Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Michael Schiavo has been chained to a drooling shitbag for 15 years"

Or so wrote one blogger.

I wasn't going to blog about the Terri Schiavo controversy because I don't think we can know all the facts behind the case. At least not enough to make an informed opinion.

But as Ms. Schiavo passed away today, the politics surrounding her death have been devoid of serious ethical reflection. So I share some discussion with you today.

Mary Johnson, a disabled rights activist, someone with a vested interest in the outcome of the legal ramifications of the Schaivo issue says this,

The Republicans, to my way of thinking, are likely guilty of everything we say about them. I even agree with Michael Schiavo that Tom DeLay is a "little slithering snake." But to simply yell about the Republicans, to turn this into yet another skirmish in the right-to-life, right-to-die culture wars is to miss entirely the bigger issue.

The danger faced by "incapacitated" or non-communicative persons -- people who have been declared "incompetent" and their legal rights assigned to a "guardian" -- has been worrying disability rights activists for years. It is not about the "right to life" -- it is about equal protection of the law. Over a dozen national disability groups have repeatedly urged Constitutional review of cases like Schiavo's . It doesn't happen. If it had happened with Schiavo, we wouldn't be at this sorry pass.

Now Sen. Tom Harkin (D.-IA), a man with impeccable liberal credentials, is proposing such a law. Not for Terri Schiavo, but for the rest of us.

"In a case like this, where someone is incapacitated and their life support can be taken away, it seems to me that it is appropriate -- where there is a dispute, as there is in this case -- that a federal court come in, like we do in habeas corpus situations, and review it." Harkin told reporters he was hopeful that Congress would address such legislation sometime soon.

(read the whole thing here)

Clearly, this issue is not about Ms. Schiavo as much as it has to do with Republicans shoring up their Right-to-life base.

Which begs the question, as EJ Dionne, does:

What does it mean to be pro-life?

The label is thrown around in American politics so blithely that you'd imagine it refers to some workaday issue such as a tax bill or a trade agreement. Might the one good thing to come out of the rancid politics surrounding the Terri Schiavo case be a serious discussion of the meaning of that term?

Dionne goes on to say,

What does it mean to be pro-life? As far as I can tell, most of those who would keep Schiavo alive favor the death penalty. Most favored allowing the assault weapons ban to expire and oppose other forms of gun control. The president makes an excellent point when he says we "ought to err on the side of life." It's a shame how rarely that principle is put into practice.

The Religious Right can stammer all they want about a "culture of life," but when the rubber hits the road, they pick and choose their battles willy-nilly.

Perhaps the biggest loser was Ms.Schiavo herself, when the political circus that emerged as her life was being taken from her, denied her the dignity that should come from those seeking to live out the "culture of life."

1 comment:

Psychols said...


That "err on the side of life" quote got me a tad worked up too. After forcibly refraining my foot from going through the Television, I broke into a 10 minute rant about Iraq; Texas executions; and millions of American children without healthcare.

Better, I think, that whenever I see Bush, Cheyney or Rumsfeld on TV, I simply change the channel. My blood pressure will be better for it.