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my will is living to piss you off
what does the right to life imply?
by jeffrey d. walker

A lot of people have been talking about the right to life lately. And it ticks me off.

I want so desperately to blame this right to life crapp on all of the unborn fetuses in the world, as well as Terri Schiavo and all the recent publicity leading up to her death. Unfortunately, these scapegoats lack the ability to discuss their right-to-life-argument-inducing predicaments, so it's hard for me to blame them.

Instead, I have to blame people who consider themselves right to life proponents. It's their arguments, anyway. And I know that's going to tick some people off, but as I already said, they've ticked me off. So I guess we're even. But just so right to life advocates understand why they tick me off, I'm going to explain.

Right to life. Forgive me for being presumptuous, but everything about your argument is inherently flawed. Because you see, a "right to life" has an implied right to death built in. If someone has a right to life, they also have a right to say, "I don't want this anymore." "Thanks, but no thanks." "Don't call us, we'll call you." But people who argue about the right to life don't see it that way. A right to life advocate not only wants to keep their own life, but also advocate that everyone else's life should be preserved at all costs. Which of course, roughly translated, means a right to life proponent is really saying, "I know what's best for you." And really, there's no way that can come out of anyone's mouth without that person sounding like an asshole, and that's even if they are right. If they're wrong, they simply are assholes.

In fairness to the right to life bunch, in either a fetus's case or in Terry Schiavo's case, we don't know what they wanted. Fetuses don't have enough wherewithal to know what they want. They don't even have minds formed enough to have thoughts about anything, so speculation (on either side of the argument) really has no point. Still, right to life proponents on a continuous basis argue that all fetuses have a right to live. Of course, this argument ignores the right to life of the woman within whose body this fetus is going to gestate for the next several months. This argument ignores who is going to take care of the fetus if it actually becomes a child. I mean, if the mother resents it, what kind of life is that? Even if it does have the right?

When it comes to the Schiavo argument, her husband Michael says his wife would not want to live in the "persistent vegetative state" that she had existed in for fifteen years. However, Terri's parents (among others) still fought for Terri's right to life. I've discussed Terri's situation with a number of people, and I have yet to run across anyone who would prefer to live in her condition. In listening to the people who proclaim themselves proponents of Terri's right to life, I never once heard one of them say that if they were in Terri's position, they'd want to be kept alive. Which begs the question: what exactly are these rights to life people in support of? Maintain life at any cost? Is there no point when it really becomes more humane or fiscally responsible to just say, "enough is enough"?

The right to life argument gets more complicated when the life in question happens to be someone on death row, who has been convicted of murder, rape or some other terrible offense. In fairness, when an execution is drawing near, there are often candlelight vigils by people who say that the death penalty is wrong. A lot of the time, however, these are people who are opposed to the death penalty for reasons entirely different from the right to life arguments asserted for fetuses or for Terri Schiavo. In fact, there are a great many people who are against abortion are pro death penalty. The twisted arguments used to justify this are interesting, but this isn't a story about the death penalty. I'm only bringing it up to further point out the nonsense of the right to life point of view.

And to further complicate the issue, there are right to life advocates who have actually murdered doctors who perform abortions. True, this phenomenon hasn't been as prominent lately as it used to be, but the irony remains.

In contrast, the pro-choice advocates are basically saying, "If you don't want to have to do this, you don't have to." A baby you aren't prepared for, or can't afford to support? Pro-choice people support your right to choose an abortion. A terrible illness you'd prefer not to live with? Pro-choice advocates suggest that you create a "living will" that informs people what you'd like to happen in the event that your health takes a turn for the worst. They advocate "do not resuscitate" clauses in your hospital records. The difference is that pro-choice gives someone an option to pick from; you can choose to live with circumstances as they are, or you can change them. Pro-life people don't care about options. If life deals you a disease or an unplanned pregnancy, they want you to ride that train wreck to the end. And people call that compassionate conservatism?

As I said before, the big sticking point with the Terri Schiavo case is that no one knows what she wanted. She never took the time to write out what she'd like to have happen if she was unable to decide for herself. I wonder if she had, would right to life proponents still make such a fuss?

I also wonder just what sort of living will a right to life advocate may have. Do these people who seem to enjoy telling other people how to run their lives have living wills that say, "no matter how bad off I am, no matter how unlikely it is that I am ever going to recover, do whatever it takes to keep me alive. Hook me up to all the machines you can, feed me through tubes, use iron lungs to keep me breathing. That's what God would want."

Okay, maybe that isn't exactly what they are saying. But drawn out to its logical conclusion, what else does it really mean? And if there is a God, is that really what he wants? I think not.

Either way, Terri, wherever you are, I hope you are in a better place. And to all you right to lifers, I'll enjoy spending the rest of my life making you wish I had been aborted.


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker


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published: 1.14.09

constructing the underdog, part iv: israel
the separation of church and state vs. foreign policy
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topic: news
published: 4.21.08


dan gonzalez
4.20.05 @ 12:48a

Good rip, love it when you throw down!

Anyway, so are you actually saying that death is preferable to a life with resentful parents? Because a lot of people would disagree with that, and as you mentioned, the 'life' in question never got to determine that for oneself.

Also, you give pro-choice way too much credit. They're as riddled with hypocrisy as pro-lifers. Choice is some crap Betty Frieden and co. made up to make it more palatable, and there are a TON of them that are actually not pro-choice, but are pro-abortion, but don't have the guts to admit it except when they slip and say that it is actually an entitlement that should be paid for by the government, or that 'the only way to combat poverty is to emancipate women and give them reproductive rights'. These people are off telling all kinds of poor people what they should do, in other words "I know what's best for you", just like the pro-lifers you dislike.

You know how many women regret abortions? No, because NOW and everybody else that supports 'choice' won't advertise it, they just say it's a normal emotional curve to be on.

ETA: Can't wait 'til you get back from 'Nam, for a little hardcore on this!


joel verdon
4.20.05 @ 1:27a

I am shoulder to shoulder to with Jeffrey on this one, here's why...

A current-day philosopher (Rawls from Harvard, I believe) wrote an essay many years back entitled "Justice as Fairness." In it he proposes, my mind is a little foggy on the exactness, that justice be fair and that it be based on common sense - more plainly, that a "just" decision be a decision that an average person in society would make given a specific situation. With respect to Schiavo - ask normal, healthy, average Americans if they "would like to live 15 years with a feeding tube and no relative cognitive or muscular function?" The average of their answers would be the "Justice as Fairness" - an assumption as to what Terri would want.

As for the pro-choice/pro-life schisms and factions...they all get twisted and screwy. Applying Rawls theory of fairness to abortion I assume (maybe incorrectly) that the average American when questioned about an unwanted pregnancy would simply want the end result to be their own CHOICE. Screw any regrets, we all have 'em and life goes on.

Oh, Dan? Punishing the whole government healthcare system for trying to keep SAFE abortions available is simplistic and naive. Citizens are certainly NOT entitled to abortions - I agree - but each and every one of us is ENTITLED to the benefit of healthcare in the United States because we are all part of the "Implied Social Contract" (a concept of social structure first proposed by Plato and Socrates). We contribute to our society through toil, taxes, and general participation - thus we should expect to share in the benefits thereof...healthcare, be it treating a car accident victim (who CHOSE to drive) or having an abortion while not wanting to die from it, is still healthcare.



dan gonzalez
4.20.05 @ 2:14a

I don't disagree with your first two paragraphs, and just for info, I'm not a Pro-Lifer by any stretch.

I agree with the social contract and have no moral qualms with the particular choice. But it is a stretch to boil all abortions down to simply 'healthcare' and not 'personal elective choice' since no genuine efforts have ever been made to differentiate amongst them. (It's hidden behind patient confidentiality.) So if you're telling me that there is a social contract that says I have to support some indolent lass who is too selfish to deliver her own kid, or too irresponsible to raise her that kid, or whatever random non-health related reason she has, than I ask you what that person is doing in their life to hold up their end of the contract, if they can't even avoid getting pregnant in the first place, when there are abundantly clear, available means that she could choose to do so?

Also, I don't think I said anything about punishing the healthcare system, but since you mentioned it, its overall deterioration has been hastened by increased gov't intervention, not mitigated. So I think I'm holding up my end of the contract by refusing to support further futile, destructive, counter-productive intervention into it. If all you're saying is that the gov should ensure that women have access to safe abortions, fine, they do.

I will say that I'm equally annoyed that one side of this schizophrenic debate feel the need to insist that abortions are a positive thing, and the other side insist that they are a negative thing, when in reality that cannot be generally determined, only specifically by the individuals that undergo them. And I would not want to face that conundrum myself: I truly think that abortion is ambiguous, but almost entirely avoidable, and that is what makes hypocrites of us all.

jeffrey walker
4.20.05 @ 7:40a

"You know how many women regret abortions?"

just a quick note from over here: they may think they regret the decision, but this is also without having to raise that child, and all that went along with it. Just like it takes an asshole to say how someone else's life should be led, someone assuming they would have been better off not having an abortion several years later is ignoring what a different life they would have been leading in the mean time... which is the statement also of an asshole. Real life ramifications are a bitch.

And RIGHT ON, Joel. The right wingers are the first to talk about "freedoms" for Americans, which should then include their own choices. It's funny how they forget this when they're being judgmental.

jeffrey walker
4.20.05 @ 7:41a

(deleted double post - internet overseas blows)


tracey kelley
4.20.05 @ 9:47a

Whoo! That last line is quite the kicker!

I talked with a father last night about the 3-D ultrasound pictures of his soon-to-be-born child. Pretty incredible stuff - the imagining is so exact, I could see the ear shape the baby inherited from the mother and a nose that closely resembles that of the father. Face first, up close.

The father said there is a new controversy brewing among the right to lifers, for they see these types of pictures as absolute proof that a child is being killed.

Me? I don't think there was any real doubt of that before.

But these same right to lifers refuse to teach sex education or provide day care services in schools or actually adopt or foster unwanted children.

dan gonzalez
4.20.05 @ 3:07p

32 Million is the number of abortions since 1973, a number that dwarfs many others people seem to think are so significant, and which amounts to over 10% of our current population. No one can say all would have suffered worthless lives, no one can say how many would have been outstanding human beings. All we can say is that many would have suffered, but many would have prevailed.

Sex ed in public schools is a joke. They can barely teach math and language in many places. No parent or guardian in their right mind would count on that crap to help a kid sort things out. And yet in Cali, they're pushing legislation to enforce student-counselor confidentiality. Total batshit!

But screw all politics! I'm showing my kids rational numbers: No sex = 100% effective against both pregnancy and disease, Condoms = 99% on both, Pills/Patches = 99% on pregnancy, 0% disease, Abortion = 100% prevention of delivery and nothing else. And then I'm gonna make them roll my nerdy RPG percentile dice to show them how often that number comes up in reality since probabilities are just that. You can hit the first try, and many times before. If they have sex-related problems, everybody will factually know what caused it, and who is reponsible for rolling what dice. Pro Lifers and Pro Choicers can both get out of my face and kiss my ass while they're at it, nobody needs either of you!

tim lockwood
4.20.05 @ 3:37p

But these same right to lifers refuse to teach sex education or provide day care services in schools or actually adopt or foster unwanted children.

I think it's because people don't follow their belief systems all the way through. If a person is pro-life for an unborn child - which deep down I think most people are, as I've not heard any woman say how absolutely wonderful their abortion was - then one ought to be in favor of giving the child a decent life after he's born. For that matter, since in this country we can't seem to adapt the death penalty from its theoretical/theological correctness into a fair and just legal system where only the guilty are punished, a pro-lifer ought to be against the death penalty, too.

And then there's the question of euthanasia. Euthanasia, in and of itself, is wrong; however, forcing a person's body to continue living by artificial means long after the person is gone is also wrong.

Simply put - anything that demeans life is wrong. People who call themselves "pro-life" need to completely think through how important ALL life is before they make hypocritical fools of themselves.

dan gonzalez
4.20.05 @ 4:42p

Good points, but I still can't quite grasp why all the focus is on the hypocrisy on the Pro-Life side.

If we consider Pro-Lifers metaphysics, the foundation of any world view, which in their view is based on the human soul, we can see that abortion necessarily confronts them, from the roots up. Some murderer or child-killer though, well that individual has demonstrated a hateful disregard for life, so for many that person has cashed out, so to speak.

On the Pro-Choice front, the dissembling justification has gone down to the microscoptic ball of cells which is not a human being - again based on metaphysics, which in this case is humanistic - so no one has been murdered. But these hypocrites will never argue that a life hasn't been deprived, because they cannot validly do so. So they skirt the issue entirely, but when it comes to the death penalty, most oppose it because even a person who has no respect for anothers' life should still be aloud to pursue their own. This is again humanism, because the argument against the death penalty (the fairness of the justice system being a different issue) is that it is inhumane, even to a thoroughly inhumane individual.

I keep saying mouthfuls, sorry, but all I get back to is that is an ambiguous issue that makes hypocrites of both extremes.


joel verdon
4.21.05 @ 3:18a

It is so amazing to me how we always develop each other's essays into these living diatribes...

Jeffrey seems to be making the point that if we have a right to life then we, obviously, have a right to die. By using nouns that come electrically charged like abortion and pro-choice and pro-life we get away from the point he made: our life belongs to us so barring any immediate freak accidents or tornados or aneurysms ending that life belongs to us, right?

If we answer 'yes' to the question I just proposed (and I, personally, did) then it seems that taking the life of another person violates what we just agreed upon. Hence no death penalty. However, we can apply exceptions to what we agreed upon, but at that point we need governmental interference because we will never completely agree on what criteria constitute an appropriate 'taking of life.'

How's Vietnam?


daniel givin
4.21.05 @ 4:26a

These discussions always give me a headache when I read them. It is all part of the ever increasing frantic level of human activity which leads down the path to nowhere. Why do so many things seem unresolvable? Perhaps it is because our way of life has become so artificial. We are not made to do the things we are currently trying to do. What is the hurry? We place ourselves in a context where our primary objective is to compete with each other for a bigger pile of chips, and then wonder why there are always losers. Life is becoming just another commodity to be traded for personal gain. It is both a blessing and a responsibility to be alive. Perhaps we should should stop complaining, show some appreciation, and learn to work together to clean up the mess we have created.

tracey kelley
4.21.05 @ 12:14p


Where do we start?

dan gonzalez
4.21.05 @ 6:02p

Well, that's just it. Where do we start on complex issues when there is a Tastes Great/Less Filling fracas patiently waiting to erupt over even the most basic issues? I would say dialogue, but as Dan mentions , it can be headache inducing.

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