Another Perspective

Schiavo and the Slippery Slope

It's taking shape as we proceed.

By 3.29.05

Send to Kindle

Democrats have joyfully jabbed conservatives who have hoped to use any potentially legitimate path of government power to save Terri Schiavo.

"Don't you like limited government?"

"What about federalism?"

"I thought you hated judicial activism!"

There is some validity to these criticisms. Not as much as the Democrats would like, considering that states' rights was their strongest issue for a long time, but some validity nonetheless. If I were going to suggest the Republican distinctive, I would say it's the dignity of the individual in a moral universe. Fits with being against slavery, for the women's vote, against socialism, for freedom of contract, and against abortion.

Although we like federalism and limited government, as means not ends, conservatives (and libertarians, I think) are also quite attached to slippery-slope arguments. Terri Schiavo's case is pregnant with possibility as regards the slippery slope. Let's see what this one looks like.

America watches Terri Schiavo die over a prolonged period from dehydration/starvation.

More attention is paid by everyone to things like living wills and other legal instruments. More commonly, husbands and wives will be explicit with each other about detailed situations.

Many stop and ask, why did Terri have to die of dehydration? Why couldn't she have been well-cared for to the end and finally delivered via an overdose of morphine or some other quick, painless finisher?

The euthanasia movement gains significant momentum.

Assisted suicide is legalized in a significant portion of the states or the Supreme Court federalizes the issue as it has abortion. Justice Kennedy's "sweet mystery of life" reasoning extends private discretion to decisions about the life and death of dependent, helpless persons.

America attains the moral status of, say, the Netherlands.

Having broken through the barrier of taboo, euthanasia is eventually applied to the disabled newborn population.

It is no longer assumed that a disabled child is going home with parents. The "fourth trimester" becomes as potentially deadly as the first three for "defective" children, who are already targeted for destruction as part of the campaign to reduce birth defects.

We begin to hear about therapy groups for post-euthanasia parents in the same way we hear about post-abortive women suffering psychic trauma.

Post-euthanasia parents receive as little sympathy as post-abortive women.

Everyone outside the hard core religious communities forgets what a Down Syndrome child looks like, or sounds like, or loves like.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Hunter Baker is associate dean of arts and sciences and associate professor of political science at Union University. He is the author of The End of Secularism and winner of the 2011 Michael Novak Award. His personal website is www.hunterbaker.wordpress.com.