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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  • Baby_Raptor

    I’ve never understood why the fetus’ heartbeat is so important. Do they not understand that the heart isn’t beating on it’s own, that the mother’s body is controlling it? The fetal heartbeat means nothing more than that, thus far, the mother’s body is still doing it’s job and development is at least somewhat correctly proceeding. 

    Is it just something that can be easily used to pull the heartstrings? 

  • Hexep

    Yes, basically. You have struck it true.

  • Wednesday

    It’s heartstrings in part, but I think it’s also got to do with making a false clear dividing line between “alive as a person” and “not alive as a person”, and making people think early-stage embryos are more like born humans than they actually are. (I’ve noticed a lot of anti-legal-abortion propaganda that
    “promotes” embryos to a later stage of development — probably because “at 1 month, your embryo is a tiny speck that cannot think or feel anything” is not as persuasive as “at 1 month, your unborn baby is 1 inch long, has fingers, loves you, and can write this shitty email forward poem”.)

    If you ask people how to determine if something or someone is alive (animal, not plant), outside of the context of the abortion debate they’ll generally cite heartbeat and respiration as the two main factors. This gives the “life begins at conception” crowd a little bit of trouble — fetuses are not breathing, because they get their oxygen from the umbilical cord. So that leaves heartbeat as the indicator of life.

    So tightly do people intertwine “has a heartbeat” and “alive” that one of the favorite lies of CPCs is to say that the heartbeat begins at conception. I also have a self-identified pro-life friend who has repeatedly cited heartbeat as how she knows an embryo is alive (as opposed to, eg, it’s composed of living cells). And once in a fandom context, I saw a self-identified pro-lifer (correctly) correct another writer for giving something a heartbeat at conception — and the pro-lifer said she felt horrible for saying that there is no heartbeat at conception.

  • Baby_Raptor

    When I was pregnant with my son, my OB-GYN regularly told me all the changes and developments that the fetus went through between visits. 

    When he mentioned that the fetus had started using it’s lungs to “practice breathe,” I got highly confused. The fetus is in a sack filled with fluid, so (to my understanding) wouldn’t they be “breathing” amniotic fluid? Which, if not somehow gotten rid of, would cause issues when the cord was cut?

    Despite my several attempts to word this in ways I thought were very clear, my doctor had no idea what I was asking about. So I still am not entirely sure how that process works. 

    Also, your story gives me a headache. Was this person just completely unaware how conception works? Where would the heart even *be*? I…Words are failing me.

  • other lori

    I might be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure that, yes, the fetus breathes in the amniotic fluid, like a little fish. And then, during the birth process, the fluid gets squeezed out of their lungs. 

  • 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.

  • Mr. Heartland

    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.  

  • Fusina

     There is amniotic fluid in the lungs. The cliche picture of a baby being held by its ankles and swatted by the doctor is from the technique used to remove the fluid and get the lungs working. I don’t think they do it that way now. I do know that is one of the reasons they prefer that the amniotic fluid be clear/pale yellow, as otherwise there have been bowel movements, and that has then gotten into the baby’s lungs too.

    Two kids, and fascinated by all the interesting and weird bits of pregnancy and delivery. Grossology is an awesome book, incidentally.

  • The_L1985

     Yes, the fetus does in fact “breathe” amniotic fluid into its lungs.  I’m pretty sure it all gets expelled from the lungs before birth, though.

    “Was this person just completely unaware how conception works?”

    Yes.  Welcome to the world of abstinence-only sex ed.  A lot of people don’t realize that “conception” and “fertilization” are the exact same thing.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Wednesday

     @ Baby_Raptor,

    In the case of CPCs, there are enough documented cases of that BS being told that I’m going with “intentional lie”.

    In the fandom example I mentioned… the story premise was since wizards in the storyverse were very tuned in to life, they would be able to sense conception happening — and the author portrayed it by Magically Amplified Heartbeat. I refrained from pointing out that if the couple was trying to have kids, being able to detect every conception would be pretty depressing, given how many blastocysts don’t make it to term under normal circumstances.

    The ‘fic author was a teenager from the US, and this was during the heyday of Bush’s “Abstinence-only Sex Non-Education”, so there’s a good chance that no, they didn’t know anything, and it wasn’t entirely their fault. (At least they knew that conception happens well after sex.)

  • The_L1985

     The best part is that they don’t tell you that when the embryonic heart starts beating, it’s a two-chambered heart, not a four-chambered heart like born humans have.

    You know what else has a two-chambered heart?  Fish.  That newly-beating heart looks more like a fish heart than like the human heart it may eventually grow into.

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    So, by their logic…Fish should have the right to vote? Hmm, and there’s a lot of RTCs to use a fish symbol already, so instant points there…and the fish demographic certainly outnumbers any current democratic demographic…
    Haddock/Palin 2016!

  • Rakka

     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…

  • Mark Z.

    Do they not understand that the heart isn’t beating on it’s own, that the mother’s body is controlling it?

    The heart actually is beating on its own, because that’s what hearts do. Any portion of a heart (even a single muscle cell) will beat on its own as long as it has oxygen and fuel. Most people don’t know this, which makes it a very convenient way to pretend that a fetus at 8 weeks or so is way more developed than it is.

  • JustoneK

    So the human heart cells cloned and regrown on, say, a lab mouse are certifiably human enough to keep alive?

    Oh who am I kidding, that heart will never grow up to be a voter.

  • other lori

    Thanks for the clarification. I was wondering about that, because I know fetal heart rates are significantly faster than maternal heart rates.

    I think the reason the heartbeat is such a big deal is because, for a wanted pregnancy, it *is* a big deal. Most pregnant women I know look forward to hearing the heartbeat. In all of my pregnancies, hearing the heartbeat was confirmation that there was something in there, and it was kind of a special moment for me.

    The problem is when we try to make something scientific or legal out of those emotional moments. In a pregnancy you intend to continue, hearing the heartbeat is exciting, because it means that there is something growing inside of you that, if all goes well, will be your baby in 7 or 8 months. But it’s largely meaningful because of what it points to, not because of what it is at the moment, if that makes sense. 

  • AnonymousSam

    There was a bit related to this in recentish news where some scientists had taken heart cells cloned from a rat, combined them with elastic silicone and put them in a solution. The result? It contracts and recoils like a swimming jellyfish.

  • 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!

  • Ross

     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.

  • Tricksterson

    I would think that if you were going to use a measure of “personhood” it would be brainwave function, not heart beat.

  • John (not McCain)

    If it was brainwave function it would be legal to abort Rapert right now.

  • DorothyD

    Something tells me that if I research when fetal brainwaves become detectable, the answer will be “several weeks later than fetal heartbeat.”

  • John Alexander Harman

    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

     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.

  • Feminerd

    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???”.

  • banancat

     Women need only a hearbeat to bare children for men, such as in the case of Terry Schiavo, when some Catholic higher-up insisted that she should be kept indefinitely on life support because she could potentially birth children.  A heartbeat is the only thing they care about for women, and therefore female fetuses.  You would think they’d care about brain function for male fetuses/future men, but really they only need a heartbeat to vote for Republican candidates so that’s all that matters.

    (Insert obligatory joke about brainwaves and Republicans here)

  • aunursa

    I would like to see a study that breaks down abortion statistics by political party or view.  What percentage of women who have an abortion are liberal or Democrat, conservative or Republican, moderate or independent?

  • other lori

    Due to the racial demographics around abortion, I’d imagine that you’d see a preponderance of Democrats. But, that’s not because Democrats are more likely to have an abortion but because the poor and minorities are more likely both to vote Democrat and to have an abortion.

  • aunursa

    I’m wondering because it seems as if both parties are operating contrary to their own self-interest.  If they were to act strictly in terms of their own self-interest, the Republican Party should support abortion — because the majority of fetuses otherwise would be born and grow up in a Democratic family, appreciate the values of the Democrats, and then tend to vote for them, all of which would reduce the power of Republicans.  And the Democrats should oppose abortion for the same reason.

    The fact that both parties act contrary, I find that fascinating.

  • Scylla Kat

     Aunursa, that would depend on your definition of “self-interest.”  The Republicans have made clear that their self-interest is in getting power and money and more Republicans.  All the Democrats I know talk about things like stable societies, growing middle classes, and higher standards of living.  The ability to have only the babies you want is strongly connected to all those.  But then again, Maybe Democrats are the same kind of craven, avaricious jackhats as Republicans, and I’m just dim.

    Other places apparently don’t allow abortions until 6 weeks, just in case of a false positive…. So, this guy is working on a catch-22 as far as I’m concerned.  I will probably care any time he makes an end-run around constitutional law, especially when it hurts poor families.

  • The_L1985

     Because that’s not the only form of self-interest we’re talking about here.

    It is in the self-interest of the current high-ranking Republicans to exert as much control as possible over any issue that is related to their goal of having a theocracy.  Thus, since abortion is a threat to theocracy, Republicans are against abortions.

    Democrats have essentially become the party of the poor.  It is in the best interests of poor (and middle-class, to a somewhat lesser extent) people to have access to contraceptives, or at least abortions, so that they can avoid having children they can’t afford to keep.  Thus, since legal abortions help a good-sized chunk of the Democratic electorate, it is in the best interests of the Democratic party to keep abortions legal.

  • John Alexander Harman

    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.

  • Charity Brighton

    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. 

  • 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.

  • Carstonio

    That might be of limited use to illustrate how reactionaries like Rapert and Todd Akin have come to control the GOP social agenda. The abortion issue is largely a proxy for a larger debate between two irreconcilable views about gender roles.  I tend to equate liberalism with opposition to social privilege, in this case the gender norms that perpetuate inequality, and I would like to know if that’s borne out by the data.

  • Ross

     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)

  • 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.

  • The_L1985

     To bear children.  If a woman is stripping a child naked for a man, then something seriously wrong is happening.  ;)

    Excellent point, though.

  • Naked Bunny with a Whip

    If a woman is stripping a child naked for a man, then something seriously wrong is happening.

    Or she’s helping him out with bath night.

  • The_L1985

     Good point.

  • John Alexander Harman

    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.

  • AnonymousSam

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

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but pro-life propaganda says that measurable brain waves start 8 weeks after conception.  I have never seen this figure anywhere that wasn’t obvious propaganda, so I highly doubt it.  (I don’t know what the actual fetal age for that is, though.)

  • Tricksterson

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

  • 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!”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    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!”

    This kind of race-baiting makes me wonder if his mother is ashamed of him for so cravenly catering to a segment of the electorate that wants white people to stay in charge permanently.

  • P J Evans

     His head would explode if he ever realized that he’s in a minority right now, and he’s trying to ride roughshod over the majority.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I’m imagining his mother saying “I raised you to be better than that”, but then again, who knows? I know my mother would probably have words with me if I were to say the things he has.

  • Jim Roberts

    Unless he learned it from her. Racism, after all, is rarely innate.

  • Carstonio

    Fred already addressed Paul Weyrich’s point about the religious right’s origins, which involved the fight over the tax-exempt status for whites-only religious schools. That leads to the question of why the abortion issue proved to be a better selling tactic. I know that writers like Ross Douthat fret about declining birth rates in terms that betray an obvious worry about whites becoming a minority. Are any of you familiar with similar demographic panic among writers who condemn abortion?

  • other lori

    Certainly there’s some of that fear of a brown planet in some part of the anti-legal abortion movement.  I think that’s where a lot of this current attack on contraception comes from: most of these people have realized that, actually, the women they want reproducing–white women who aren’t poor–aren’t having all that many abortions, because they are successfully preventing pregnancies. If they want to have more affluent white babies, restricting abortion access by itself really won’t help, but making it harder to obtain birth control might. I guess Rapert didn’t get that memo, though.

  • The_L1985

    No, as a general rule the expressed sentiment is “racial minorities are more likely than white people to have an abortion, thus it is a form of genocide against these minorities.”

    Which has a different form of racist problem, namely: “You’re too stupid to know what the right thing to do is, so I’m going to protect you from yourself.”

  • dj_pomegranate

    It really takes a lot of empathy-gymnastics to care so much about all the unborn babies! and so little about those unborn babies when they grow up to be people who aren’t white males.

  • 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.

  • SergeantHeretic

    The luicrouse hamstring placed on a legal right in the first article is perfectly consistent with the man depicted i nthe second article. the first article represent exactly the motivations and values of a bible fetishising bigot who hates women and anyone else who is not a straight white Judeo Christian man.

    There is no contradiction.

  • Carstonio

    when some Catholic higher-up insisted that she should be kept
    indefinitely on life support because she could potentially birth

    Can you provide a citation? I had understood that the Schiavo case was essentially a dispute between the parents and the husband, where the former used their ties to the religious right to escalate this into a political conflict.

  • fraser

     You are correct, Carstonio, though it’s quite possible some Catholic mucky-muck offered that as an added reason to keep her alive (but I’ve never heard of it despite following the case intensely at one time).

  • other lori

    I have no love for the Catholic hierarchy’s views about women and sex, but I seriously doubt anybody would have suggested that the possibility she could reproduce was a reason to keep her alive. I have never heard of the RCC suggesting that husbands should have sex with wives who are in persistent vegetative states in order to impregnate them, and since they don’t believe in artificial insemination, it seems unlikely that her reproductive capacity was really of concern.

  • Naked Bunny with a Whip

    The Catholic Church’s position was that Schiavo’s feeding tube should not be removed because it was not an extraordinary measure being taken to keep her alive, and that quality of life is irrelevant. 

    Additionally, according to the Wikipedia article, Shiavo was being treated for infertility before her coma, though that may have been due to bulimia, so it may have stopped being an issue. (I have no idea if being tube-fed is more conducive to fertility than being bulimic, especially if the patient was already infertile.)

    I did find some *ahem* vehement sites while researching the issue, but they all sounded like third-party extremists, not RCC policymakers, and none of them mentioned babies except to link the Schiavo case with Roe v. Wade.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The_L1985

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

  • 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.

  • Ross

    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.

  • 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!

  • Ross

    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.

  • Ross

    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.

  • Lliira

    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.

  • Ross

    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?

  • Lliira

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Lliira

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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

     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.

  • Dan Hauge

    I’d need more specifics on exactly how the concern to reduce abortions is a logical extension of xenophobia. They may be connected on the theological/ideological level, they may not. Your piece intimates that they obviously are equally manifestations of a theology, that it is self-evident, because they come from the same person. I still need to hear more (and I am generally pro-choice myself)

    Actually the more I think of it, I’m frustrated with both options. Either the two positions represent contradictory theologies or they represent manifestations of a consistent theology. Maybe they are just different issues, with different reasoning going on behind each one? Or even if they are consistent for Rapert, they could be viewed differently by different people?

    I’m no fan of Rapert. At all. Of either position. But this kind of ideological reductionism frustrates me.

  • AnonymousSam

     Man describes himself as “a conservative, gun-owning, middle-aged, ordained fundamentalist” and thinks his actions are “sav[ing] America for our children’s future.” He simultaneously says that “We need people committed to individual liberty, freedom, prosperity and the U.S. Constitution” while writing laws which reduce individual liberty, freedom and prosperity. He performs baptisms with the same hand which writes bills to let people carry guns in schools. As for the Constitution, to quote,

    There was one time in this nation that it was legal to enslave African-Americans; it was constitutional. There was one time in this nation when women could not vote; it was constitutional. There’s a time when you have to stand up for what is right.

    Let’s decompress that.

    “There was a time in this nation that it was legal to enslave African-Americans”
    “I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. … we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!”

    All right, so African-American and minority rights only count when they make a poetic point about law and history, and otherwise, Those People need to be put in their place. Check.

    “There was one time in this nation when women could not vote”
    I don’t believe eminent domain (something else he also supports) over women’s bodies grants a woman much autonomy over herself, much less the state. Check two. For bonus points, his last anti-abortion law was written “to protect abortion patients” and would have shut down abortion clinics throughout the state, because nothing protects patients more than putting their lives and livelihoods at risk in the name of principle. He also wants to protect women by repealing the ACA, because affordable health care has nothing to do with health, apparently.

    “We need people committed to … the U.S. Constitution.”
    ” it was constitutional, [but t]here’s a time when you have to stand up for what is right.”

    So the Constitution is a sacred document right up until it runs contrary to something that needs changing, and then we certainly can’t allow ourselves to be dissuaded from making any necessary changes. But otherwise, that sacred document is inviolate! I have idiot bingo.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Rapert claims that Obama didn’t attend the National Prayer Breakfast.  That is a blatant lie, and Rachel Maddow noted it as such on her TV show.

    Some much for that commandment against bearing false witness….

  • 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.

  • MaryKaye

    “Will this fetus grow up to vote R or D in 18 years?” is *way* too long-range for any US political party to spend much thought on it.  “Will this fundraising message produce funds this month?” is germane.  The next election cycle is germane; *maybe* the next two.  That’s the horizon:  about six years max.

    This is not necessarily a criticism; I don’t think the parties have much choice in the matter.  If they don’t compete now they won’t be around in 18 years and their policies won’t go through anyway.

    In other words, I think it’s self-interest all the way, it’s just short-term self-interest.  Currently R can make money by opposing abortion and D by supporting it.  If they reversed they would make less.

  • Wingedwyrm

    The relation is that both statements aren’t about caring about… anybody, really.  They’re both about a view of the world that says that it is obligated to be organized in just such a way and that deviations from just such a way are all bad, no matter what those deviations are.

    Public schools not using their authority to mandate or endorce prayer?  Abortion?  Same-sex marriage?  Interracial marriage?  Women doing the same jobs as men?  Paying women the same as a man for doing the same job?  Giving women the vote?  Desegregation?

    Essentially, every liberal victory is, in the short term memory of conservative ideology, an unconscionable deviation from the perfect way of things.  The good news, though, is that every liberal victory, in the long term memory of conservative ideology, is a victory won so hard that conservatives refuse to believe they fought it in the first place.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Given his attitudes toward women, I’m assuming the “t” is silent.

  • Wingedwyrm

    What t?  I must be missing something.

  • Naked Bunny with a Whip

    The one in his last name, presumably.

  • Mark Z.

    If I were his campaign manager, I would not allow that image with the big “RAPERT” out in public. Every one of his billboards, yard signs, and bumper stickers is going to get ninja copyedited.

    Maybe he could run under the name “Canola”.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Maybe he could run under the name “Canola”.

    Too foreign sounding.

  • 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.

  • Ross

     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.

  • Kit

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

  • 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.