How are these two news stories related?

Item No. 1:

[Ark. state] Sen. Jason Rapert filed legislation that would require a test to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. If one is detected, a woman could not have an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and if a mother’s life is in danger.

… By leaving just two weeks for most women to find out they’re pregnant and get an abortion, laws like these are essentially out-right bans.

Item No. 2:

Sen. Jason Rapert: “We’re going to take this country back for the Lord. We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!”

The first item is about a devout Christian and socially conservative Republican working to save the lives of the unborn by passing tough new laws criminalizing abortion after six weeks.

The second item is about a Koch-funded tea-party activist whipping up crowds with a xenophobic rant against “minorities” and anyone who isn’t a straight, white, Christian and therefore not a legitimate member of “this country,” which belongs to “the Lord” and to the Lord’s chosen children, the aforementioned straight, white Christians.

And they’re both the same person.

That’s the obvious connection and the obvious relationship between these two stories: They’re both about Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert.

But do these stories have anything else in common? How else are these stories related? Are they contradictions? Or are they complements?

It could be that the values Rapert expresses in the second item contradict the values he expresses in the first. That one of these stories shows Rapert following a false god, while the other shows him following the One True God of real, true Christianity.

Or it could be that the values Rapert expresses in the first item reinforce the values he expresses in the second, and that Rapert’s behavior in the second item is perfectly consistent with his behavior in the first.


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  • Mark Z.

    See, now that is awesome.

    It will be less awesome in ten years when someone gets kicked out of a bicycle race because he has those things implanted in his legs, but that’s the price we pay…for SCIENCE!

  • The_L1985

     The main argument, IIRC, was whether Terri was still aware, or was in a PVS (permanent vegetative state).  I remember a lot of photos of Terri allegedly moving her head to look at people in the room, combined with a lot of statements that Terri’s parents remembered her making along the lines of “where there’s life there’s hope.”  Of course, she didn’t make out a living will, and her husband insisted the whole time that she would have wanted to be euthanized, so that aspect of things was entirely a “he said-she said” sort of thing.

    Frankly, I found the particular manner of death to be rather disconcerting.  “Removing the feeding tube” meant she was, essentially, starved.  Aware or not, I don’t like the thought of anyone dying of starvation.  I really wish we could have meaningful euthanasia laws that could allow you to have “Euthanize me if XYZ happens” in your living will, and actually let doctors comply with it.

  • The_L1985

     Good point.

  • Leum

    Frankly, I found the particular manner of death in that case to be
    rather disconcerting.  “Removing the feeding tube” meant she was,
    essentially, starved.  Aware or not, I don’t like the thought of anyone
    dying of starvation.  I really wish we could have meaningful euthanasia
    laws that could allow you to have “Euthanize me if XYZ happens” in your
    living will, and actually let doctors comply with it.

    Me too. Starving someone to death instead of painlessly euthanizing them is inhumane.

  • Carstonio

    The column here is about the stem cell issue, but the tactic Mitch Albom describes was used again with Schiavo:

    “This bill would support the taking of innocent human life …” he said. “Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value.”

    OK. If Bush’s believes that, why isn’t he closing down every
    fertility clinic in America right now? Almost any woman who goes in for
    fertility treatments ends up producing more embryos than are implanted…

    “Crossing this line would be a mistake,” Bush said. But those are code
    words for what this is all about: making it look, sound and feel like
    the abortion debate.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

     I thought I remember at the time people saying that starving to death, especially in that kind of controlled environment with access to any necessary pain medicine, is pretty much painless. Not that I don’t agree with the need for real euthanasia, but IIRC, they were quite clear that she wasn’t suffering, aware or not.

  • B


    Of course, she didn’t make out a living will, and her husband insisted the whole time that she would have wanted to be euthanized, so that aspect of things was entirely a “he said-she said” sort of thing.

    I don’t think I’d call it a he-said-she-said issue.  I had some friends who’d recently gotten married at the time this happened and one of them remarked to me that one of the things that disturbed him about the incident is that much as he loved his parents, he wanted his wife to be the one who made decisions about his medical care if he couldn’t… as legally is supposed to be the case.  Michael Schiavo was her husband, IMO it was supposed to be his decision.

  •  Though I know it wouldn’t help, I kinda wish the next time someone proposes a law based on fetal heartbeats, that the opposition would bring in petri dishes of beating cardiac tissue to demonstrate just how stupid this is.

  •  My understanding is that there’s no significant difference that isn’t better represented by other demographics (Which is to say, a poor democrat of color and a poor republican of color are roughly equally likely to have an abortion, and a rich white republican and a rich white democrat are roughly equally likely)

  • The_L1985

     I’m not sure why it squicks me as much as it does.

  •  In the case in question, there’s really no question of one death being “painless” and one not. It’s been pretty well established that Terri Schaivo was not able to feel pain at that point, no matter what Bill Frist says.

  • One of the major controversies in the case was that the folks trying to keep Terry Schiavo on life support were painting the narrative that Michael Schaivo was a murderous brute looking for an excuse to get rid of his wife. Hardly anyone mentions that Michael Schaivo wasn’t just making a wild guess about what his wife would have wanted — he became a nurse during the course of her treatment, so that he would have some professional basis from which to decide whether or not her condition was the kind of hopeless that she wouldn’t have wanted to live with.

  • Makabit

    No, you’re correct. A fetus ‘breathes’ the amniotic fluid, pulling it in and out of his or her lungs to get the muscle motions down, and help the lungs develop. (I put ‘breathes’ in quotes, since they don’t get oxygen from the action, IIUC, they just get breathing practice.) They also get hiccups a lot while doing this. When you’re in late pregnancy, you start to notice the hiccuping.

  • IIRC, brainwaves appear around the fifth month, but don’t become distinct from those of non-human apes until sometime in the seventh; if we’re going to use a physiological marker other than breathing (my preferred answer) for personhood, that’s the one I’d go with.  Of course, that would set a later cut-off for when states can restrict abortion than the “viability” standard established in Roe, but that’s a good thing, IMHO. (My preferred answer to when states can restrict abortion is “never,” because women’s bodies are their own property, not the state’s.)

  • The_L1985

     Michael Schiavo is a nurse?  I honestly did not know that.  Shame on the “pro-life” folks who deliberately hid relevant information like that!

  • The_L1985

     Thank you!  I’d been wondering, but with the prevalence of propaganda sites, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to actually find the truth and would just get the tired old “8 weeks after conception” lie again.

  • I hadn’t heard that particular plop in the cesspool of stupidity surrounding the Terry Schiavo case.  Kind of underlines the Catholic hierarchy’s disregard for consent as a basis of sexual ethics, doesn’t it?  “Keep her breathing, because then someone might be able to rape her and get her pregnant!”  Yeah, that’s a great reason to keep someone in a persistant vegetative state on life support.  Of course, even by their consent-doesn’t-matter morality, that would have to be her husband — the same person who was arguing most strenuously to put an end to the grotesque and futile animation of his wife’s corpse.

  • I think the self-interest of the parties, as such, takes a distant backseat to other interests, such as promoting policies consistent with their values, for the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans.

  • Yeah. And not just “is a nurse” — he made the decision to become a nurse in order to better care for his wife, and it was as a result of that course of study that he came to understand what her condition really was and really meant, and only then came to the conclusion that she wouldn’t have wanted to be kept alive.

  • The_L1985

    The picture Terri’s parents’ side of the issue painted was one of an abusive, angry husband who would go to wherever Terri was being kept at the time and yell, “Why isn’t that ***** dead yet?” and whose exes wouldn’t testify against him because they were all terrified of him.  It was often implied, if not outright stated, that Michael Schiavo deliberately inflicted severe injuries on his own wife that caused the brain damage in the first place, and had bribed the doctors to destroy the evidence.

    Clearly none of this is true at all, and Michael Schiavo was the victim of a rather vicious campaign of slander. I can only imagine how terrible it must have been, not only to watch his wife lie there and know she’d never be her old self again, but to watch his own in-laws tell such horrible lies about him on a regular basis just so they could get their way.

    When you feel the need to make up horrible lies about someone to bolster your own case, something is badly wrong.  When you actually do make up those lies, it makes you a pretty fucking disgusting human being.  I am now totally ashamed of taking the side I did in the whole fiasco, and that I believed that side without any doubts, without having any information from the other side at all.  Literally every piece of information I had about Terri Schindler-Schiavo at the time of her death was from either her parents, or from “pro-life” propaganda mills.  It didn’t yet occur to me that the fact that no citations were ever given, and not a word was breathed about where you could get info about Michael’s side of the case, were really suspicious.

  • Lori


    I don’t think I’d call it a he-said-she-said issue.  I had some friends
    who’d recently gotten married at the time this happened and one of them
    remarked to me that one of the things that disturbed him about the
    incident is that much as he loved his parents, he wanted his wife
    to be the one who made decisions about his medical care if he
    couldn’t… as legally is supposed to be the case.  Michael Schiavo was
    her husband, IMO it was supposed to be his decision. 

    One of the things that really bothered me was the way her parents seemed to think they should make the decision because they were her parents, with the implication that they knew her best. (I know they were also POed at her husband, but there was also this underlying assumption that of course they knew her best because she was their child.

    I had no idea what their family actually situation was, but a cold shiver still ran up my spine because I knew my family situation. When it comes to this kind of issue my parents hardly know me at all. I filled out all the living will paperwork right after that, authorizing my then-SO to make decisions for me. I don’t have a huge amount of confidence that it would hold up if my family fought it, but I gave it my best shot. G is the person who would be in the best position to figure out what I would actually want done in a given situation. My parents would base their decisions on beliefs I most definitely don’t share and which I would not want controlling the outcome of my care.

  • The_L1985

     “When it comes to this kind of issue my parents hardly know me at all.”

    In 2003 I would have found this really strange.  Now, I understand completely.  I don’t want my parents to know anything they could use against me, because they are the type of people who use everything possible against me.

    I used to take it as a given that I would always be Catholic, because I was taught, from an early age, that the Catholic Church was always right, and that the people in charge of the RCC were all basically good people who had the best interests of ordinary lay people at heart.  Then I started hearing all the B.S. the RCC was spouting about why they felt they needed to hide pederasts in the clergy, why women and gay men (to say nothing of transpeople) are somehow automatically unqualified to be priests, etc., and I realized that I could not in good conscience remain Catholic anymore.  Everything I’d been taught to believe about the Catholic hierarchy, everything I’d used as my basis for “why the RCC is right and everybody who disagrees with the Vatican is wrong,” was a complete lie, and I couldn’t live a lie anymore.

  • I would trust my parents to make a pretty good decision for my medical care. They would not keep my corpse in a vegetative state for years, for instance, nor would they choose a fetus over me if the issue came up. They would try to do what they thought was best for me, and it probably would be. However, the thought of them making medical decisions for me still makes me nervous; I have no reason to mistrust them, but it simply is not their place, and they do not know me best. 

    On the other hand, the thought of my husband making decisions for my medical care doesn’t make me nervous. (Until I start thinking about situations in which he might have to, which is not pleasant.) I trust my husband more. I chose him, and did not choose my parents. My parents are still an important part of my life, but I share my life with my husband.

  • Absolutely. For years after the case ended, I had assumed that the parents were more-or-less right, and Michael was tired of being stuck with a vegetative wife and wasn’t really thinking about her wishes — though I still agreed with the ultimate outcome because she *was* in a persistent vegetative state and probably wouldn’t have wanted that. In essence, I believed that he’d done the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    It was only years later when something or other prompted me to read up on Michael Schaivo that it became clear what a hatchet-job the pro-lifers and her parents had done on the man.

    And then there’s assholes like Senator Bill Frist (Dr Senator Bill Frist), who reviewed some video of Terry Schaivo and basically said that she was fine and could wake up at any minute. Her parents were misguided and pretty terrible, but at least they were acting out of actual concern for their daughter.

  • What infuriated me most about the Terry Schiavo case, in a sea of infuriating things, was when people claimed that Michael was a cheating louse because he had a girlfriend. Whom he started dating years after Terry fell into a coma. Apparently he was supposed to become a monk because of his wife’s horrible accident. Though considering the belief system of many of the people opposed to letting Terry’s corpse go, they might have thought Michael should have turned to necrophilia instead.

  • I dunno. If he was still asserting the propriety of making life-and-death decisions on his wife’s behalf, it seems like there might be a reasonable assumption that he is still bound by his wedding vows. If he no longer considers his vows binding, then by what right is he making medical decisions for her?

  • She chose to marry him, thereby making him the one to make medical decisions for her. I have no idea why his having sex with someone else after Terry was brain-dead — or, frankly, before — would impact that in any way, shape, or form. I am tired of society acting like the most important thing about marriage is “you can’t sleep with anyone else”. 

    No adult should have to go without sexual contact with another adult for years, if there are other adults who consent to have sexual contact with them. It’s inhumane.

  • Not til 20 weeks at the earliest, and 22 for reliable findings.  Which is actually after freely available abortions are legal- the only reason women abort after 20 weeks is her life or health becomes severely threatened or something goes catastrophically wrong with the fetus.

    Source:, scroll down to the section that starts at “‘Brain Waves’ When???”.

  • If Republicans supported abortion because they wanted to do away with potential Democratic voters, that would alienate their socially conservative base — some of whom view abortion as being wrong even in the case of something like rape or incest and wouldn’t find the whole “this might make it incrementally easier for us to win an election!!” to be a better justification. 

    And likewise, if Democrats said, “Sorry, we don’t care if giving birth might literally kill you — we need you to have this kid because hopefully you’ll indoctrinate them into our liberal views,” they might as well give up on women as a demographic altogether, because voters don’t actually like to be told that they’re just chattel. 

    Self-interest can’t be that short-sighted. A possible incremental gain in hopefully manipulating the demographics of the country to reap dividends in 18-20 years is hardly worth essentially exiling a huge chunk of your base. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Wait… seriously? Do you have a source for that? My google-fu fails.

  • banancat

     A quick google search doesn’t come up with the exact article and I have no desire to delve into the seedy depths of the internet to find it.  But the thing about the ability to have children was just a clumsy, clueless off-hand remark that someone said in the middle of a bigger statement.  It wasn’t the primary reason for keeping her on life support, but he said something like she could have future experiences, such as having children.

  • Tricksterson

    Of course logically, even if this was true those stating it should be okay with abortion for the first two months.

  • Yeah, fetal development is really quite amazing.  Shame that it can’t be discussed without invoking politics or awful notions of sexual determinism. 

    It’s evolution at light speed in a nutshell, and downright breathtaking to watch…..

    Um, right.  Like I said, it’s a shame you can’t mention it without making things political.  

  • Kit

    This is all just a big misunderstanding. The Koch Bros meant to legally change this guy’s last name to “RapeplzRT”.

  • The_L1985

     No, because they’re not using brainwaves as their justification.  They’re claiming that one is ensouled at conception and thus a full person, even before one has any organs whatsoever.

    Of course, that won’t hold up from a scientific standpoint, so they hide behind “you became genetically distinct at conception, not birth!  Therefore this blastocyst is totally the same thing as a born baby in terms of personhood!”

    and use brainwaves and heartbeats to tug at the heartstrings.  “It thinks and its heart beats.  Just like your already-born child!!  Time and nutrition!”

  • The_L1985

    The parents, I can at least sort of understand.  Nobody wants to bury their own child, and it’s possible to rationalize anything to stop having to go to “your baby’s” funeral.

    But the sheer depth and horridness of the lies still astound me.  Her parents, I’m pretty sure, were the origin of SOME of them, but certainly not all.  I think a game of Telephone essentially got played with angry people, who were only too happy to exaggerate and twist everything, so that “Our daughter’s condition is pretty dire, but we still hold out hope and don’t agree with Michael’s decision” became “Michael is a horrible, abusive, murderous monster trying to kill this innocent woman who is CLEARLY awake and aware.”

    The angrier you are, the easier it is to exaggerate your opponent into some kind of heartless monster, but that doesn’t make it right or justified.

  •  Haddock/Palin 2016!
    Would make debates livelier, at least until someone was removed from the premises.

  • Carstonio

    There are already precedents for a Palin and fish…

  • Fox

    I’m pretty sure this thing about keeping her alive because she can still bear children, isn’t actually from the Terry Schiavo case, but rather a case of a woman in Italy who was in a persistent vegetative state.

    I don’t remember if the Catholic Church or any clergy said that, but I do recall that Silvio Berlusconi – who was Prime Minister at the time – said that. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Some much for that commandment against bearing false witness….

    Ah, but the commandment says “Thou shalt not bear false witness [i]against thy neighbor[/i].  By a LITERAL reading, that means they’re forbidden to lie about the people who live in houses on either side of them, but they can make up whatever deranged slander they like about that guy on the opposite side of the street.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Argh, tagfail.

  • banancat

     Actually, the Big J himself clarified what “neighbor” means in the good Samaritan story.  Spoiler alert: it’s everyone.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Straight white men born with penises, no disabilities, and a certain amount of money. Kids of sufficiently poor parents need not apply, nor kids with significant hospital bills, nor gender or sexual minority kids, no matter how white and male they may be.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, the husband wanted her off the feeding tube, the parents said she was a good Roman Catholic and would therefore want to prolong her life as long as possible.

    I’ve never heard the ‘potentially birth children’ bit, and I really hope it’s not true, because how could sex with someone in that condition possibly be consensual? The whole problem was that she wasn’t in a position to consent to anything!

  • EllieMurasaki

    I bet I can tell you what the study says, sight unseen: people who get abortions are less likely to be users of contraceptives than people who don’t, and they’re more likely to be less well off than people who don’t, and the extent that abortion correlates with political stances parallels how contraceptive use and financial circumstances correlate with political stances. There’s enough variables in there to get complicated, though.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If we lefty types were to act strictly in terms of our own self-interest, we would promote the fuck out of safe legal available abortion (and contraception and comprehensive sex ed and programs to ensure that a pregnant person who wants a baby never feels financially compelled to have an abortion), because MORE THAN HALF OF LEFTY TYPES HAVE UTERUSES.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Because a lot of people think conception is implantation. I’m not sure whether conception is supposed to be fertilization or implantation, myself, which is why I don’t use the word if the ambiguity will make a difference.

  • Carstonio

    Your first paragraph is how I understood the basic conflict, except that I had remembered Schiavo’s family of origin as being fundamentalist and not Catholic.

    And I hope that the latter isn’t true either. I imagined something worse than Atwood’s handmaids, such as a breeding farm where women are kept comatose and artificially inseminated.

  • The_L1985

     Conception is fertilization.  I have never read any scientific text that doesn’t treat the two as synonymous.  In fact, most sane science books will point out that implantation generally takes place a week after conception, so it definitely can’t be synonymous with implantation.

  • The_L1985

     No, they were very definitely Catholic.  I remember there being a second uproar after the feeding tube was removed, because Terri wouldn’t be able to receive the Eucharist as part of Last Rites.