They say death and taxes are inevitable, but if you're a Republican Evangelical Christian
, you're probably not convinced. Just like Jesus Would, they're doing everything in their worldly power to legislate away the inevitable.
Yesterday the national "liberal" news media reported that Terri Schiavo had received a "stay" and a "reprieve" of a judge's order to remove her feeding tube in order to legally let her die.
The use of the word "stay" and "reprieve" were no accident, as the pro-life forces are framing the death that would result from feeding tube removal as an execution when they are polite, murder by liberal pro-death activist courts when they are impolite.
Terri Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years with no hope for recovery. I know her family and thousands of other people have a different opinion, but that is the opinion of the court. We are bound by that decision in the absence of overwhelming evidence to the countrary. The court has also consistently upheld lower court rulings that Terri Schiavo had expressed wishes not to be kept alive artificially, although it is true that she left no written directive to that effect.
The courts have decided, we are bound by an implied social contract to abide by those decisions. It is indisputable that Terri's husband is the legal guardian of his wife, and therefore legally empowered to make medical decisions for her. Still, her parents continue to stoke pro-life interests in an "11th hour" effort to thwart her husband's wishes to let her die. They claim that, because Terri is a Catholic, euthanizing her would run contrary to her religious beliefs. Even the Pope has weighed in on the issue.
Perhaps most significantly, Governor Jeb Bush interceded on the behalf of Terri's parents in a way that was ruled unconstitutional. He rushed through an emergency law allowing him to order the tube's reinsertion five days after it was legally removed, and then sent men with guns to her death bed, removed her and had surgery performed against her will. The courts said the law, written at the governor's behest to apply to the Schiavo case and named "Terri's Law", improperly let the legislature and governor override the court system.
Terri's parents have created a foundation (www.terrisfight.org
) to raise money for their legal battle and advocate for the brain injured and pro-life efforts. The organization was recently fined for not filing the paperwork to solicit funds and are unclear about their book keeping practices. Gifts are not
The "charity" claims they have never had more than $40,000 in their coffers, but they have already spent more than $300,000 on legal fees and costs in the past three years.
For all I know, the conservative websites are right when they allege that Schiavo's husband really did
try to kill her by strangling her because she spent $80 getting her hair done. Maybe there was
a pattern of domestic abuse in that marriage, and maybe when she allegedly asked for a divorce he decided he would rather kill her and then botched the job.
None of those allegations, however, have been proven in the courts. They've had 15 years to make that case, and it hasn't stuck. Also, the accusation he is trying to kill her for the malpractice money ($1 million) seems absurd when the Terri Schiavo Foundation's own website says there is only $50,000 of it left after all the medical care and legal expenses. They give this figure not to dispute Michael Schiavo's motivation for wanting his wife dead but rather as proof that they
are not mounting their case for financial gain.
The family has now engaged antiabortion activist and evangelista Randall Terry to whip up public opinion on their behalf by organizing pro-life related protests. He isn't above using Terri Schiavo's plight to further his own agenda. To that end he's gone on record saying things like the following: "I am convinced that most of the country is disgusted with arrogant Judges ramming their godless agenda down our throats; I have seen the anger of good and decent Americans who are fed up with Courts acting like dictators and tyrants. This is one battle in which all of us can stand against judicial tyrants. We can set an example that ignites a wave of resistance to other acts of judicial tyranny."
Because Michael Schiavo now lives (in sin) with his girlfriend and their children, Randall Terry is also pushing for legislation that will remove a spouse from guardianship
if he or she lives with someone else. He also is pushing Governor Bush to use the Florida State Department of Children and Families to take over guardianship of Terri Schiavo from her husband.
I'm the first to admit that the American Legal System isn't perfect, but it is the best we (and the world) have. Shouting about judicial activism and judicial tyranny are just code words for efforts to undermine the essential checks and balances which set this great nation apart from any other.
Which is more dangerous to our nation? Judges who are liberal in their interpretation of constitutional law seeking to expand the protections afforded by that document or politicians who are increasingly able to impose from outside the judicial system conservative agendas?
I wish I understood how the party that claims they want a smaller government with less centralized federal authority are constantly seeking to expand that authority, concentrate it in an increasingly powerful President, and place ever more control of our liberty in the hands of pro-business and fundamentalist religious organizations. It all sounds like a textbook definition of fascism to me.
No matter how you look at the Terri Schiavo case, it is a tragedy for everyone involved. I just don't want to compound the tragedy by allowing it to erode and destroy the laws of this country and the judicial process by which we are protected. The law is the law, and there are legal ways to change the law if you find it no longer serves the public good.
Perhaps a better legacy for Terri Schiavo would be using all this political power of the radical right to push for legislation that would allow you to state your wishes regarding prolonging life by extraordinary means when you get your driver's license.
They could say that the absence of such an indication would cause you to default to not taking extraordinary means, since not bothering to check a box on your driver's license is hardly an extraordinary effort. If you can't make even that effort to preserve your life, why should a doctor make an extraordinary effort at substantial financial cost and legal risk on your behalf?
Common sense legislation like that would keep this issue, and the real people involved, from ever being used as a political football again.
I wanted to address the assisted suicide issue in Oregon, but that will have to wait for another post. Dealing with this one has left me completely drained....but like everyone else I will be watching with anxiety as the 5:00 deadline approaches.
Obviously this case has profound implications ranging far beyond the life of one woman who is unable to prove what her final wishes might be.Sources: Florida Judge Issues Stay in Terri Schiavo Case
, Bloomberg February 22, 2005
State fines Terri Schiavo charity for failing to register
, by Mitch Stacy, The Associated PressUPDATE: Judge Greer has extended the stay for another 48 hours.