Mar 22, 2005

Being Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Is Not an Oxymoron

I totally agree with the following statement issued by the White House after president Bush signed a law intervening in the Terri Schiavo case, "our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life." I wish this were the case in the U.S., but it isn't! We don't have a comprehensive public policy that reflects this. Life is, well, valuable. But, we must also ask, what kind of life?..
Liberals are pro-life! We believe in protecting life and enhancing it with quality, and individual choice! We are humanists and therefore we hold the presumption in favor of life when it clearly matters. When the self-appointed guardians of human life worry about when two cells meet in early stages of gestation, or when there is no brain activity/identity,while they do little otherwise to enhance people's quality of life, then they are clearly missing the point. Intentionally? You decide.
The Republicans circulated a memo in the Senate which said that the Schiavo case would "excite" the conservative base and would be "a great political issue!" This president and Congress have not acted with such expediency before. For example, Bush didn't rush to Washington after getting the PDB in August of 2001 (a month before 9-11) which said that AlQueda was planning to attack in the US using highjacked airplanes, and when other terrorism warnings were "blinking red!" He didn't come back from his vacation either when the tsunami killed 150,000 people recently.
Had the Schiavo case happened in Texas, it would have been over by now since the then governor Bush signed a law giving the spouse and the patient's doctors the final say in matters of life and death. Want more of hypocrisy? Let's see, Bush signed a law in Texas that the state can turn off life-supporting devices in cases like Schiavo when the patient has no insurance to pay for the indefinite extraordinary care, even if the family wants such care to continue! How's this for having double standards?
Oh, could the White House please explain to us how the president's statement applies to his record of executions as governor? "Take, for example, the case of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded man of thirty-three with the communication skills of a seven-year-old. Washington's plea for clemency came before Governor Bush on the morning of May 6, 1997. After a thirty-minute briefing by Gonzales, Bush checked 'Deny' just as he had denied twenty-nine other pleas for clemency in his first twenty-eight months as governor".[Mitigating circumstances included] the fact that Washington's mental handicap had never been presented to the jury that condemned him to death."- NY Review of Books,1/13/05.

My contention is that those conservatives, the rapture right, and president Bush don't really care about human life after it exits the womb. I simply don't understand how their religious morality makes them fight so hard against abortion--assuming that the fetus at any stage is a human life worth defending--but as soon as it's born it's not much of their concern any more! I wonder how many Americans have died in the last few weeks, while the Schiavo case is being fought over, because these poor souls didn't not have adequate, or any, health care.... If we, as we should, defend life, shouldn't we do whatever we can to protect it and enhance it? Many Americans die because they're poor--they cannot afford even basic medical care. In addition to promoting democracy the president should also try to reduce the 20,000 deaths that occur every day around the globe because people are poor--no access to clean water, vaccines, medicine, and, because this president has cut off funds to any international agency that gives out condoms, talks about family planning, AIDS prevention, etc.

Terri Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for 15 years. Her cerebral cortex has been replaced by spinal fluid, in other words, her brain is gone. It cannot be reconstituted. In the last seven years, all the impartial courts and the doctors involved have consistently agreed that she's in "a persistent vegetative state ...with no hope of a medical cure", and the courts have backed her husband's decision (based on Terri's own expressed wishes) to end the artificial life-support treatments. The federal courts have the power to intervene had a fundamental right been abrogated. Last Friday, the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal to intervene.
The so-called compassionate conservatives, again, are using a wedge issue to gain political points, though it seems they've miscalculated on this one.
An ABC poll showed that most Americans oppose, by broad margins, the federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case. However I don't think personal choices and medical decisions should be made by popular polls. A responsible adult should have the right to his own privacy, including to choices of medical treatment, and use his person in any way seem fit to himself. Furthermore, a person should have the right to end her life in a dignified manner, even with professional assistance, when confronted by a terminally dilapidating disease.
The good thing this case has brought to us is that so many people are talking about the subject and taking the time to think and express their own preferences when confronted with a similar situation on their own. Everyone should have a "living will" [obtainable easily, like this form from the NYS Bar Association] which makes clear what a person wants done in his last days. Talk to your family, friends, your doctor about your wishes. It may be unpleasant to confront one's mortality, but it's the responsible thing to do, for you and your loved ones. Responsibility and choice go together, and this is liberalism.

Every human life is precious, has the same value and dignity. Our society, our laws, our courts, our elected officials should reflect this. We can debate when human life begins, but we have to use the best tools at our disposal--the scientific method & knowledge-- to understand and make decisions in the personal and public spheres. Religious beliefs (which are many, varied, and often contradicting each other) may serve as the believer's moral guide, yet, such beliefs are not facts and therefore shouldn't be imposed on others who don't share them.
The defenders of life, liberals among them, also care about the quality of life after birth, and in the final stages of our physical existence. Being a free person also means having the liberty of choice, especially when it involves one's own self. It is indeed a matter of life and death!


ADDENDUM TO THE ORIGINAL POST
Because several people and the irresponsible media have been throwing around accusations and claims of conspiracy, I'm adding this "footnote."
The US Supreme Court declined, again, on 3/24/05, to take up Schiavo's case, which means all courts have consistently ruled in agreement regarding the course of action and who acts
on behalf of Terri Schiavo. There have been over some 20 state and federal judges who have examined all evidence in the last 7 years and heard hundreds of hours of testimony, pro and con.
Every neurologist testified in the case has said Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS, which I realize is different that coma) and every physician involved has concurred that she has no hope for recovery. Removing the artificial life support, again, won't make Terri suffer. This article explains what happens to the body of a PVS patient.)
This brings us to the sphere of the ridiculous claims: There is this former Schiavo nurse, Carla Sauer Iyer, who claims that Michael Schiavo had been abusive towards his wife, and other allegations about Michael's motives. The judge in the case dismissed Iyer's claims as "incredible!" Even Terri's parents (who are fighting against the tubes removal) did not seek Iyer's testimony! But you wouldn't hear this on any self-proclaimed "fair and balanced" network.
You will hear this, though: the claims of a
convicted crook and a charlatan, Dr. William Hammesfahr, who says that he can help Terri Schiavo. He thinks Terri is not in a coma! You wouldn't hear that this doctor has been disciplined by the Florida Medical Board. You wouldn't hear that he had earlier advocated that Terri Schiavo didn't need a feeding tube! You wouldn't hear that this doctor is a member of a religious group that does not accept an individual's choice not to be kept alive by artificial means! Ten years of court decisions have upheld the findings of many neurologists who all have testified that Terri is in PVS.
This begs the question: are those people, who are opposing the removal of the tubes, also against a person's right to choose her treatment under a terminal/irreversible condition? I know the answer, do you?


The U.S. Living Will Registry can provide you with lots of information and forms for the particular state living wills, organ donation, and health care provider/community partners.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful essay! Not only you don't shy away from liberal values, but you find ways to explain them in your postings!
Yes, it's a liberal position that responsibility and choice go hand in hand.
I don't want to discuss politics here (though, the Schiavo case became such a political football), but I hope every American takes a moment or two to think about his/her own wishes if they have to deal with a similar situation, either with a loved one, a friend, or themselves....and let others know NOW what they want done...
I'm going to find a living will applicable to my state and sign it soon.

Thalia, CA

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that all the judges (16, 20?) and the higher courts have been continiously siding with Schiavo's fomer husband to remove the artificial life support and let her die in peace. It's only the Florida legislature, and governor Bush (the other one) that have delayed and played out the process. Shame.
JK, OR

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't stop asking: HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED WHILE THIS CASE IS BEING FOUGHT BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE?!!!!
I don't have any health coverage right now, I cannot affort it. Don't I have a right "we all deserve"...as that hypocrite House Republican leader DeLay pompously says?....
JLD, TX

Anonymous said...

Just last week, DeLay marshaled a budget resolution through the House of Representatives that would cut funding for Medicaid by at least $15 billion, threatening the quality of care for people like Terri Schiavo.....

Anonymous said...

I understand what Terri's family is going through because I had to deal with a similar situation myself many years ago... It's extremely difficult to let a loved one go when you see him "respond"...
The doctors say it's just a "primitive reflex"... the body can be sustained but once the brain goes then the person you knew is not there. Terri doesn't know anyone or anything anymore. Her brain is gone.
I think there is no quality of life left at that stage.... the person is not there...it's just an empty shell.

I can't stress how important it is to have a living will and tell your family about your wishes. I can't possibly see myself putting my loved ones through such an ordeal... when there is no hope I can recover...
In essense, I don't want to keep my loved ones in my own prison... they should live their lives fully, and let me go.
And if anything they should live life now to the fullest....
I also think that now is the time to be nice to each other when making a difference in one's life truly makes a ..difference!

SL, MA

Anonymous said...

There are those of us who are pro-life (and against abortion) and think that this woman deserves any chance she's got.... Miracles do happen, so God may give her life back.. how do you know this won't happen? Science has been wrong before you know....

Anonymous said...

Has anyone reminded Bush that when he was governor of Texas he would have ended life support for any Terri Schiavo if she didn't have medical insurance to pay for it?
What a hypocrite.. him, and his brother Jeb too!

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be disrespectful, but those people who are praying for Terri.... what are they praying for?
No, seriously...
Terri, even if by some miracle snaps out of her comma, much of her brain is gone... so she will never be able to be herself, function as a human being with an awareness of her identity.
Why, those religious people, if they truly believe in God, don't they let her go to God? Isn't that a better place for her now?

What they're doing, it seems to me, is to prolong her limbo status.... I could even say that what they're doing is selfish! In other words, they prefer her being in a persistent vegetative state close to them than a healthy soul next to God.... That's not nice!

Anderson, NY

Anonymous said...

Another question is who's the advocate for Terri's rights. I've heard that there those who accuse her husband as not a very nice man...
Even if this is the case, the impartial courts, repeatedly have dealth with her case, and have decided that there is no reason to dispute that he's acting on her behalf.

Further, why do some people assume that the ones opposed to the removal of the feeding tube are on the side of Terri Schiavo? I think they're NOT on her side, but are using this case to advocate something vague about human life, etc...

If she had indicated that she didn't want to be kept like this (as many of us agree), an advocate for Terri would definitely want the tubes removed!

I'd imagine that the spouce may know about more about such intimate personal preferences. We go to funerals, hospitals, confronted by hard choices, so it's natural to turn to your spouce and say, "I don't want this happening to me".....

It's a good thing that her case has probably made many people express views on this matter.. I know many of my friends who have said they don't want to be kept like Terri... maybe others have different views, it's OK.

But, especially the religious friends of mine, agreed that prolonging such a condition is ungodly. At this point, they'd prefer to just leave this world entirely and go to God.

Justine, NJ

Anonymous said...

I know you've discussed this here before... some people don't have an open mind. If the facts fall outside their frame of mind, they are discarded.
Case in point there are claims out there (often repeated by Sean Hannity, Limbaugh, and other idiots) that there is a doctor ..somewhere who claims Terri Schiavo has been misdiagnosed.... that her husband hated her, etc...

Seven years now...

When I pointed out that many doctors and all courts have been on one side.... I got the reply, the courts are corrupt and the doctors don't care!...

Whatever....

Jason, FL

Anonymous said...

It's no accident that those opposing the removal of the tubes are the same religious people who oppose any abortion.
Not, saying that all religious people are just as ignorant, but I want to ask the protestors, what do they expect to happen if the tubes are not removed?
Do they think Schiavo will bounce back at any point in the future?
Do they understand that she's got no brain?
Do they expect God to re-form the spinal fluid into a cerebral cortex again?
And, I really don't get it why they don't want her to go to God... isn't that a better place for her now?

R.B. NY

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of lame, arrogant, blasphemous people you are here....
God wants us to do whatever we can to save a human life, even if Terri is not up to your ..standards, she deserves our support and prayers.
Aren't you afraid that you might be wrong and be punished by God when your time comes? and it will come...

Anonymous said...

And, why do you think you know the mind of God? Whoa, that's arrogance on grand scale.
Oh, please don't give me some citation in the Bible.... there are some of us who don't believe in the stories of the Bible.. Zeus commands us otherwise!
I think the humane thing would be (like in biblical times) to let her go to her maker!

As for us meeting God... no, I'm not afraid that I'll be punished! At the very least, I'd tell God that he gave me a mind to use it critically..... and rationally!

Stephanie said...

Awesome Essay. I believe all that you state within in it. Although I probably could not have stated it so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

You should discuss the alegations made by a nurse at the hospice against Terri's husband....
And, you should discuss that doctor's statements that Terri is not "that bad" and can bring her back...

Susan, VA

Andros said...

Yes, thank you. Instead of replying to those incredible alegations here, I decided to have an addendum on the main page, because I think you're making an great point.
I believe that sometimes we have to deal even with incredible claims, because in the absense of a response many people take those claims as true.

Anonymous said...

Darn, you nailed it again.

Why hasn't anyone been asking the question:

OK, you're oppose the removal of the tubes, but on WHAT grounds?

I agree with you that most of those people are not advocating for Terri Schiavo, because I have a hunch that they would oppose even her written wishes not to be kept alive...

Yes, it's a matter of choice, and some people cannot possibly allow us the right to choose how to end our lives with dignity!

S.P. NY

Ben Mastaitis said...

You hit the nail on the head, nice essay. A few years back, Bill Clinton was accused of launching a military attack on Sudan and Afganistan to distract the public from his ethical lapses while in office. Why aren't more people raising questions about DeLay's timing of his involvement in this hot button issue? He is clearly cynical enough to do this to get the conservatives to rally to his side in the ongoing ethics battles he is facing.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this Dr. Hammesfahr described as "Nobel Prize nominee"???? Ha!
This is ridiculous.... He's not. Those people who have the authority to nominate a person for the Nobel Prize never submitted this charlatan's name to the Nobel committee!

But, what do you expect from the likes of The 700 Club, Fox, and other cons.

Read this, http://mediamatters.org/-items/200503220009
to find out about this dubious doctor.

Geeshus

Anonymous said...

It's about respecting one's wishes. Some people just don't accept this....and they don't recognize a person's life to leave with dignity, on his own terms so to speak.

Also, the more the issue is emotional the harder it is to discuss it, calmly and reasonably.

I don't mind people having different views, but I hate hypocrites!

Laura

Anonymous said...

What happened? Weren't the Republicans in favor of states' rights? To be fair, the Democrats are now looking to the progressive states to safeguard liberalism and promote progressive social changes!

I hope this case makes the states revisit the question whether an individual has the right to die, with dignity and choice... especially when the end is near and the alternative is just a prolonging the agony....

We are all going to die. There is no escape. It's unpleasant but it's a fact. Plan for it, do it for yourself and your loved ones... don't trap them in a situation like Terri's....
I know what my wishes are... I just hope my loved ones respect my choice, and that my state safeguards my right to choose my exit...

Meanwhile, here's to life!

Anne, NY

Andros said...

Actually the previous post reminded my that most people are uncomfortable about difficult issues, such as serious illness and death. When fear sets in, and overwhelms reason, then what follows is a purely emotional reaction... and in the search for comfort anything will do.... myths, superstitions and the supernatural, all become "real," acceptable alternatives....
I'm not blaming anyone who wants to aleviate his anxiety, but it does take a strong person to handle the truth when the facts are unpleasant...
It would have been more ethical and responsible to leave cheap politics and hypocisy out of this issue, but some people are too self-serving to do so....
It pisses me off...
This is a tragic case, no matter how you see it, and I'd have liked to have seen some more responsibility and dignified respect...

Anonymous said...

Well, many of the protestors want a theocracy here. Their brand, of course! Forget about your choice, if it's not considered as acceptable by religious doctrine!

Anonymous said...

The Republican memo circulated in the Senate didn't reveal anything new really... Bush and his party have defined the "interest in life" as a "culture of life" which means, reject abortion, birth control... and reject a person's right to choose treatment during the last days of his life!

It's a bunch of religious "bricks" that they want to build that society...

Gothamimage said...

Andros= good post , I will have to read more carefully later- as I have to run. I disagree with your comment on my blog- I think Delay and Frist and Bush won. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it has nothing to do with the particulars of the case or short term tactics, but strategic positioning and psychology. Frist is a very unattractive leader , as is Delay, but that is my point too.

Boston Dreamer said...

A great post. My thoughts exactly. I drove by the protests today. Wonder how they like being associated with the protester flying the Confederate battle flag.

Tuli said...

This is a brilliant piece and, as you know, I agree with the rule of law aspect of it.

However, while surfing the net, and reading various journals, etc., I came across an article that pretty much made me sit up and take notice. This article was especially noteworthy after having read the cloying piece on Jeb Bush in the NYT’s.

Dr. Whitehurst makes the point that politically progressives may be making a big mistake here in assuming that the voting public is rational based on the polls.

She points out that we may be making a deal that progressives shouldn’t be making and that can and will be used against us by the right.

She states:
By siding with her husband, we shoot ourselves in the foot in two ways: (1) we are reinforcing patriarchal nuclear family values as ensconced in the conservative circles ("when you marry, you leave your family and cleave to your spouse") and in the US legal system, wherein the spouse automatically has more authority over the incapacitated individual than his or her family of origin, and (2) we willingly give up all claims to supporting real "family values" (the extended family, not just the Dobson/Falwell nuclear family) such that we lay ourselves open to inaccurate but persuasive charges that we're "anti-family".

She also makes it clear that this is part of the religious-rights long term strategy. Note the “resurrection” of Randell Terry as legitimate spokesperson.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

You can read the rest of the article here:

http://www.counterpunch.org/whitehurst03282005.html

Andros said...

I'd like to see more of Randell Terry as a spokesperson of the rapture right. This guy is so absurd and tainted that he could only appeal to a very small number of numbskulls.

I don't always assume that the public acts rationally.... case in point the last election!
However, the good Dr.Whitehurst is making an error connecting the "spouse" to the "patriarchical society"....
When you marry you make a choice, and your spouse is legally considered the "next of kin"... it's your de-facto partner, when it comes to property, inheritance, and so forth...
Everyone knows this. And, the law does give us the option of making other arrangements regarding property, inheritance, and a ..living will!

In my conversations and postings, I pointed out that we sided with the husband because he was expressing Terri's wishes! This case was a matter of CHOICE. As long as we make the effort to point out that the opponents of Michael Schiavo were also against Terri's right to choose the treatment at the end of her life, then we should be fine. The vast majority of Americans accept that a person should have such a right.

We progressives should talk about family values. We should take this issue from them. Family values are: supporting a family succeed, healthcare, educating the children, day care, protecting the women from domestic violence, aleviating poverty--making sure those millions of American kids don't go to bed hungry in the 21st century USA...

I think progressive should be very careful but not shy attacking the issues... especially we must be smart enough to FRAME the issues correctly, and also try to control the language!

Tuli said...

Yes, frame the issues. George Lakoff. Brilliant.