Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, says the American Civil Liberties Union aborted truth in a full-page New York Times ad this week attacking Utah's new abortion law. The ACLU, in turn, says Owens, an attorney, is using flawed legal research.

Owens wrote ACLU President Nadine Strossen this week saying he was "outraged" by the ad with the headline, "In Utah they know how to punish a woman who has an abortion. They shoot her," contending they may be subject to the death penalty.Owens wrote, "Under the new Utah statute, a woman cannot be punished for having an abortion - there are no legal penalties. The legislation establishes a third-degree felony provision for doctors performing those abortions as defined as illegal - but doctors are offered great discretion in determining if an abortion is medically warranted."

Owens also blasted, "It is disturbing that an organization, whose reason for existence is the defense of our most sacred freedoms, would choose to so blatantly misuse its freedom of speech.

"The ACLU will be well-rewarded for the $56,000 you spent on the fund-raising ad, since most subscribers to the New York Times will have no way of knowing how they have been duped," Owens wrote.

In a quick response letter to Owens, ACLU attorney Janet Benshoof outlined her legal research that she says shows Utah women could be given the death penalty for obtaining abortions.

"The new abortion law exempts only a woman from prosecution for `procuring' an abortion, or for `seeking to have an abortion performed on herself.' It does not exempt from prosecution a woman who has obtained an abortion," she wrote.

And, "since 1983, Utah's criminal homicide law has specifically stated that homicide includes the death of an `unborn child,' including abortions not permitted by law."

She also contends, contrary to Owens, that the discretion allowed doctors to perform abortions "is so vague that they can't tell what kind of discretion will be permitted."