The spectacle of political vultures hovering over the body of Terri
Schiavo has rightly disgusted millions. A CBS News poll last
week revealed that an overwhelming 82 percent of the public wants
the government out of this tragedy. This woman, irremediably brain-damaged
15 years ago, has been exploited by a despicable media frenzy and
by ghoulish right to life reactionaries including the Christian
right and the Catholic church who would impose their theocratic
dictates on society. Terri Schiavos husband Michael, who has spent
almost all of a $700,000 settlement on her care, has been dragged
through the mud by self-righteous politicians and sinister anti-abortion
With arrogant imperial power, President Bush and a Congressional
posse of all-purpose reactionaries have trampled human decency and
their own laws in the service of a bizarre Christian fundamentalist
agenda. Michael Schiavo spoke for the many thousands who face similar
decisions every year in the U.S. when he said: "What kind of
government is this? This is a human being. This is not right, and
Im telling everybody you better call your congressman, because
theyre going to run your life."
We say this capitalist state has no right to decide who shall live
and who shall die. That is why we also oppose the death penalty
on principle. The state has no business interfering into any
private, personal decisions. Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative
state from which she can never recover. She had told her husband
Michael she didnt want to be kept alive artificially, tied to tubes.
That should have been the end of it.
But not for the monsters currently running the American empire.
In the name of a mythical god, in the name of patriarchy, and in
the name of the capitalist state, these politicians are using Terri
Schiavos stragedy as another wedge to crush a womans
fundamental right to abortion. In a last-ditch effort to circumvent
the court rulings, Florida governor Jeb Bush unsuccessfully tried
to take state custody of Terri Schiavo. In 2003, Bush similarly
tried to circumvent the right to abortion by appointing a state
guardian for the fetus of an indigent, mentally disabled woman who
was pregnant as a result of rape. Operation Rescue founder Randall
Terry today organizes for Terris parents, while the current
president of Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups parade
before TV cameras. The Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values
Coalition, which runs vicious anti-gay campaigns, happily noted
the increased contributions to his group as the blessing that dear
Terri's life is offering to the conservative Christian movement
We wrote some years ago in an article titled In Defense of Dr.
Kevorkian (WV, No. 593, 4 February 1994): "The same
religious fanatics who terrorize abortion clinics in the name of
life are a moving force to ensure that you die in agony in the name
"Any veterinarian will put a fatally sick dog or cat out of
its misery. The opposition to applying the same elementary humanitarianism
to human beings is derived from the Christian concept of the human
soul, which only god can take. Unless, of course, the soul is one
of a criminal in which case often the same bible-thumping pro-lifers
will campaign for your death."
Dr. Jack Kevorkian was convicted in 1999 of assisting a terminally
ill patient to die. He is still in prison, though he should have
never spent a day in jail.
Meanwhile, the Christian fundamentalists have taken the White House.
Of course they dont care about the life of one woman. They have
massacred many thousands of men, women and children in Iraq, and
preside over a vast global torture network, exemplified by Abu Ghraib.
They have condemned millions upon millions more poor people, women
and children to disease, malnutrition and death in the U.S. and
abroad under their cruel ownership society, which means, if you
dont own anything, youre not part of their society. With 40 million
already uninsured, this right to life administration is further
slashing Medicare and Medicaid; medicine for profit means the lives
of the poor are of no account.
This March a black six-month-old infant died in Texas after his
breathing tube was removed under the Texas Futile Care Law, which
allows hospitals to terminate life support if theres no hope
of improvement even if the family objects. Then-governor of Texas
George W. Bush had no trouble signing that law. And today, when
President Bush intones it is wisest to always err on the side of
life, hes certainly not talking about the death penalty. Notorious
for his scrupulous disregard of any facts or legal histories involved,
he presided over 152 Texas executions.
Critic Frank Rich commented, "The Harvard Law School constitutional
scholar Laurence Tribe pointed out this week that even Joe McCarthy
did not go so far as this Congress and president did in conspiring
to try to undo the processes of a state court. But faced with McCarthyism
in Gods name, most Democratic leaders went into hiding and
stayed silent. Prayers are no more likely to revive their spines
than poor Terri Schiavos brain" (New York Times, 27
March). Of course, the Democrats, as under born-again Jimmy Carter
and Bill Clinton, play the religion card when it suits them. They
have been just as faithful to their capitalist masters in enforcing
the death penalty, slashing welfare, waging war and all the other
necessities of maintaining capitalist class rule as their partners
in the Republican Party.
The humane solution in the case of Terri Schiavo would be a swift,
merciful and painless injection, a measure which is currently unavailable
because of reactionary laws based on religion. A doctor writing
in the San Francisco Chronicle (25 March) described his outrage
at Terri Schiavos treatment, pointing out: "To the casual
observer, when Terri Schiavos eyes are closed, she appears
to be asleep. But unlike Sleeping Beauty, Schiavo cannot be aroused.
She is unable to recognize and respond to her surroundings except
in one way. She can respond to noxious stimuli.... So there Terri
Schiavo lies unable to move, poked and prodded, turned and repositioned....
Noxious stimuli are applied regularly to make sure she is still
Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher commented in his speech, On Socialist
Man (1966), that "Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic
tragedies hunger, sex and death besetting man. Hunger is the enemy
that Marxism and the modern labor movement have taken on.... But
is it not true that hunger or, more broadly, social inequality and
oppression, have hugely complicated and intensified for innumerable
human beings the torments of sex and death as well?" When the
wealth, tremendous resources and medical technology of this society
are put to the service of the many, not the profits of the few,
we will be able to build a society, freed of cruel and crippling
religious superstitions, where human life, human worth and human