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Right to Life?

Ghouls and the Schiavo Case
Workers Vanguard, No. 845, 1 April 2005.

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 Schiavo’s 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 bigots.

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 I’m telling everybody you better call your congressman, because they’re 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 didn’t 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 Schiavo’s stragedy as another wedge to crush a woman’s 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 Terri’s 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 in America.

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 of god."

"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 don’t 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 don’t own anything, you’re 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 there’s 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, he’s 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 God’s name, most Democratic leaders went into hiding and stayed silent. Prayers are no more likely to revive their spines than poor Terri Schiavo’s 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 Schiavo’s treatment, pointing out: "To the casual observer, when Terri Schiavo’s 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 there."

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 dignity count.

 

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