Terri Schiavo has a right to life; we all do. But does the right to life include the right to live as an inhuman vegetable? Does it include the right to submit one’s husband to the status of permanent caretaker, endless emotional pain and mile-high medical bills? Speaking of medical bills, do conservative Republicans who want people like Terri Schiavo kept alive also want the government — meaning you and I — to foot those bills? Republicans favor expanding the welfare state (e.g. Medicare) just as Democrats do; aren’t they submitting this welfare state to even more economy-busting medical expenses than we already have in the name of — what? Keeping the hopelessly ill and barely alive breathing another few days or weeks?

The dangerous, ugly side of this whole issue is that it’s not being treated as a borderline case, or as the unfortunate exception that it is. Instead, religious conservatives are trying to use it as an example of how any kind of life is life, no matter how partial, or tenuous or barely hanging on that life might be. They know that if they can impose force on the living to keep alive the barely living, they can likewise impose force on the living to bring into existence unwanted potential lives. Their view of life is not rational; it’s religious. When they say that this country is founded not on reason but on faith, they mean it.

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