Why liberal secularists want to kill Terri Schiavo

Ben Shapiro

10/22/2003 12:00:00 AM - Ben Shapiro

If the state of Florida had not acted, Terri Schiavo would soon be dead. She would have died because liberal secularists value death over life.

Terri Schiavo is an innocent woman. In 1990, at the age of 26, she became brain damaged as a result of a sudden medical collapse. Oxygen flow to her brain stopped, and she lost the ability to move or communicate with any regularity. But she is still alive. She breathes on her own. Her heart beats on its own. She smiles, cries and responds to family members.

While Terri's parents wished to keep her alive, Terri's husband, Michael, wanted to pull the food tube from Terri's mouth and allow her to starve and dehydrate to death.

Why? The reasons are unclear. Michael said that Terri would not want to live as she does now -- that it would be better for her to die. Some evidence suggests that Michael wanted Terri to die because he would have gained financially from her demise. Michael would have received the remainder of Terri's $750,000 medical fund, as well as possible life insurance money.

This case is nuanced enough that pro-lifers and pro-pull-the-pluggers should not have split along political lines. But strangely enough, the pro-Terri vs. pro-Michael debate did divide along political lines. In broad terms, those defending Terri's right to life are anti-abortion; those defending Michael's plug-pulling are pro-choice. Those defending Terri's right to life are religious; those defending Michael's plug-pulling are secular. Those defending Terri's right to life are politically conservative; those defending Michael's plug-pulling are politically liberal. Why?

Because America's conservative religious community constantly strives to find reasons for preserving life, in accordance with the biblical text: "Before you I have placed life and death, the blessing and the curse. You must choose life, so that you and your descendants will live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). For the religious, every life is worth living, even if we do not know the purpose of a given life. Terri Schiavo is a life -- therefore, Terri Schiavo is worth saving.

Those who are liberal and secular focus on "quality of life." What kind of life is worth living? Is the mentally disabled child worth keeping or aborting? Should the elderly, in pain, riddled with disease, be allowed euthanasia? Not only are these questions asked, they are all answered in the same way: Those kinds of lives are not worth living. Terri Schiavo's life is of limited quality -- therefore, Terri Schiavo is not worth saving.

It cuts even deeper than a "quality of life" issue for secularists. In many cases, abortion is not a quality-of-life issue. Even if the child will grow up happy and healthy, secularists do not oppose aborting that child. An abortion is an abortion is an abortion. Invariably, the secularists side with death.

Secularists often celebrate death. According to WorldNetDaily, at a national meeting of abortion providers, Michael Haskell, the creator of the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure, narrated a graphic video of a partial-birth abortion. When he was finished, the crowd burst into applause.

This analysis leaves one question unanswered: What about the death penalty? Liberal secularists in large part oppose the death penalty, while the conservative religious support it. Isn't this a reversal of the religious/pro-life, secular/pro-death formula?

When the death penalty debate is distilled to its essence, the formula once again asserts itself. Religious people who support the death penalty support it because they sympathize with the life of the victim over that of the murderer. In order to show the value of each human life, we must give the ultimate penalty to anyone who destroys a life.

Secularists who oppose the death penalty oppose it because they do not value human life as much as do the religious. When the punishment for murder does not fit the crime, human life is devalued. When murderers are given sympathy, life is devalued. The same person who argues against the death penalty for murderers also argues for mercy for rapists and parole for hoodlums.

A society must be based on love of life, whether that life is perfect or the life of Terri Schiavo. We must choose life in order that we may live. For who among us has a perfect life? Had we all been aborted, or had the plug been pulled, or had a murderer been set free, society would have no meaning -- we would descend to the level of animals. Which might be the goal of the liberal secularists in the first place.