Sunday, March 20, 2005

Pro-lifers: A little consistency, please

The continuing case of Terri Schiavo certainly gives one pause. The pro-lifers say that life is more important than anything, but that ignores the issue of quality of life. In Ms. Schiavo's case, there is no quality of life. By all accounts she's brain dead, essentially a vegetable, her body an empty shell. There's no thinking, feeling mind there, no soul left. Her husband argues for her right to die, a mercy killing that the pro-lifers view as killing, period. Her parents continue to hold hope for some sort of miraculous recovery, although doctors say that isn't possible. It's a messy family matter, writ large on the national stage; the perhaps-irrational hope of the parents versus the reluctant acknowledgment of the sad reality by the husband.

This is a tragic situation on its own, and it's made more tragic by its elevation to national status. In my opinion, this is an extremely private situation that should be an equally private decision, and shouldn't be subject to the attention and whims of the national public. It's even worse when craven politicians get involved, as our feeble-brained Congress is trying to do. Using this woman's tragic plight for political gain is shameful at best, potentially criminal (in a constitutionally corrupt manner) at worst. Let the husband do what he has to do for his wife; keep the courts and the senators and the congressmen out of it.

Of course, this is a political matter for the religious right, an issue made-to-order to illustrate their take-no-prisoners pro-life stance. It's the flip side of the abortion issue; every life is sacred, the quality of that life be damned. Not that I want politicians or bureaucrats deciding who should live and who should die, but I'm definitely okay with an individual making this sort of personal life-or-death decision. (The Schiavo case is complicated by the lack of a living will, so Ms. Schiavo's own wishes are apparently unknown -- hence the court action.) It's not the government's place to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body, including whether I can or cannot take my own life. For some people, quality of life matters more than simply life itself; I respect that opinion.

I'd have more respect for the rabid pro-lifers if they were at least a little consistent in their views. Killing an unthinking, unfeeling, unborn fetus is a heinous crime, but it's okay for the state to kill convicted criminals -- even youngsters, as it was before the recent Supreme Court ruling. Taking a permanently brain-dead person off life support is criminal, but it's okay for the state to send American troops overseas to kill tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. If all life is sacred, then so is the life of a thinking, feeling, breathing convicted felon, and certainly that of an equally thinking, feeling, breathing Iraqi civilian. If these hypocritical right-wingnut religious fascists continue to condone state-sponsored executions and deadly military actions, then they forfeit the moral high ground when it comes to abortion, mercy killing, and other similar gray-area issues.

If you're truly pro-life, then you should hold the following positions:

- Oppose the death penalty, in all cases

- Support stronger gun-control laws, since guns kill people -- especially handguns and assault weapons

- Oppose U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, where tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of innocent civilians have been killed

Unfortunately, most pro-lifers tend to support the death penalty, oppose gun control, and enthusiastically support murdering foreigners in the name of national security. That's extremely hypocritical, no matter how you look at it.

Personally, I want less government intervention in private decisions, which I suppose makes me a bit of a Libertarian in these matters. I want the right to do whatever the hell I want to to my own body, even if that includes killing myself. The right to die is sacred, and to me defines the term personal liberty. What can be more personal than one's own life?

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.


Paul Tietjens said...

The idea that gun control is pro-life is a little backwards.

If all life is sacred, then killing is wrong.

If killing is wrong, then so is capital punishment, war, murder, abortion (assuming you can accept any fetus or potential fetus as 'alive' - and now we've discovered the roots of the abortion debate).

However, guns are not, in and of themselves, killing people. Naturally, the gun is the instrument of killing, and it's safe to say that guns are used only to kill things (Sometimes people sometimes deer, etc) - but it's accepted that, as you pointed out, hand guns and assault rifles are in fact primarily intended to kill or injure people.

That being said, it does not follow that eliminating guns will eliminate violent death - whereas eliminating capital punishment (which we know is the ACT of killing people) will, in effect, stop capital punishment.

Now if you said "against killing people with guns" then I suppose we have something there.

Pro-life must be anti self-defense, since in self defense, a life is often taken.

That easily extends to war. Someone who is "pro life" is we take the meanings of "pro" and "life" to mean "against the killing of people in any manner" would certainly be against any kinds of war, and against anyone who is attacked in way of defending there lives with violent force.

Pacifism often works well, but something tells me it can't always be as effective as it was for Martin Luther King and Ghandi (who had some relatively civilized people taking interest).

By extension, should "against the killing of people in any manner" also mean accidental, or indirect killing? Certainly, drunk driving would be in this category. So would producing a product that accidentally kills people (bad drugs, bad cars, and yes bad guns, I guess). Would the production of anything commonly used as a weapon be involved here? For instance, if we ban guns (and succeed in making them available only to criminals) and therefore people begin using knives and sticks to defend themselves, we may as well ban knives and sticks to attempt to accomplish the same end we wanted when banning guns.

But I digress. In the end, you are most correct, and I find myself in total agreement with you. "Pro life" just isn't a very good label, once you attempt to define the terms "pro" and "life". Maybe it really means "anti abortion". At least there, it sounds honest, and less spinny. :)

The Curmudgeon said...

Paul, glad to see someone else catch my drift.

As to the guns thing, like I said, I'm basically Libertarian, which means less government control, not more, but it's hard to argue in favor of the continuing right to bear arms -- handguns and assault weapons, particularly. While one could argue in favor of hunting rifles, handguns and assault weapons are used almost exclusively to kill humans, which is not only against the law in most places, it's definitely not pro-life. So I wouldn't lose any sleep if someone eventually out-lobbies the NRA and we get some reasonable gun control laws on the books.

But, of course, that isn't my main point, as you know. It's that most so-called pro-lifers are laughably inconsistent in their beliefs. The death penalty is the easiest one to see. Far too many pro-lifers are disturbingly enthusiastic about executing the criminal element in our society. Seems to me a living, breathing, adult person has more of a right to life than a vegetative patient on life support or an unborn fetus or collection of embryonic cells.

However, even if I buy the pro-life argument, I still say that personal choice and individual liberty trumps any attempt at governmental control, such as outlawing abortion or assisted suicide. (And, to be consistent, I suppose I'd support the right to buy a gun to shoot yourself with -- just not to shoot someone else!)