Culture: April 2005 Archives

Several pro-life bills passed the Oklahoma House last month but have been bottled up in committee in the Democrat-controlled State Senate. In his weekly Capitol Update, Rep. Kevin Calvey reports that some of these proposals are going to be considered after all, having been attached as amendments to a Senate bill that came through the House corrections committee:

Senate Bill 807, by State Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and State Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, would target criminals involved in pornography and the abuse of women and children.

The bill was amended in committee to include three pro-life measures. The measures include the Oklahoma Unborn Victim of Violence Act (a “Laci & Conner Peterson” law) (previously introduced by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa)) and the Women’s Right to Know and the Family Protection Act (previously introduced by me, Rep. Kevin Calvey).

Among other reforms, the bill would allow individuals who attack pregnant women and cause the loss of the unborn child to face criminal charges for the death of the baby.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act is modeled after federal legislation passed last year, prompted by the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Conner, in California.

The amended Senate bill would also institute an “informed consent” law requiring that women be given all pertinent information about the potential consequences of abortion, information on fetal development and the gestational age of the unborn child at least 24 hours before the procedure occurs.

The amended bill passed also requires parental notification before an abortion can be performed on a minor. Morgan said parents have a right to know if a daughter is pregnant and warned that the lack of parental notification can encourage the abuse of children.

He noted there have been cases where grown men have molested underage girls and then taken them for an abortion without the parents’ knowledge to hide the crime.

Another section of the bill would make it a crime for any school employee to have a sexual relationship with a student. Under the bill’s provision, any school employee engaged in a relationship with a child younger than 20 could be charged with rape.

The bill also outlaws “drive-by porn,” ensuring that individuals with pornographic films displayed on a car’s television monitor while driving could face fines of up to $500 per violation.

Senate Bill 807 passed the House Corrections Committee on a unanimous vote and is now headed to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

If the House passes the amended bill, I believe it will go to a conference committee next, and not to the Senate Human Services Committee, the lair of Sen. Bernest Cain.

You'll find an archive of Calvey's Capitol Update on his website. (This week's has been sent out by e-mail, but hasn't been uploaded to the website yet.)

Yesterday, in an entry about the 1982 "Baby Doe" case in Indiana and the Terri Schiavo case, I wrote:

Preventing similar tragedies in the future will require ... that we understand the laws as they are today and then work with legislators to build in safeguards against the kind of judicial tyranny we saw at work in Pinellas County, Florida.

Proving that great minds think alike, Corie Schweitzer, of Insane Troll Logic, e-mailed to let me know that she has begun that task in Texas:

I think it would be a fitting tribute to Terri to work on finding out what each state's laws regarding end of life issues with respect to incapacitated persons and then working to have those laws changed to ensure that, in the absence of many safeguards to ensure that the incapacitated person's explicit wishes are explicitly known, that no one may be deprived of their life.

Corie contacted her state representative and state senator, who pointed her to the applicable section of law. She began looking through the statutes for potential problems, and here's one she found:

• Subsection C says that the decision to withhold life support "must be based on knowledge of what the patient would desire, if known" [emphasis mine].

1) It does not define what exactly constitutes "knowing" what the patient desires, since the statute is already dealing with patients WITHOUT AN ADVANCED DIRECTIVE. The law should specify exactly what kinds of evidence could be presented as proof of wishes and what could not be presented.

Corie has some good suggestions for how to work with your state legislators to address the problems you find. She deserves encouragement and emulation. I will look forward to following her progress in Texas and hope that she will serve as an example to pro-life bloggers in the other 49 states.

Think a living will can protect you against being dehydrated to death against your wishes? Think again.

In a situation recalling the recent death of Terri Schiavo in Florida, an 81-year-old widow, denied nourishment and fluids for nearly two weeks, is clinging to life in a hospice in LaGrange, Ga., while her immediate family fights desperately to save her life before she dies of starvation and dehydration.

Mae Magouirk was neither terminally ill, comatose nor in a "vegetative state," when Hospice-LaGrange accepted her as a patient about two weeks ago upon the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, 36, an elementary school teacher.

Also upon Gaddy's request and without prior legal authority, since March 28 Hospice-LaGrange has denied Magouirk normal nourishment or fluids via a feeding tube through her nose or fluids via an IV. She has been kept sedated with morphine and ativan, a powerful tranquillizer. ...

In her living will, Magouirk stated that fluids and nourishment were to be withheld only if she were either comatose or "vegetative," and she is neither. Nor is she terminally ill, which is generally a requirement for admission to a hospice.

Magouirk lives alone in LaGrange, though because of glaucoma she relied on her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, to bring her food and do errands.

Granddaughter just got tired of looking after Grandmama:

"Grandmama is old and I think it is time she went home to Jesus," Gaddy told Magouirk's brother and nephew, McLeod and Ken Mullinax. "She has glaucoma and now this heart problem, and who would want to live with disabilities like these?"

What's shocking is that the hospice would comply with Gaddy's request without verifying her legal authority to act on her grandmother's behalf. I used to think well of hospices, but I'm starting to wonder if there's a chain of them owned by the Soylent Corporation.

So the hospice pulled the tube, then put it back three days later at the request of relatives who did have that authority. Within hours Gaddy applied to a probate judge and was granted emergency guardianship for the weekend, long enough to order the feeding tube pulled. Mae Magouirk has gone without food and water for over 10 days.

Georgia law requires that a hearing for an emergency guardianship must be held within three days of its request, and Magouirk's hearing was held April 4 before Judge Boyd. Apparently, he has not made a final ruling, but favors giving permanent guardianship power to Gaddy, who is anxious to end her grandmother's life.

That's putting it mildly. There are other relatives ready to step in and care for Magouirk, but again a judge, one judge, stands in the way of saving a life.

Hat tip to the Bayly Brothers.

UPDATE: Jack Lewis provides a helpful timeline of the situation.

Novel ideas


Jared of Mysterium Tremendum is retiring from the blogosphere for a time to finish his novel. His final entries focus on the art of writing -- a collection of links to his best pieces on writing and literature, a quote from C. S. Lewis on the importance of consistency and discipline in writing stories, and writing tips from Lewis.

I especially liked an entry called "The Primacy of Artistry in Christian Art." There's an excerpt from a conversation between C. S. Lewis, Kingsley Amis, and Brian Aldiss, in which Lewis explains that in writing Perelandra he did not build the story around what became the central theme:

Lewis: The starting point of . . . Perelandra was my mental picture of the floating islands. The whole of the rest of my labours in a sense consisted of building up a world in which floating islands could exist. And then of course the story about an averted fall developed. This is because, as you know, having got your people to this exciting country, something must happen.

Later in the conversation:

Lewis: . . . I’ve never started from a message or a moral, have you?

Amis: No, never. You get interested in the situation.

Lewis: The story itself should force its moral upon you. You find out what the moral is by writing the story.

Jared says that most of the books you find in the Christian fiction section were written in the opposite direction -- the author started with a topic or a moral and then tried to construct a story around it.

We have plenty of Christian medical/legal/military/crime thrillers, but the problem with so many of them is not that they are a type of story but that the story itself seems only tangentially important to their purpose. ...

Christian Writers, just write good stories, let the story take over. If you let the story tell itself, your faith will out.

The same thing could be said about Christians working in drama, music, or any other art form. Christians have too often excused mediocrity, as if it were impossible for a follower of Christ to create something beautiful and excellent, as if sincerity relieved an artist of striving for excellence. Your creation is going to reflect your worldview, and if you make it excellent, you will glorify the Lord, and you will draw others who come for the beauty hear the message between the lines.

Indeed, beauty and excellence in the work of a Christian artist is itself a message: That the artist serves a Lord who is worthy of nothing less than his finest efforts.

UPDATE: Joe Carter of the Evangelical Outpost has been writing along similar lines, asking whether Christians can save the visual arts:

For Christians to be able to save the visual arts we must first stop treating “Christian art” as a distinctive genre, as if the value of an artwork depended on whether it fell on the “correct” side of the sacred/secular divide. Art must have an intrinsic dignity as a work of art. What makes it worthy of the modifier “Christian” is not a matter of theme or content but that it is produced for the pleasure of our Lord. We create because we are made in the image of our Father and, like our own children, we should honor him with the gifts of our creativity.

Carter has been running a series called "The Gallery," posting a work of art each Sunday. Easter Sunday's post was Bouguereau's "Les saintes femmes au tombeau" ("The holy women at the tomb").

A Schiavo parallel


Mark Steyn writes in the Spectator (free registration required) about a case from California in the 1990s which was very similar to Terri Schiavo's case:

[Robert Wendland] was injured in an automobile accident in 1993 and went into a coma. Under state law, he could have been starved to death at any time had his wife requested the removal of his feeding tube. But Rose Wendland was busy with this and that, as one is, and assumed there was no particular urgency.

Then one day, a year later, Robert woke up. He wasn’t exactly his old self, but he could catch and throw a ball and wheel his chair up and down the hospital corridors, and both activities gave him pleasure. Nevertheless Mrs Wendland decided that she now wished to exercise her right to have him dehydrated to death. Her justification was that, while the actual living Robert — the Robert of the mid-1990s — might enjoy a simple life of ball-catching and chair-rolling, the old Robert — the pre-1993 Robert — would have considered it a crashing bore and would have wanted no part of it.

She nearly got her way. But someone at the hospital tipped off Mr Wendland’s mother and set off a protracted legal struggle in which — despite all the obstacles the California system could throw in her path — the elderly Florence Wendland was eventually successful in preventing her son being put down.

You can find more about Robert Wendland's case here.

Steyn says there's a large portion of the populace who just don't want to think about situations like this and comfort themselves that the Schiavo case is nothing special -- tragic, yes, but it happens every day. They take some comfort in the media assurances that all the legal processes were followed. He equates it to a child sticking his fingers in his ears and singing "la-la-la, I can't hear you."

Michelle Malkin called Steyn's column, "hands down, the best piece written on the case. Ever." I'd agree, for this next paragraph alone, especially the last sentence (emphasis added):

One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life as a matter of ‘choice’, it created a culture where it’s now routine to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t. Down’s Syndrome? Abort. Cleft palate? Abort. Chinese girl? Abort. It’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations — not to mention generations of doctors — to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The ‘right to choose’ is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia is a short one. Until a year or two back, I spent a lot of my summer Saturdays manning the historical society booth at the flea markets on the town common, and I passed many a pleasant quarter-hour or so chit-chatting with elderly ladies leading some now middle-aged simpleton child around. Both parties seemed to enjoy the occasion. The child is no doubt a ‘burden’: he was born because he just was; there was no ‘choice’ about it in those days. Having done away with those kinds of ‘burdens’ at birth, we’re less inclined to tolerate them when they strike in adulthood, as they did in Terri Schiavo’s case.

Elsewhere, Don Danz looks at the legal issues surrounding "what Terri would have wanted":

One of the primary problems in discussing Terri's case is that many people simply have the issues confused which, not surprisingly, results in inappropriate conclusions. I've heard and read a hundred times, "Well, I wouldn't want to live that way." People who express this are stating a personal fact that is wholly irrelevant to Terri's situation. It's best to just walk away as logical discussion is not likely to follow. The primary issue is what did Terri want and what should be done when there is no objective evidence of her desires?

There was no written evidence of what Terri wanted to be done in her situation or in any similar situation. Five people testified as to Terri's verbally expressed desires: Terri's mom and one of Terri's friends who said she would want to live and Michael, Michael's brother and Michael's sister-in-law who said she wouldn't want to keep on living. Some people find her mother and friend more credible, while other people are more inclined to believe Michael's brother and sister-in-law. Personally, I think it's a wash between the four of them, which leaves us with Michael. ...

Now for just a little legalese. The standard which the courts must determine whether Terri expressed her desire to have her feeding tube removed is by "clear and convincing" evidence. This is the highest burden in a civil case. It means that, even if everyone agreed that it was more probable than not that Terri would want her feeding tube pulled, the court still could not order removal. Only if the evidence was clear and convincing that such were her express wishes, would it be proper to allow her to die in that manner.

It is my contention and that of many conservatives that under the clear and convincing standard, looking at the case as a whole, and being cognizant of the very narrow primary issue, there is insufficient evidence to support the pulling of Terri's feeding tube and allowing her to die.

Dan says he's not finished with this entry, so we'll check back.

The Penitent Blogger is annoyed with a Fox News interview about the autopsy, and the claim that it will be able to determine whether Terri could have recovered:

Of course, what was NOT discussed during these interviews was whether discontinuation of all rehabilitative therapy at the insistence of Michael Schiavo, would have contributed to Terri's state debilitating to the point where recovery would have, in time, become impossible.

Why, in the minds of the judiciary, the doctors and much of the public, was it more desirable to deny Terri adequate care, let her die, perform an autopsy and then state, "oh well, she was too far gone; she would have never recovered?" Why was is not more desirable to let Terri live a bit longer, perform full neurological testing, resume the therapy she should have had throughout these many years, and come to more definitive conclusions at a later time? Why jump headfirst off the bridge of death rather than stretch out the safety net of life?

Robert Williams of Dead Man Blogging has some powerfully provocative posts in the aftermath of Terri Schiavo's death. He asks whether it is a worldview-shaking event for Christians, as 9/11 was for the nation:

When those towers fell, we saw the world differently. Maybe I’m overreacting, but when Terri Schiavo died of thirst, I saw the world differently.
  • I see a nation that recognizes no higher authority than “we the people” and the laws we make.
  • I see an executive and legislature dominated by the judiciary.
  • I see a Republican party unable or unwilling to act effectively. Janet Reno was willing to defy the courts and seize Elian Gonzales to send him back to a communist state, but nobody was willing to defy Judge Greer and save Terri Schiavo. I see that the lesser of two evils is still not good. I see that I didn’t even get half a loaf. I see that I voted to win, but still lost.
  • I see a fallen, godless culture. I see a culture that doesn’t need to be engaged or transformed. It needs to be supplanted, replaced, defeated, destroyed.

What do you see?

In an earlier post, he asks some questions about the relationship between church and state which deserve every Christian's consideration.

Karol Sheinin asks whether, given the state of marriage in this country, it's reasonable to give a spouse full control over an incapacitated person's fate:

A good friend of mine recently married a friend to let him stay in the country. They had an engagement party. They got married, didn't tell her family, and then went home to their respective apartments. If something would happen to her, this man would have control over her fate.

A friend's sister got married. She had work to tie up at her job and her husband went ahead to Europe where they would meet to honeymoon. On the flight over, he met a woman for whom, a year later, he would leave his wife. ...

Call me unromantic. Tell me I don't know. But the truth is, marriage is in crisis. It's time to reconsider whether a spouse, with a 50% chance of being an ex-spouse, should have the level of control that they currently do. I vote 'no'.

Finally: As usual, Charles G. Hill speaks volumes with a single sentence.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from April 2005.

Culture: March 2005 is the previous archive.

Culture: May 2005 is the next archive.

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