Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Pro-life, but not if we have to raise taxes to pay for it

An article in the Washington Post points out that while the Republicans pass laws intended to mandate that poor Terry Schiavo must be kept alive if anyone in her family wants it, they at the same time cut the Medicaid funding required for poor (or even middle class) families to be able to exercise their right to "choose life."

The Schiavo case is more and more looking like a political disaster for the Republicans, mainly because it is exposing the faultlines in the coalition. It was a Republican, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who first brought up the issue of Schiavo's Medicaid support. True, King brought it up mainly as a way of decrying Medicaid fraud, but then there's this:
The cost of care in cases such as Schiavo's has vexed governments for years. In 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed a law establishing procedures for hospitals and physicians to withhold life-sustaining care from patients with conditions deemed hopeless, even over relatives' protests. The legislation affords a family 10 days' notice to find another facility. Last week, Texas Children's Hospital in Houston invoked the law to remove a 6-month-old boy from his breathing tube against his mother's wishes.

I wonder if King would agree with the charge made by one of Tom DeLay's henchmen yesterday, who claimed that "tying a life issue to the budget process shows just how disconnected Democrats are to reality." I guess the DeLay logic is that while the government should apply a moral standard to many issues, it should never do so about anything concerning money. Certainly maintaining a Chinese Wall between money issues and moral issues is crucial to maintaining the governing coalition.

With all that said, the thing that seems most weird to me about the Schiavo case is this: why hasn't Michael just gotten a divorce from Terry and washed his hands of the whole matter? Here's a guy who (about seven years after his wife went into a coma) started a relationship and eventually a family with another woman.

As my mother pointed out to me last night, one cannot help but suspect that the real fight between Michael and the parents is over the $750,000 Michael received on behalf of Terry in a medical malpractice judgment in 1993. If he divorces her, he probably has to forfeit that money, which would then go to her parents. The article cites Michael's lawyers claiming that there is only $40-50K left from the malpractice, but presumably Terry's parents might also try to claim half of Michael's assets were he to divorce Terry.

In other words, what both the political and right and left have politicized as a battle between competing moral values--namely the right of parents to keep their daughter alive versus the right of a husband to enforce what (he claims) were his wife's wishes--may in fact be little more than a sordid battle over money.

Which only makes Terry's plight sadder, even as it makes the political circus that much more disgusting and disingenuous.

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