On the Culture Of Life

A modified letter on the matter of Terri Schiavo coverage suggested by Goose, sent to dozens of mainstream media outlets:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I know it is too late to make a difference in the outcome of the legislation, but it is reprehensible that Republican lawmakers and the President are willing to interfere in the Terry Schiavo case.

First, their actions are unconstitutional because they are disrupting the normal state of judiciary affairs. Schiavo’s case has had due process by Florida state judges, and they have consistently found that Terry Schiavo has the right to die as she would have chosen, and that her husband Michael Schiavo is the only person legally responsible for making that decision. At least he was, until Congress and President Bush stepped in.

What of family values? They have abrogated the most solemn charges of the Schiavo’s marriage vows. What of smaller government and less interference in citizens’ personal lives? They have made it a convenient lie. And what of the “culture of life?” They have taken up Terry’s parent’s cause to assuage their far right supporters, while simultaneously pushing for changes to tort law (the likes of which would have made Terry’s care impossible), bankruptcy law (which would have prevented the Schiavo family from recovering from her massive medical bills), and reducing Medicaid (which takes care of many patients like Terry around the country). Furthermore, President Bush signed legislation while governor of Texas that forced cessation of treatment in futile cases in the instance of inability to pay (the so-called “Texas Futile Care Law”) – where was his precious “culture of life” then? Life, it seems, comes second to medical industry profits in Texas, where just last week a baby was taken off life support against the wishes of his mother.

This is political grandstanding of the most obvious kind. One can only hope that the federal judge required by this new legislation will see fit to permit Michael Schiavo the right to allow Terry to die, as all other judges who have seen this case have.

My respect for the Republican legislators behind this legislation and President Bush is at an all time low. They are, one and all, hypocrites of the first order. That many Democrats supported this bill — and that 178 members of the House did not bother showing up to vote at all — makes me reconsider my party membership and faith in the intentions of federal government altogether.

The implications of this Congressional move are overwhelming. Whenever Congress doesn’t like the result in a particular case, it could eventually swoop in and call a “do-over,” and if this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. This case is not one that falls under a “federal question.” Should the federal courts be used in this manner, they can also be used from the bottom up to redecide other family disputes such as divorce and child custody. The Schiavo case is tragic, yes, but does not belong in the federal courts.

One’s job as a member of mainstream media is to give fair coverage of this event. Strip away Tom DeLay’s moral condemnation of Michael Schiavo, strip away this case’s tenuous ties to the abortion debate, strip away the bogus “culture of life,” strip away the political grandstanding and opportunity grab, and one is left with a glaring example of Republican hypocrisy, one that undermines nearly everything for which the party claims to stand. The brave news outlet is the one that calls this case like it is: Terri Schiavo is a political pawn and this Congressional measure is unforgivably transparent.

Sincerely,
Lauren BXXXX

________________________
For further information on the “federal question,” see Understanding The Federal Courts.

A full and compassionate look at the case is provided by Obsidian Wings.

Mahablog ties the case to an “Ownership Society.”

World O’ Crap looks into the marketing of this cause célèbre.

Amanda Marcotte poses that the publicity of this case would be unlikely to revolve around a man.

And Majikthise calls for a blogswarm, the reason for this post.

This letter was sent to:

360@cnn.com, 48hours@cbsnews.com, am@cnn.com, Colmes@foxnews.com, comments@foxnews.com, crossfire@cnn.com, dateline@nbc.com, daybreak@cnn.com, earlyshow@cbs.com, evening@cbsnews.com, Foxreport@foxnews.com, insidepolitics@cnn.com, inthemoney@cnn.com, live@cnn.com, livefrom@cnn.com, newsnight@cnn.com, nightline@abcnews.com, nightly@nbc.com, rrhodes@airamericaradio.com, today@nbc.com, wam@cnn.com, wolf@cnn.com, world@msnbc.com, wsj.ltrs@wsj.com, letters@nytimes.com, public@nytimes.com, netaudr@abc.com


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11 comments for “On the Culture Of Life

  1. March 21, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    One thing that killed me this morning was some Senator blow-hard during the debates calling Schiavo’s husband her “estranged” husband. As though because she’s freakin’ brain dead means he’s out cattin’ around and they’re “not getting along.” They were married when she was injured, they’re still married now. The estranged thing makes it sound like he has a vendetta, rather than he’s trying to honor her wishes.

    I also wish I could get my hands on whatever quack doctor is telling those parents this woman could “get better with therapy.” Yeah, and that particular doctor could put his/her kids through grad school.

  2. March 21, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    Oh Lauren. What’s a “Culture of Life” stance without a little hypocrisy and purveying a blatantly religious/ideological agenda? Come now. Surely you know how the Radical-Rightwing works ;-)

    Though this does seem rather OOC for the GOP as they are supposed to be anti-big-government intrusion and “leave it up to the States’ judiciay” party.

    And wouldn’t a pro-Culture-of-Life party also be pro-universal-healthcare, anti-torture, and anti-war? Whoops. That’s the beauty of the hypocrisy. Selective “culture of life” stances. And well done, for sending this to all of those networks and news outlets.

  3. March 21, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Damn. That’s “judiciary”. Damn it. Forgot the ‘r’.

  4. March 21, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Adrienne, (and others) participate in the blogswarm. Start sending letters. There is little else we can do other than voice our outrage (and save some up for the next electoral season).

  5. March 21, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Brilliant series. Thank you for putting it together.

  6. March 22, 2005 at 7:41 pm

    Furthermore, President Bush signed legislation while governor of Texas that forced cessation of treatment in futile cases in the instance of inability to pay (the so-called “Texas Futile Care Law”) – where was his precious “culture of life” then? Life, it seems, comes second to medical industry profits in Texas, where just last week a baby was taken off life support against the wishes of his mother.

    As much as I loathe GWB, I can’t fault him for this one. The law isn’t about ability to pay, although a lot of blogs are framing it this way. Read http://www.leanleft.com/archives/2005/03/20/4103/ . The writer is a leftist medical ethicist. Interesting reading.

  7. Dark Bruise
    March 23, 2005 at 12:34 am

    You seem really smart ‘n all, so I was hoping you could help me understand this issue. I haven’t been following it at all. Here’s my question:

    “First, their actions are unconstitutional because they are disrupting the normal state of judiciary affairs.”

    If I understand you correctly, it sounds like the reason it is unconstiutional is “because” Congress is “disrupting the normal state of judiciary affairs.” Where in the Constitution does it say that Congress can’t disrupt the normal state of judiciary affairs? That sounds like a great argument, and I’d like to use it to impress my friends, but I figrrd I’d better back it up with a textual reference or two ‘n hoped y’d be able to help me.

    Thanks in avance

  8. March 23, 2005 at 12:44 am

    It isn’t so much unconstitutional as it undermines the reasons for the federal court system in the first place (which I suppose makes it unconstitutional as it disrupts the balance of powers — must look into this). See the link to the “federal question.” As I said in the letter (which was partially swiped from Goose, linked above, and edited to my liking):

    Whenever Congress doesn’t like the result in a particular case, it could eventually swoop in and call a “do-over,” and if this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. This case is not one that falls under a “federal question.” Should the federal courts be used in this manner, they can also be used from the bottom up to redecide other family disputes such as divorce and child custody.

    Congress makes laws, and the courts test them. The only way that Schiavo’s parents got this into federal court was saying that her Constitutional rights were undermined, but again, the courts have not only given her case due process, but have decided the consistently every time. The danger is that Congress, with a political bone to pick, can call for the do-over, undermine the court systems, and get a political decision that it wants, not necessarily one that is fair or just.

    This argument transcends the case into a sphere far more philosophical. The implications here are enormous. Are we a nation based on law or on political trend and grandstanding?

  9. Dark Bruise
    March 23, 2005 at 2:36 am

    Have you ever heard of “jurisdiction stripping”? I’ve heard Congress has the power to strip the federal courts of power to hear certain cases. Congress, after all, created the lower federal courts and could abolish them all together. That, I suppose, would “undermine” the reasons for the federal court system, though it certainly wouldn’t make it unconstitutional. So, while this whole Shiavo thing sounds fishy to me, I can’s say that merely “undermining” the lower federal courts would make the act unconstitutional.

    “Whenever Congress doesn’t like the result in a particular case, it could eventually swoop in and call a “do-over,” and if this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing.”

    Sounds true, but I don’t know. On what basis is Congress claiming the power?

    I’m going to look up some articles now. I’m finally curious. Thanks.

    “The only way that Schiavo’s parents got this into federal court was saying that her Constitutional rights were undermined, but again, the courts have not only given her case due process, but have decided the consistently every time. The danger is that Congress, with a political bone to pick, can call for the do-over, undermine the court systems, and get a political decision that it wants, not necessarily one that is fair or just.”

    I fear the opposite. The public is going to be so angry at the judges and the courts that this will help Bush get the public support needed to push his right-wing judges through. They keep yelling about “judicial activism” and “legislating from the bench.” Public attention is on the courts more than ever before in recent times, and public opinion seems to back keeping her alive. I’d pull the plug myself if I could, but that’s another story.

  10. March 23, 2005 at 2:46 am

    The public is going to be so angry at the judges and the courts that this will help Bush get the public support needed to push his right-wing judges through.

    Perhaps, but not from this case alone. Americans are in overwhelming disagreement with Congressional action on this particular case.

    – 70% of Americans say it is inappropriate for Congress to involve itself in the Schiavo case.

    – 67% of Americans “think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.” (Just 19% believe the elected officials are acting out of concern for her or their principles.)

    – 58% of Republicans, 61% of independents and 63% of Democrats oppose federal government intervention in the case.

    – 50% of evangelicals oppose federal government intervention in the case; 44% approve of the intervention.

    – 63% of Catholics and a plurality of evangelicals believe Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed.

    By no means is there a consensus on the right.

  11. Dark Bruise
    March 23, 2005 at 3:13 am

    Okay. I hadn’t followed it closely enough to know that. I just read some articles. This one seems to sum it up best. Interesting quote:

    “Because of the novel legal questions, several constitutional law professors said they spent much of Monday analyzing the issues and weighing whether Congress had gone too far in passing the law. Several said the law raised troubling problems, particularly since it singled out one person for preferential treatment.

    But others noted that those problems didn’t necessarily doom the law. Congress passes legislation frequently that benefits one person or one corporation. The tax code, for example, is filled with specific passages that are unique to one company.

    Moreover, Congress has always had the power to pass “bills for private relief.” Amar’s father, Dr. Argan Amar, was the recipient of such legislation 40 years ago, when he was facing deportation back to India. His senator in Michigan introduced legislation that permitted Amar to stay past his ordinary deportation date, notwithstanding the immigration laws, Amar said.

    “You can pass laws creating a benefit for people,” Amar said. “Congress does that all the time.”

    But what Congress cannot do, Amar said, is pass a law that would impose a penalty on one person, singling him out for disfavored treatment. He said Michael Schiavo could argue that Congress had done just that with its legislation because it prolonged his wife’s agony.”

    http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/politics/11196251.htm

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