Every four years, if not every day, the national dialogue turns to matters of life and death. Specifically, what and who defines life and death and how those definitions shape our personal lives, our culture and our government.
When it comes to matters of life and death it seems to me that pro-choice should be a conservative position. Conservatives, after all, claim to be for unrestricted choice in everything, emphatically demanding their right to choose what schools they can attend, what doctors they can visit, and what caliber heat they can pack. “Get the government off the people’s back,” Ronald Reagan said. Off their back, but apparently not out of their uterus or away from their feeding tube.
Life and death, conservatives believe, are matters that fall outside the dim comprehension of common folk but right in the wheelhouse of ostensibly limited government. There is no room in the conservative philosophy for individual choice or personal conscience when it comes to issues involving contraception, abortion, or the right to die on one’s own terms.
So why do conservatives, who increasingly tend toward Christian fundamentalism, so rigidly defend the fringes of life when the basic tenet of that faith is that life here on earth is merely a brief and sorrowful stop on the road to a great and glorious reward? If they really believe that, why do they whip up such a righteous fury about hanging on to life for unwanted fetuses and the terminally ill? It’s easy for the young and healthy to say life is precious and must be preserved regardless of circumstances, but would Terri Schiavo have agreed? Does “precious” trump “viable" or "sentient"? Who is entitled to make that call? You? Me? Your congressman? Republican voters? Whatever the reasoning, in matters of life and death, conservatives are decidedly anti-choice, and insist that the government, in the form of legislation, must be given the exclusive right to decide these matters – on conservative principles, of course -- for all of us. I don’t get it.
The sincerely faithful maintain the belief that in death there awaits us all something more precious, more noble and more sublime than we’ve known in life. One would reasonably think that among those people there would be a greater tolerance for the questions of life and death that divide us so much now on earth.