Ken Orr's casuistry (Letters, February 24) must be called to account.

At the founding of parliamentary democracy, our founders brought about separation of church and state by refusing to have an "established" church.

The nonsense of my "seeking to to restrict freedom of speech" sidesteps the issue of the responsible use of free speech.

Orr's deliberate fudging and mis-statement of medical/scientific material in relation to reproduction was, and is, irresponsible.

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It is a propagandist attempt to bend the public mind away from reasoned debate.

His ironic crocodile tears on freedom of speech and democracy are seen for what it is when we remember that the Catholic Church has denied its own members freedom of speech, claimed absolute control over all matters of belief - that is, absolute thought control - and sought alliance with absolute rulers from Constantine to Hitler and Mussolini.

Hence the horrors of "heresy", the "trials" of the Inquisition, and the wars of religion as modern minds challenged centuries of misrule.

They hate democracy: they dislike and distrust modern knowledge, let alone having to share and justify their positions in the face of reason.

By claiming, without proof, the inclusion of "soul" at conception, they accelerate the initial stages of uterine growth to "human" and claim that any abortion is "murder". This is, of course, intended to cause guilt, shame and horror at described results which could only occur in much later abortions.

The basic trick here is not to discuss the medico-legal division of pregnancy into trimesters.

The effect is dealt with by Stephen Pinker thus: "The vast majority of abortions are carried out well before the milestone of having a functioning brain, and thus are safely conceptualised according to [the understanding of human life as involving signs of consciousness] as fundamentally different from infanticide and other forms of violence."

Orr's fudged description of inter-uterine development ignores that science and cottage wisdom concur in placing the earliest signs of consciousness at "quickening" (the household term), and at "reverberating neural activity between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex" at around 26 weeks of gestational age (the scientific description) - see Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, 2011.

Geneticists have isolated more than 130 gene-caused diseases that can be diagnosed very early in pregnancy. Foetal chromosome abnormalities thus detected can make very real differences as to the reasonable viability of a continued pregnancy. An informed choice on the finding seems not unreasonable.

So I am not "pro-abortion" - that throwaway is to shove me among the villains. I do try to approach issues on the basis of modern and developing knowledge, of what will improve the well-being of the human condition.

That seems to me to include the informed choice of those who literally bear the brunt of their pregnancy (whether the outcome of child rape, undue haste or whatever) and to exclude the opinions of those driven by doctrines on less than reasonable premises, and a seeming lack of compassion.

RUSS HAY, Whanganui
A sense of dread

I was misquoted in the Chronicle article (February 21) - "Residents upset by new social housing".

I began by referring to comments such as "We need lots of housing, but not near us" and "We need a new prison, but not right here" when people hear about building plans.

Those statements have been taken out of context.

People from the two streets concerned were adamant in their view that the construction of seven small, virtually identical two-bedroom houses was most unsuited to this community.

What is certain is that the value of neighbouring properties in Poynter Place and Alma Rd will drop. Homeowners have invested heavily in building and buying these houses on the assumption they were moving into a safe and pleasant environment.

Poynter Place is already overcrowded, and it's often difficult to drive down the street to our homes. Seven or more extra cars will make it even more difficult.

Residents are justifiably upset that emergency social housing is planned. We see no problem in the provision of two new houses in Grey St where they will be sited behind existing state houses.

It's not going to work here in Poynter Place - there is evidence cluster housing has the potential to cause severe social disruption. Check out the community chaos from the erection of cluster housing in the Christchurch suburbs Phillipstown and Halswell - we dread similar problems will result in Poynter Place and Alma Rd.

LINDSAY and DIANE STOCKBRIDGE, Whanganui
Breath of fresh air

Kate Stewart's article "Convicting before the law says guilty" was a breath of fresh air.

Hold on to her. It is folk like her who give strength and honesty to help a community grow, building on what is valuable.

F R HALPIN, Gonville