A Battle, Not the War
It is a well-known fact of military history that, as wars are made up of a series of battles, certain battles prove decisive, marking the great turning points of the war. The same is true of the culture war.
So it was that Roe v. Wade marked a great turning point. In one well-orchestrated court decision the right to abortion successfully grafted upon the Constitution, so that in each battle thereafter the rule of law could be invoked to spread ever more broadly the court-justified slaughter of the unborn.
As with all wars, there is little time for rumination and conjecture because new battles press upon us. We face one right now — in the case of Terri Schiavo, a decisive battle in the war between the culture of life and the culture of death, this time in regard to euthanasia. If Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, is successful in his ongoing quest to starve his wife to death, then those who fight against euthanasia will be cast back, losing immeasurably precious ground and teetering ever closer to defeat and surrender.
In short, the fight for and against euthanasia hinges on the outcome of the Schiavo case. Pro-lifers received a prayed-for victory when, eight days after Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stepped in and pushed an emergency law through the state legislature to reinsert the tube. But since Michael Schiavo is immediately challenging the constitutionality of the law — and more and more right-to-die advocates gather like birds of prey to support his cause — the case will drag on and up through the courts, most likely ending at the Supreme Court.
Sadly, the reinsertion of the feeding tube represents only a momentary victory for the pro-life cause, one that could easily be lost.
What makes the battle for Terri Schiavo's life so crucial, so decisive? After all, whether we like to admit it or not, euthanasia has been gaining steady ground in the everyday push and pull of the culture wars. In fact, euthanasia is already quite widespread, regardless of its legality. It simply occurs below the radar, so to speak, in just the same way abortion occurred below the legal radar prior to Roe. So why focus our attention and efforts on the Schiavo case? What makes it a landmark?
First of all, it has risen above the radar. The majority of the media have tried to ignore it, simply refusing to cover it as newsworthy, or they have grossly misrepresented the facts (e.g., calling Terri brain-dead or vegetative, when she is only brain-damaged). Yet, even against these obstacles, it has received national recognition. National recognition, despite its attendant distortions and simplifications, enables the nation to argue openly about fundamental moral principles rather than leaving oral principles to be distorted or dissolved by activist lawyers and judges.
There is another benefit from national attention. It allows light to be shed upon deeds of darkness. The greatest victories for the pro-life movement in regard to abortion will be won by the ever-greater advance of our technical ability to see the unborn in the womb. Pro-abortion folk fear high-resolution 4-D ultrasound pictures — showing babies moving, thumb sucking, crying, blinking and even smiling — like vampires fear the cross.
In regard to the Schiavo case, the public outcry that finally brought Jeb Bush to intervene was, in great part, the result of the clandestine videos of Terri Schiavo made by her father, showing very clearly that Terri is not brain-dead or in a persistent vegetative state — videos made illegally because Michael had successfully pushed for a court order to disallow her actual condition to be brought to light.
In short, the fight for and against euthanasia hinges on the outcome of the Schiavo case.
Near the end of Michael Schiavo's appearance on “Larry King Live” on Oct. 27, King asked him, “Could CNN send in cameras and video her for a while?” After fumbling for an answer, Michael's lawyer, a noted pro-death advocate, stepped in and deflected the question: “Terri has a right to privacy.” Michael, picking up the thread, added, “Can you imagine? In this condition, everybody sitting looking at her?”
Indeed. Just such viewing saved her life once, bringing to light her actual condition. I suspect Terri would be as little worried about her right to privacy as would an unborn baby at the sight of a 4-D ultrasound that would save him from the abortionist.
Speaking of the right to privacy — a right used to undergird the killing of the unborn — another landmark aspect of the Terri Schiavo case is the insidious way her wishes are being inferred. It is dark enough that people are demanding euthanasia on their own behalf; it is far, far darker that the Florida courts have accepted Michael's testimony that it was Terri's wish not to live with the aid of a feeding tube — a testimony based on uncorroborated private, casual conversations (which two of Michael's family members, as of late, have suddenly surfaced to affirm).
If Michael wins and Terri's feeding tube is again (and for the last time) removed, the euthanasia movement will then be able to project its own desires on those who, through some disability, can no longer express them. Even if she had said such things, imagine the use the pro-death forces could make if casual remarks take the place of living wills.
It is all the more amazing that Terri's fate hangs on such thin evidence, because her husband's character and motives, even by the standards of the culture of death, are more than a little suspect. Almost 14 years ago, in February 1990, Terri Schiavo “collapsed” under mysterious conditions. As a 1991 bone scan uncovered — a scan that itself has only very recently been uncovered — Terri had suffered a history of trauma, not only injuries to the ribs, thoracic vertebrae, both sacroiliac joints, both ankles and both knees but also a head injury severe enough to have led to her disabled condition.
In short, Terri was long the victim of serious physical abuse, and her husband is the prime suspect. That makes the “collapse” itself a rightful object of investigation as a continued pattern of abuse. Not too surprisingly, Michael has done everything possible to keep Terri's medical records from public view and has even ordered that her body be cremated upon death. A cremated body is a notoriously difficult object for an autopsy.
Yet another twist in regard to Michael Schiavo's character: Terri did undergo therapy in that first year, and the therapy did result in improvement of her condition. What spelled the end of her therapy and hence the end of her improvement? In late 1992, her husband won a lawsuit that awarded him more than a million dollars, $750,000 of which was supposed to be used for her therapy.
But quite suddenly, beginning in 1993, Michael denied all therapy. That's all therapy — not only rehabilitative but also basic medical care. He demanded not only a Do Not Resuscitate order on her medical chart but also issued an order that she be denied even routine antibiotics. Why? Well it so happens that if Terri would die, then he would receive the money.
By a Thread
Finally, the same husband who vows that he seeks his wife's death only because he loves her so much is now living with a woman with whom he has two children, and strong evidence exists that he was dating during or soon after the original lawsuit that gained him such a grand award. Further, nurses have sworn under penalty of perjury that Michael uttered such loving remarks about his wife as “When is she going to die?” “Has she died yet?” and “When is that b-------going to die?”
So, when we add in his character, it makes for a wonderful context to make the Schiavo case a legal landmark. Much like the pro-abortion forces that had to defend Bill Clinton's womanizing to further their cause, pro-euthanasia forces will find themselves in the unenviable position of defending Michael Schiavo's character in order to advance euthanasia.
Pro-life forces, then, should not rest after the momentary reprieve given by Jeb Bush. Terri Schiavo's life still hangs by the very thread that even now is winding its way through judicial channels. As Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, has made clear, it will be a landmark case. The question is, will it be one that marks a great victory or a great defeat for the culture of life?
Benjamin Wiker writes from Steubenville, Ohio.