Editor's note: This article was first posted on Wednesday, March 30.
What do Laci Peterson and Terri Schiavo have in common?
They're both women whose husbands chose to end their lives. Yet most of the feminist Left wouldn't lift a finger--or issue a press release--to speak for either of them.
The Schiavo case in particular calls out for a woman's rights advocate to be on the scene defending a defenseless woman against her husband. It's a case in which preventive action was a possibility. With Terri Schiavo's life in the balance, where is National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy? Or Pat Ireland? Or Gloria Steinem?
Peterson and Schiavo are real-world examples of women who need a voice. In both cases, these women's parents (and siblings in Schiavo's case) were those voices--in the courts, in media, as lobbyists. But the aid and organization of all those well-established "women's groups" was nowhere to be found.
With only a few exceptions--Gloria Allred, for instance, played a role in the Scott Peterson prosecution, representing Amber Frey--these high-profile life-and-death cases highlight the feminist Left's increasing irrelevance and moral impotence. These groups espouse what Pope John Paul II referred to in his "Gospel of Life" as a "culture of death." They support "choice" over life itself, whether it be the choice to end a pregnancy in its latest stages, a child's choice to terminate a pregnancy without a parent's knowledge--or, apparently, a man's choice to pull the plug on a burdensome spouse.
Obviously, the feminist Left is not explicitly advocating spousal "killing" as their new cause. But looking at the examples of Laci and Conner Peterson and Terri Schiavo, it's hard not to wonder who (or what) these groups that claim to lobby on behalf of American women actually represent. In the case of Laci and Conner's law--a fetal-homicide bill recognizing the murder of an unborn child as a murder in the commission of a federal crime--NOW & Company opposed the bill because they worried that it could hurt abortion rights down the road.
The fact is, the most well-known and politically active "women's groups" do not represent American women. NOW's mission statement may claim that it works to "end all forms of violence against women," but wouldn't that include protecting a mother and her unborn child, or a wife's right to food and water? At the end of the day, these groups represent supporters of legal abortion and reflexively oppose anything that could chip away at a shoddily constructed "right to privacy."The Schiavo case, of course, is complicated by tense, close-to-home issues: A parent who was on life support; the agonizing "would I want to be a vegetable" question many ask themselves. But I won't excuse feminist groups on those grounds. The question for them should be: where does Terri Schiavo's life fit into their feminist world? Apparently, their answer is, she's a burden.
Think I'm linking the unlinkable or reading too much into this all? Am I being unfair to feminists who can't jump whenever someone's wife could use a protective word on her behalf? I thought that too, until I saw a professor of law at "Catholic" Georgetown University make the connection between abortion and government involvement in end-of-life issues. Criticizing congressional action in the Schiavo case,
Marc Spindelman asked, "What's next? If Congress doesn't like it, are they going to subpoena individual women to testify before Congress in order to keep them from exercising their rights to an abortion?" Democrat David Wu of Oregon (state of legal assisted suicide) warned that congressional intervention in the Schiavo case would leave "no bedroom safe in America."
Not all feminists are AWOL when it comes to speaking out for Terri Schiavo, however. A Schiavo statement from Feminists for Life spoke to a new feminism (thank you, Pope John Paul II) that I predict you'll be seeing a lot more of in the coming years. In the Feminists for Life release, Everybody Loves Raymond actress Patricia Heaton said: "We must not let Terri Schiavo be starved to death... This deliberate and painful destruction of a woman's life cannot be justified or tolerated. Terri deserves better."
Conservatives fighting for Terri Schiavo's right to life have been called hypocrites on the issue of marriage. How can you claim marriage is sacred, they are asked, if you don't take Michael Schiavo at his word? Shouldn't the husband's decision be the final word? The question is an attempt to dismiss (or ignore) legitimate questions about this case-inconsistencies, conflicts of interest, and the fact that living relatives are willing and able to care for a woman who is not terminally ill.
And is that an argument that anyone really wants to make? That a husband has an inalienable right to deprive his wife of food and water when she is a burden?
Even putting abortion and marriage issues aside, there are enough questions about the Terri Schiavo case to make one wonder: Did she get due process? If that is in doubt-I think it's clear it is--why has the National Organization for Women not advocated on behalf of her due-process rights? (And oh, by the way, how about the civil-liberties and human-rights groups?)
On Capitol Hill, the chronology of the Schiavo bill left a lot to be desired (and obviously, taking her case to the level of Congress was never desirable). But what is clear is that, in large part, a group of men in suits prominently fought for one woman's right to live.
These men--Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, James Sensenbrenner, Dave Weldon, Bill Frist, Mel Martinez, Rick Santorum, and others--tried to defend the rights of Terri Schiavo from Washington. For years, Jeb Bush tried to defend her on the state level. Recently, George W. Bush signed the Schiavo bill and urged us to "err on the side of life" when in doubt.
Needless to say, these men will not be getting "feminist of the year" awards. And so-called "women's groups" will continue to pass themselves off to Congress and the media as voices for America's women. But they didn't speak up for Laci Peterson (and her son Conner) and Terri Schiavo, and they don't speak for me. And I know I'm not the only one.