|Alon Barlevy, PhD.|
President, Hubert Humphrey Democratic Club
Back in the 1980s, one fast food chain used the phrase "where is the beef?" in its advertising campaign to emphasize that it has more (literal) beef in its burgers than the competitors. As a testament to the success of the ad campaign, politicians started using that question against their opponents, making use of the figurative meaning of the word "beef" to mean "substance".
Today, in the post-Terri Schiavo world, we should ask the Republicans "Where is the culture of life"? During Terri's final days, the president and other Republican leaders kept repeating the phrases "to err on the side of life" and "culture of life". Such phrases sound like guidelines for a broad policy. It appears, though, that for the Republicans the "culture of life" phrase is applicable in only two cases: Terri Schiavo, and unborn fetuses. The law that the Republicans pushed through Congress to allow Schiavo's parents to appeal to the federal courts applies only to Terri Schiavo, and no other person. The name Theresa Marie Schiavo appears no fewer than six times in the language of the bill (a clear violation of the 14th amendment equal protection clause).
After the bill became law, it was discovered that Republican House Leader Tom DeLay pulled the tube from his own comatose father back in 1988. It was also discovered that while George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he signed a bill into law allowing Texas hospitals to disconnect life support if a physician, in consultation with a hospital bioethics committee, concludes that the patient's condition is hopeless.
When it comes to pregnancies, the Republicans have shown time and time again lots of compassion towards the unborn fetuses, but not as much for the babies after the birth. They do not like to give assistance to poor families with children (doesn't it take a village to raise a child?), nor do they like to provide healthcare to the poor. In fact, in May 2004, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from Huntington Beach, proposed an outrageous bill to withhold emergency room services from patients who cannot prove their legal immigration status. That sounds more like "err on the side of death" than "err on the side of life".
On second thought, perhaps the applicability of the "culture of life" phrase is even more restrictive than just Terri Schiavo and unborn fetuses. During the war in Iraq, in which by some estimates, 100,000 innocent civilians were killed (exact numbers are impossible to determine), there must have been (at least) several hundred innocent pregnant Iraqi women among the casualties. We have not seen the Republicans mourn the loss of those women and their fetuses. Perhaps the "culture of life" is restricted only to Terri Schiavo and unborn fetuses inside the wombs of mothers who have legally entered American soil?
If the religious right, which directly or indirectly (via corporations) contributes major portions of the campaign dollars raised by Republicans, decided to worship aardvarks, you can bet that major legislation would be rushed through both houses of congress to fund huge aardvark preserves across the country. Bills would be rammed through congress making it a capital crime to injure or kill them. We would have aardvark statues erected in front of Southern courhouses, biology texts in schools would devote entire chapters to the animal, Bush would direct major discretionary spending toward aardvark advocacy groups, and every aardvark death would be headline news on FOX News.
Republicans genuflect to money, not morals.