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Keyes Raises Eyebrows at School

January 28, 2000

BEDFORD, N.H. (AP) _ When it comes to abortion, Alan Keyes doesn’t tread lightly _ even with 10- and 11-year-olds.

During a talk at the Peter Woodbury School on Thursday, the Republican presidential hopeful asked the children:

``Now tell me something. If I were to lose my mind right now and pick one of you up and bash your head against the floor and kill you, would that be right?″

``No,″ the children responded.

Keyes then asked a 10-year-old girl, ``Do you think it was OK to kill you when you were one year old, or six months old?″

When she indicated that would not be OK, Keyes continued:

``You sure? Because we live in a country right now where according to some of our courts and some of our politicians, it is OK.″

Marcia Hogan, the mother of a 10-year-old girl, attended the event and said Keyes was ``kind of in your face.″

``That was unsettling, to me, that he would speak to the children that way,″ she said.

Nadine Ivester, who was in the room with her 11-year-old, said, ``Afterward there were a few comments by the children that they were taken aback. It made them a little uncomfortable.″

Teachers also appeared a bit nervous, Ivester said, although she herself was not.

``If it’s taken out of context, it can seem pretty strong. But because I was there and I followed the points he was trying to make, I wasn’t upset, as some parents might be. He was trying to bring the conversation down to a fifth-grade level.″

Terry and Martine Harrington said the report they got from their 11-year-old daughter was benign.

``All she said was, ’He was a very nice man, a very intelligent man,‴ Terry Harrington said. ``I don’t think at that age they really understand (abortion) anyhow.″

Harrington added: ``She was just excited to get his autograph.″

School Superintendent Dennis Pope called the episode ``a non-issue.″

Three other candidates have accepted the school’s invitation to talk to the fifth grade about government and the political system, and the class attended another candidate’s event nearby.

``It’s absolutely a wonderful experience for the students _ and for the candidates,″ said Pope, who was not present and declined to say whether he thought Keyes’ comments were appropriate.

Keyes told The Boston Globe, which published an account of the appearance on Friday, that abortion warrants frank discussion, even with children.

``We should talk about it with them from the earliest possible age,″ he said.

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