After replacing Sammy Hagar as lead singer of the legendary rock group Van Halen in 1997, Gary Cherone wasted little time in using his new position to forcefully advance his opposition to most forms of legalized abortion.

Writing an open letter last fall to fellow rocker Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the group Pearl Jam and a high-profile supporter of the pro-abortion-rights group Rock for Choice, Cherone's questions remained unanswered by Vedder and the pro-choice rock community.

A few weeks later, Cherone took his crusade to Fox TV's "The O'Reilly Factor," where he was grilled by host Bill O'Reilly on his views. A few weeks after that, in spite of the fact that Cherone had been hard at work on new songs for his second outing with Van Halen, he and the group parted ways.

Being opposed to abortion in the entertainment business is not very popular. Just ask Warren Beatty, who told Internet scoopmeister Matt Drudge at a party that he opposed abortion but is careful not to say anything about it publicly.

Cherone is either courageous or crazy. He must have known his campaign would make him an outcast in the rock world. Or maybe he's just a rebel, reminding the sanitized rock and roll culture that the whole enterprise was, once upon a time, all about speaking one's mind and rebelling against group-think. "The spirit of rock and roll has always been against the establishment, against the norm," Cherone has said. "If what's against the norm becomes the norm, it ends up being rebelled against. What is rebellion? Is it a Jack Daniels bottle, or is it a thought?"

Cherone is no stranger to controversy. He has long been expressing thoughts that run counter to the rock status quo. In the early 1990s, with his first band, Extreme, Cherone sang passionately against abortion in "Rock a Bye Bye."

On Extreme's album "3 Sides to Every Story," Cherone actually made the claim that there was objective truth: the "sides" to the record included three sections, "My Side," "Your Side" and "The Truth."

Cherone's "thoughts" may have gotten him into trouble with Van Halen, but for others he will continue to represent the true spirit of rock and roll--a spirit that celebrates the lone voice, the one who had the guts to stand up in a crowd of people in fundamental agreement with one another and say "But ..."

Cherone may be out of Van Halen, but his letter posted at the website Rockforlife (www.rockforlife.org) still begs for a response. Excerpts:

When is a woman not a woman? Therein lies the only clear refutation of a woman's rights. So, when is a woman not a woman, a right not a right? When she doesn't exist. Is it when her first ballot has been cast? Or when she graduates from her class? Is it when she makes a wish on her sweet sixteenth? Would I be amiss if it were her first kiss? ... Is it the time it takes to travel the distance through the canal? ... Is it when her sex is discovered by a sonogram? Or after eight weeks when the changes in her body will be mainly in dimension? Is it when her brain waves are detected after 40 days?

Can there be only one true line of demarcation? One finite measurable point in time that differentiates life from non-life? Is it the moment of conception that point when all of the above is set in motion? That precise moment when "a separate human individual, with her own genetic code, needing only food, water, and oxygen, comes into existence?" She is not a potential life, she is a life with great potential. She is not the mother, she is an other--a somebody other than the mother.A woman, however beautiful, however complex when fully grown, begins life as a single cell, a zygote--that stage in human development through which we all pass.

So let us not be confused, she did not come from a zygote--she once was a zygote. She did not come from an embryo, she once was an embryo. She did not come from a fetus, she once was a fetus. She did not come from a little girl--she once was a little girl When is a woman not a woman? The answer is absolute, non-negotiable. To argue against would be to ignore the innate, the fact of the matter....This is biology 101. Therefore, the ability to pursue happiness is contingent upon liberty--her liberty, and her freedom is solely dependent upon the mother of all human rights...the right of life.

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