Via Ezra, a great post by Joe Klein (!) about how vicious and cruel the wingnuts who are exploiting end-of-life counseling provisions written into some versions of the bill are. For those who remember the Terri Schiavo nonsense—and who doesn’t?—this really should come as no surprise. And frankly, I’m always glad when the anti-choicers’ opposition to you having the right to die as you wish comes up, because when they’re out there attacking just women’s rights, the mainstream media treats these terminally silly and mean-spirited assholes like they’re serious, nay moral people. But everyone, including men, faces the possibility of a terminal illness that can be approached in different ways with different amounts of suffering. When anti-choicers attack the basic rights and dignity of men, especially older men, it’s a different ballgame altogether.*
When anti-choicers fight the right of mostly-elderly people to be able to say no to extensive suffering, Their fundamental fucked-up-ness becomes obvious. A lot of men have a Madonna/whore complex, but anti-choicers have a Pollyannaish/morbid complex. On one hand, they’re incredibly morbid people who relish the possibility of forcing others to suffer for their beliefs. During the Schiavo nastiness, they didn’t even try to hide that they thought that a young widower like Michael Schiavo should be forced not to move on and form other attachments. The Dr. Tiller murder exposed, I hope, how anti-choicers relish the idea of forcing women to die for their beliefs, or at least forcing them to give birth to babies that suffer for two days and then die miserably. But if that’s not clear enough, just look at the inroads they’re making in South America, where the Catholic church actively seeks out raped and pregnant 9-year-olds to make a big media stink to fight the abortion and show that the more horrible the situation, the more adamant they are that the suffering should be maximized. This should surprise no one who has read Christopher Hitchens’ expose of Mother Teresa, who was such a fan of maximizing suffering that she denied people in her hospital painkillers, because she thought pain was good for them.
It’s easy for people to look away from this morbid bent of the anti-choice movement when they just attack women who want early term abortions. Compared to forcing preteen rape victims to have babies or denying dying people painkillers, punishing the fornicating women with mandatory childbirth seems like small potatoes. But it’s part of the bigger package. They’ll maximize suffering wherever they can find a political toehold to do it, and in America, the way to do that is to push Pollyannaish fantasies that obscure the morbid agenda.
And that’s the flip side. Anti-choicers basically live to deny that their ideas will cause that much suffering. A ban on late-term abortion? They deny that there’s any need for it, and focus strictly on babies with Down’s syndrome, as if to imply that women are aborting to avoid the mere inconvenience of a child that needs just a little more help. That’s why the image of Sarah Palin cuddling Trig is anti-choice porn, because it’s a way for them to tell themselves that women who get medically indicated abortions are deluded about how easy it’ll be just to continue with pregnancy. They conceal cases where fetuses have their organs on the outside, for instance, and outright deny that there’s such thing as a dangerous pregnancy. Same story with elective abortions. There’s huge amounts of anti-choice propaganda that’s basically young women who claim they considered abortion going through with their pregnancies and finding out that a baby makes everything so perfect and amazing. Sure, there’s a hat tip to the idea that it’s hard—which is minimized—but the boyfriend marries you, your parents are thrilled, and life becomes pretty much perfect. Follow the coverage of Bristol Palin—who has clearly been instructed to dwell only on drawbacks like “I can’t go to the movies as much”, before she moves on to saying it’s the best thing that ever happened to her—and you get the picture. There’s no acknowledgment of the fact that most women who get abortions already have babies, and what little acknowledgment there is of the financial hardships center around pushing some diapers at women and suggesting that sort of charity will fix the problem.
And that’s what you’re getting with this bizarre “death panels” lie. They’re out there implying there’s no such thing as situations where prolonging life might be against a person’s own wishes. That’s why I joke that anti-choicers think they’ll never die. The only kind of death they’ll admit even happens in this discussion is murder, which they then stand against. Convenient, that. But the truth is that everyone is going to die, and because of technology, there’s a wide range of ways that could happen, and you do deserve the right to say how much suffering you should have to endure.
Bill Hicks did a routine in the 90s mocking “pro-lifers”. The joke was, if I may paraphrase: If you’re so pro-life, why don’t you protest graveyards. Lock arms and don’t let people in. “No, she can’t come in here! We’re pro-life!” “But she was 90 years old and died in a car accident!” “No exceptions!”
When he made that joke, he was being hyperbolic. Too bad his prediction basically came true.
*This is why the “right to lifers” flocked around Terri Schiavo, I suspect. They’ve had a lot of success stripping away the right to choose as long as their targets are young women, whose judgment and rights are held in very low regard in our society. So they had a reason to believe that the hostility to letting young women control their own sex lives would translate into hostility to letting young women say, “If I’m ever a vegetable, pull the plug.” But obviously, they miscalculated because long-suffering Michael Schiavo, who is a married man and allowed to make decisions, was understood by the public to be the one whose basic rights were under assault. By his in-laws, no less. Which changed the game immensely.