belt out the Clifford School song, most likely at a pub surrounded by fellow Nathan Clifford Comets. It was a great school.

So what to do now? Although the change saddens Oakdale, I’m sure we’ll be listening closely to the proposals for the future of the school.

It is a great opportunity for the city and the small neighborhood to think “outside the box” for ways to keep this old school relevant to today and remain important to Oakdale.

I’ve heard a few recommendations for both private and public use of the school, mostly good ideas, but nothing that strikes me as innovative.

Conversion to an apartment building, sometimes a good idea, worked well with the former Roosevelt School on Stevens Avenue.

But I can’t say the same thing of the former St. Patrick’s School on Congress Street. For Clifford, I am unable to visualize how that great building can turn into a place for only a few. We can do better.

I can easily see this school continue to serve kids as a community center, teachers as a training facility or for USM students as a place to study.

It would be great to see young kids or college students roaming Falmouth, Deane and Payson streets to get to their next class or after-school activity. But is there something else?

I hope we can give the City Council some great ideas.

J.D. Walker

Portland