This has been terrifying week for people who are concerned about big government meddling in families' most personal and painful decisions.
I would say it's been a terrible week for conservatives, but most of the people who call themselves conservatives are celebrating and crowing. I think they're radicals.
I'm referring, of course, to the unprecedented intervention of Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature in the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, and to the Senate vote, supported by President Bush, banning a certain type of procedure to terminate pregnancies in cases where the mother's life or health are at risk. The idea of legislatures, governors and presidents dictating what families can do in these most private situations is mind-boggling. It is as intrusive as government can be. It is, in both cases, almost certainly unconstitutional.
The courts have spoken at length and clearly on both of these issues. The Senate, the Florida legislature and the Bush brothers are doing end-runs to circumvent the rulings.
In the case of Terri Schiavo, 19 judges in six different courts have weighed the evidence and heard the arguments. They have all found that Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, has the legal authority to discontinue the artificial feeding and hydration that has kept his brain-damaged wife biologically alive for 13 years. No court has found that Terri Schiavo has even the remotest chance of leaving her present, sad condition. And the Supreme Court, in the 1990 decision involving a Missouri woman named Nancy Cruzan, affirmed the right and legality of terminating artificial feeding and hydrating in these situations.
As for the Senate bill, the Supreme Court three years ago overturned a very similar bill passed in Nebraska. Legislatures in 31 states have passed similar bills dealing with the controversial procedure and courts have nixed most of them already. The bill will be in court soon after the president signs it.
The political energy behind both of these government interventions comes from the right-to-life movement. I do not in any way dismiss or disrespect their views and their devotion to protecting the sanctity of all human life. Every family should be free to refuse the termination of life support or artificial feeding if that is their considered judgment. Every woman and every couple should have the right to refuse a late-term abortion procedure if they are in that painful situation.
And every family should be free to decide otherwise, unconstrained by a Big Brother government.
Opponents of late-term abortion and the "right to die" do not have a state morality imposed on their most personal choices. They may not care to live in a society where such things are allowed, but nothing is imposed on their lives. Our rights are about the prohibition of government intrusion in the most personal and valued parts of our lives.
What I cannot stomach is hearing the Brothers Bush, who have presided over a sibling world-record number of executions, talk about the sanctity of all human life. The sanctity of the right-to-life interests in the Republican Party -- maybe.
Dick Meyer, the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, is based in Washington. For many years, he was a political and investigative producer for The CBS News Evening News With Dan Rather.
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By Dick Meyer