Why Big Government Is Offensive

The faster the state expands, the more likely it is to violate your values.

I was hoping to make it through life without hearing television commentators repeatedly utter the word transvaginal. Yet that intimate territory is where the country headed in February, and it is where we will increasingly return as long as the government keeps assuming a greater role in our private lives.

The case, which (like so many culture war skirmishes) may already be forgotten by the time you read this, involved Republican legislation in Virginia that originally mandated an ultrasound test on every woman scheduled to have an abortion. The resulting image, according to the Virginia Senate’s initial version of the bill, must if possible “contain the dimensions of the fetus, and accurately portray the presence of external members and internal organs of the fetus,” in order to produce an estimate of gestational age. 

The idea was clear enough: Gals who see tangible evidence of a growing organism in their womb will probably be less likely to go through with its extermination. The problem, as Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out in his critique of the original bill after it had made national headlines, was that “mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

Quite so, even without those “invasive” modifiers. Still, that was not exactly the language used by the bill’s biggest opponents. 

“Most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure,” wrote Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick, “in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced.” Transvaginal (a term not referenced in the legislation) became the horrified rallying cry for a pro-choice nation shuddering at the prospect of Republicans seizing what comedian/commentator Lizz Winstead called the “legal authority to force doctors to rape their patients.”

The outrage softened the final bill’s language: Now women would have the option to insist on an external ultrasound, and those who became pregnant through rape or incest could opt out altogether, though only after reporting the incident to police. But if McDonnell signs the legislation into law, it will be yet another demonstration that Republicans are reliably opposed to big-government health care only when they are not the ones implementing it. 

Whether passing Medicare Part D during the GOP salad days of 2003, intervening federally in end-of-life decisions by Terri Schiavo’s family in 2005, or creating the individual health care mandate in Massachusetts in 2006, Republicans have done their best to speed up government’s slow-motion takeover of the health care industry whenever doing so aligned with the party’s perceived interests and values. Alas, so have Democrats. In the very same week liberals and progressives were complaining about “theocracy” in Virginia, they were busy waving away social-conservative complaints about ObamaCare’s requirement that employers pay for contraceptive coverage regardless of whatever theological or philosophical objections they might have. 

Conservatives, clucked Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Alter, were still claiming that “the president was abusing religious freedom even when that attack was no longer plausible. By decreeing that insurance companies, not Catholic institutions, will pay for contraceptives in employee health care plans (as allowed under the Affordable Care Act), the president successfully shifted the subject back to birth control, where he’s on solid political footing.…The culture wars are over, and the Republicans lost.”

Thinking that you can pin 100 percent of the cost of coverage on insurance companies rather than the employers who pay for health plans requires an impressive suspension of disbelief, but it is Alter’s final assertion that is most relevantly wrong. Republicans may well be losing ground, but there is no chance in hell that “the culture wars are over.” As long as government keeps expanding in size, scope, and cost, the culture war will only intensify. The battlegrounds will change as societal attitudes shift, but conflict will be perennial.

Consider subsidies and tax breaks (for more on the latter, see Veronique de Rugy’s “Taxation, American Style,” page 22). Right now 40 states offer some sort of incentive for audio-visual production, an American industry that somehow managed to rise from nothing and dominate the world without the guiding hand of government. In 2011 congressional testimony, the Tax Foundation’s Joseph Henchman noted that “these programs lose governments between 72 and 92 cents for every dollar spent on them, even after accounting for increased economic activity generated by film production.” 

Worse, built into each tax or subsidy goodie for Hollywood (or Detroit, or the Farm Belt) is an explicit value judgment: This industry is inherently more valuable, more worthy of support, than, say, the gaming business, or app development, or gun manufacturing (see Greg Beato’s “The Gun Explosion,” page 18). The federal government gives a mortgage-interest deduction to upper-class property owners; many state and local governments tilt their codes toward renters instead of rentiers. President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, proposed enough rewards for favored behavior to add hundreds of pages to the tax code. When government picks winners (and losers), it not only distorts the market; it forcibly extracts money to pay for preferences that huge swaths of people don’t share.

In early March gullible Minnesota lawmakers announced a plan to pay at least $737 million in public money (and probably much more than that) so the profitable Minnesota Vikings can build a new stadium. But what about taxpayers who hate football? Or competitors for the Minneapolis entertainment dollar who don’t have access to subsidies from awe-struck legislators?

Libertarians have their values stomped on by governments every day. My (high) taxes in Washington, D.C., are helping to pay hundreds of millions in debt service for a baseball stadium I fervently believe should not have received a drop in public financing. My local city council members—who work part time, mind you, and often maintain second jobs—receive $125,000 from taxpayers each year, a pay rate second only to the loot commanded by the inept legislators of the last city I lived in, Los Angeles. And the criminal code is a festival of offensive-to-me-value judgments, prohibiting actions I consider perfectly moral and proper, such as traveling to Cuba, smoking marijuana, or paying money to illegal immigrants.

The kerfuffles over mandatory ultrasounds and contraceptive mandates made brutally clear an axiom that partisans have a hard time understanding: Any power that government has to do something you like will invariably be used for something you abhor. Today’s decision interpreting the Commerce Clause to justify snatching home-grown medical marijuana from patients in California becomes the justification for tomorrow’s federal mandate to buy health insurance. Reduce the scope of government, and we reduce the culture war, while promoting true tolerance of divergent viewpoints.

As Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said in Michigan last February, “When you can tolerate people who are different, you know what happens? We come together.…The true belief in liberty brings all different kinds of people together.” As he put it in a GOP presidential debate on January 8, “People use freedom in different ways.…It invites variations in our religious beliefs, in economic beliefs.”

Want to promote tolerance? Cut government. Let different cultural claims fight it out in the appropriate venue, as far away from my tax dollars as possible.

Editor in Chief Matt Welch is co-author, with Nick Gillespie, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America (PublicAffairs).

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Michael||

    More or less on-topic:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/07/.....index.html

    See absolutely hilarious use of the word "shocking" at the 2:38 mark.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Again with the v*g***l probes!

    That wasn't mentioned in the original bill, but when medical experts like "comedian/commentator Lizz Winstead" said it required the probes, the legislators promptly amended with clarifications.

    Result: Abortionists will continue to do the hated probes, since it is apparently standard procedure in the industry. Not to mention that abortion tends to be an invasive procedure.

    It's question-begging to call abortion a medical procedure which a libertarian govt will leave alone. It depends on whether a live human being in the womb is a person with human rights. If so, then even minarchist state will extend that person a minimum of protection.

    What's with the deliberate ducking of the central question and going straight to the "medical procedure" euphemism?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Winstead is a comedian?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Her remark *is* kind of funny, though she probably thought she was serious.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    She's about as funny as Gallagher.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    While I'm at it, what the evil Republicans did with Terri Schiavo is empower the federal courts to hear her claim on the merits. The Florida court ordered her food and drink to be withdrawn - the federal courts reviewed that state-court order, and upheld the state courts. This evil Republican theocratic bill didn't even delay Schiavo's own "medical procedure." No harm, no foul.

    The federal review of Schiavo's case is no worse than the federal review of the cases of convicted murderers on Death Row. The federal courts bend over backwards to make sure the state courts got it right in decreeing that a person should die.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Look, I see the need for moral equivalence to support the idea of Dems and Reps both being statists, but why pick these particular examples, which don't support the thesis?

  • wareagle||

    I suspect right many libertarians would disagree whether the state courts should have ANY say in whether a person like Schiavo lives or dies. That is a family matter, period, and reinforces the value of living wills and medical powers of attorney. You don't know bureaucratic bullshit until decisions have to be made for another person and no authority to make them. I thank my parents every day for having had the foresight to draft documentation that allowed us to carry out their wishes.

  • John||

    They have to have a say. If there is no living will, who makes the decision? That is one hell of a family conflict. Without going to court how do we decide who makes the decision? One one mortal combat between the parties?

  • wareagle||

    ultimately, the decision belongs to the person closest to the patient, beginning with a spouse, then parents, then perhaps siblings. The Schiavo case WAS a horrible conflict; that poor woman had died long before the paperwork was signed.

  • ||

    Yes, in Texas there is a statute that draws out the priority list for making the decision (unless you specify beforehand).

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Just to be clear - in Schiavo's case, the husband petitioned the courts for an order to cut off food and water, and the state court granted it. Congress let the parents challenge the state court in federal court. The reason for the dispute is that the husband and parents fundamentally disagreed on what the courts should do. Particularly, what Terri Schiavo's wishes were in the absense of a living will. Add that to the family conflict, and it's hard to see a self-evident answer as to who's the "us" carrying out her wishes, and what those wishes are.

  • wareagle||

    I tend to give primacy to the spouse, unless there is some red flag, like a monster insurance policy taken out a few weeks prior or something like that. But, I do not believe that was the case here. My vote is spouse trumps parent.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The red flag was that the husband was cheating on his wife with a woman with whom he already had children. And he was the main source of the story that Terri would want the feeding tubes, etc. removed.

    Just to be clear - it's possible that Michael Schiavo was indeed the heroic husband he claimed to be (he studied nursing to care for his wife, after all). And he ended up getting his request granted and his story believed by the courts. But you can see that it's not the slam-dunk portrayed.

  • wareagle||

    but she was in the state reflected by the video clips for how long? There was no reasonable expectation of any improvement in her condition.

    Michael may have been a royal dick, but having had kids (plural) implies Terry had been where she was for some time and that was unlikely to change. I'll go back to advocating medical powers of attorney and living wills and the like to prevent this sort of thing. That case was ugly from any angle.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Absolutely, but (a) it was already in the media when the evil Republicans got involved, and (b) the Reps in Congress simply gave a federal-court review to the case comparable to (but much faster than) what we give to death-row inmates.

  • John||

    ^^This^^ Reason can't resist getting their Cosmo on over the Shiavo case. You would think that they would care about a state court effectively ordering the death of someone.

  • ||

    You must be joking. You think it's the federal government's job to rush back and pass bills based on heart-string jerking individual circumstances? And that it's appropriate for the doctor in the senate to pronounce his "professional" judgement of her ability to recover just based on some edited video the family gave him? The whole circus was ludicrous.

  • John||

    I think it is the federal government's job to ensure that the states do not kill their citizens without due process of law. That whole 14th Amendment thing.

  • Sharon Stone||

    She had been in a vegetative state for 15 years, she was practically dead already.

  • Zeb||

    I'd say she was dead already. For a long time. There was no person left to kill.

  • o3||

    the whole saturday congressional intervention was about abortion not the shiavos.

  • Randian||

    How does it make it better that a federal court sustained the order? This is another case of fairweather federalism.

  • John||

    If it is, then I guess we should get rid of federal habeas review. Shiavo had a federal right to due process. She was entitled to federal court review of that right before the state courts killed her.

    Libertarians generally believe in due process and federal enforcement of basic rights. That is unless doing requires being on the side with people they find distasteful apparently.

  • Randian||

    For all intents and purposes the federal courts "ordered" her "death". So your point is...?

  • John||

    Then she got her federal due process. For intents and purposes federal courts order the deaths of executed prisoners. Again, do you object to federal habeas review?

  • Randian||

    That depends. What was so egregious about the process that it required a special congressional bill? Oh yes it was on television.

  • John||

    Yes it was. think about what happened here. Her parents wanted to pay for her care. And the state court said "no her husband gets to kill her instead". That is a pretty egregious decision. I think it is something worth a federal court taking a look at. I am pretty uncomfortable with the idea of courts ordering people to be starved to death.

    And I would hope Libertarians would be too. But sadly, many Libertarians are so caught up in the Kulture war that they will agree to pretty much anything so long as it involves sticking it in the eye of the evil Fundies. It is just fucking sorry.

  • Randian||

    That depends. What was so egregious about the process that it required a special congressional bill? Oh yes it was on television.

  • R C Dean||

    She was entitled to federal court review of that right before the state courts killed her.

    More accurate to say "before the state courts affirmed her husband's right to serve as her surrogate medical decisionmaker."

    Somebody has to make these decisions. And there's no dispute (outside of loony-fundy right-to-life land) that a surrogate decisionmaker can authorize withdrawal of care.

    The only real dispute in Schiavo's case was whether her husband (who is the presumptive surrogate) should be removed.

    Note: its been awhile, so I could be misplacing a legal maneuver here or there.

  • John||

    That was the dispute. RC. Maybe you are just a okay with husbands starving their wives to death over the objection of the rest of the family. You do work in health care.

    But I am pretty uncomfortable with that idea. If she had had a living will, that would be different. But she didn't. Frankly, I don't see the problem with the federal court review.

    Why people get their panties in a wad over a federal court review of a state court decision allowing the death of its citizens is beyond me.

  • Randian||

    But I am pretty uncomfortable with that idea.

    Unless a federal court says it's okely-dokely, then it is all good?

  • R C Dean||

    Maybe you are just a okay with husbands starving their wives to death over the objection of the rest of the family. You do work in health care.

    Yes, I do.

    I understand that someone has to make the decision.

    I understand that not withdrawing care can be painful for the patient and staff.

    I know how often this is done, and that when it is done, it has been the right decision to make every single time that I have personal knowledge of.

    And I also know just how irrational and dysfunctional families can get.

    From a clinical/legal perspective, withdrawing care from someone in a permanent vegetative state with the consent of their husband is completely routine. And even humane.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Federalism is a fair issue - eg, why should federal courts be able to second-guess the state courts re who should die (a question which opens up the question of federal courts in death-penalty litigation).

    But Matt Welch's article didn't mention this in the context of finality of state-court decisions but in terms of the Reps "intervening federally in end-of-life decisions by Terri Schiavo’s family." And then not defining "family" (aren't parents family)?

    I'm sorry, Matt Welch, but I think you're letting your sense of Republican ickiness affect your judgment.

  • R C Dean||

    You would think that they would care about a state court effectively ordering the death of someone.

    We probably would, but that's not what happened in Schiavo.

    In that case, somebody had to make a decision, and that somebody was the husband.

    The court allowed the husband to go forward with his desired course of action.

    I suppose there might be a trifle bit of outrage that he had to go to court at all, but in the circumstances (that is, a live conflict and allegations that he had a conflict of interest), I personally don't see a problem with the court taking a hand.

    Now, Congress and the federal courts had no business getting involved, sure.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The whole Shiavo media thing was just a distraction from the fact that we were selling nuclear capible F16's to Pakistan that week. A military known to have elements hostile to the US. This while we're fighting the Taliban who coincidentally we also had supplied weapons to at one time. General Dynamics babies needed new shoes.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2005-0.....s?_s=PM:US

  • Drake||

    Please define "nuclear capable". How is that different than any aircraft with hard points or internal bays for bombs?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Drake, that is beyond my expertise. I suppose I would think that you could toss one out of anything. I just remember reading that in the article back then and wondering why that story was on page 14 in small print and Terri Shiavo was taking up most of the front page.

  • Rasilio||

    I was gonna say the same thing. A friggin Cessna is "Nuclear Capable" as even the crudest warhead that would get made today would not be significantly larger or heavier than a human passenger.

  • Lord Humungus||

    my only issue with the Schiavo case is the method used to kill her.

    Starvation? It would have been better to OD her with morphine or something quick. Dogs are given better deaths.

  • Rasilio||

    +1

  • Jerryskids||

    Ah, but they didn't kill her. Had they given her a lethal injection, that would have killed her. Withholding nutrition was simply allowing her to die. She was still perfectly free to get out of bed and go fix herself a PB&J if she felt peckish.

    Matt posited that the Schiavo case was an illustration of his thesis that the more decisions government gets to make, the more we will have decisions that violate someone's values. Reading this thread, I believe he has made his point.

    For all the discussion of "who gets to decide?", you should note that passing a law saying the decision belongs first to the spouse, then the parents, then the siblings is still the state deciding who gets to decide.

    I have some personal experience with this issue and I know that things are not quite so simple once the state gets involved.

  • Christophe||

    Unless the state's ordering is simply a default in the absence of a living will or other document.

    Ultimately laying down defaults isn't a bad idea if they're easy to replace with rules of your own. It limits the things to fight over in court.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "It depends on whether a live human being in the womb is a person with human rights."

    Now who's begging the question? Or was that the point?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The article didn't even think the question worth discussing. Hence begging the question.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Actually, that doesn't even begin to answer the question. Even if you think of the early-term fetus as the equivalent of an individual person, there is a question about whether a host can be required to carry the 'person' for 9 months and undergo the potentially life-threatening ordeal of birth.

    And if you want to take the tired old trope of imputing consent based on sex, you still have to deal with rape. And then you have to explain why it is okay to 'kill' a 'person' who is the product of a rape through no fault of the person to be killed.

    So maybe, personhood or no, the state should simply stay out of the business of deciding which pre-viability pregnancies have to go full-term.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    You may have made an argument for induced labor, but not for directly killing the fetus.

    And if you find a helpless person, who cannot be moved without killing him, on your land, then my understanding is that you can't move him - which is a parallel situation to induced labor. The landowner's property rights have been technically limited. Nor can this be imputed to sexism or hatred of landowners. It goes back to the common law, which is generally landowner-friendly.

    The general principle is that you can't throw someone into an inhospitable environment where he is almost certain to die as a result.

    "And then you have to explain why it is okay to 'kill' a 'person' who is the product of a rape through no fault of the person to be killed."

    You probably won't be surprised to know that I don't think it's OK to kill a child conceived in rape. Where will it end? At birth? At three years old? I'd be open to killing the actual rapist, if that's the alternative to punishing an innocent child

  • Registration At Last!||

    The analogy breaks down because your land is not your stomach. You could certainly push someone bodily off of your stomach, even if doing so would be fatal. You would not have to lie still for 9 months to avoid killing the "helpless person" laying across your stomach.

    And the pregnant rape victim's top priority isn't in using you, or the state, as the agency for blood vengance against her attacker. Her priority is getting her rapist's spawn out of her stomach. And in that, she has my support every bit as much as she would in pushing someone off of her body.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    This leads to bizarre results.

    According to the U.S. Supreme Court, executing a rapist - even someone who rapes children - is cruel and unusual punishment, and unconstitutional. Yet abortion of those who admittedly are not guilty is a constitutional right.

    Punishing the perpetrator is often very important to the victim. For some, it is an even higher priority than displacing aggression onto a small human being who did no wrong.

  • AlmightyJB||

    What's the woman's objection to the transvaginal procedure? Seem's like that would be like me complaining about a hand job.

  • sticks||

    what? my humor chip is broken.

  • T o n y||

    A minarchist state that decided fetuses were persons would just have to outlaw abortion and throw women who get them and their black market doctors in jail. No need to mandate an unnecessary medical procedure for the purposes of trying to force women what to think. In fact that seems totally incompatible with a limited state.

    One would also think a minarchy wouldn't also be a theocracy, so it's hard to see why one would outlaw abortion.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    You know what's incompatible with a limited state? The government deciding which living human beings are entitled to human rights, including the right to be protected against those trying to kill him.

    The market for hit-men is probably a "black market," too.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Throwing around devil-words like "theocracy" gives too much credit for theocrats, since they don't have a monopoly of concern for human rights.

  • T o n y||

    If you want to toss women and doctors in jail for life or even give them the death penalty for exercising what modern societies have decided is a personal right, ok then, can't fault you for being inconsistent.

    But I don't think there's a secular argument for making the unborn full persons, and there is certainly not a practical one. There was a parade of horrors that enacting such a right was meant to eliminate. If you don't have a deeply felt religious reason for taking the arbitrary position of fetus personhood, then why bother?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tiny,

    But I don't think there's a secular argument for making the unborn full persons[.]


    You're correct just halfway: You don't think.

    The secular argument for acknowledging the personhood of a fetus is that a fetus is:

    a) A living thing
    b) A human
    c) Potentially achieving through development the capability of making choices.

    If I am capable of making choices and I was a fetus, then I have NO right to say another fetus is NOT capable of the same thing. I cannot thus take away his or her personhood just because it sounds convenient, anymore than I can deny your personhood just because I find you irritating.

  • T o n y||

    A lot of people have to moderate that position because they don't think a society in which the state forces women to give birth against their will (or else go to prison) is preferable.

    What you've presented is an arbitrary set of criteria. I could say personhood means the ability to survive physically independently, making abortion OK up until birth. Why are you right and I'm not? The only possible answer is "god says so" or an equivalent.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    For that matter, where did we get the idea of human beings, qua human beings, having intrinsic value? Nietzsche thought it was purely a religious concept - introducing slave morality into public policy where it doesn't belong.

  • Lar Gand||

    [W]hen circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible. … [W]e propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide,’ to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus … rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.

    Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. In the Journal of Medical Ethics

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tiny,

    A minarchist state that decided fetuses were persons would just have to outlaw abortion and throw women who get them and their black market doctors in jail.


    Just like it would outlaw murder and throw murderers into jail or to the gallows.

    One would also think a minarchy wouldn't also be a theocracy, so it's hard to see why one would outlaw abortion.


    It's hard to see why outlawing abortion equates to establishing a theocracy unless intellectual dishonesty is applied liberaly. One can arrive at the conclusion a fetus is a person purely by deduction, not simply as a matter of faith.

  • T o n y||

    How do you get there by deduction? Personhood is an abstract legal definition. Where you draw the line is arbitrary.

    But just as long as you acknowledge that your arbitrary choice requires a state more physically intrusive than anything you normally bitch about.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tiny,

    How do you get there by deduction? Personhood is an abstract legal definition.


    Really? As in Scott Dred? Blacks are not people except when the law saz?

    Where you draw the line is arbitrary.


    What's arbitrary is placing the stick that draws the line on the hands of lawmakers. People were snuffed out of existence by those very same lawmakers many times through modern history, you conveniently forget.

    But just as long as you acknowledge that your arbitrary choice requires a state more physically intrusive than anything you normally bitch about.


    It's not an arbitrary choice. The definition of a person is one that has the potential to make choices. A sleeping woman is thus a person. Even if a baby is not capable of making choices, he or she has the potential to achieve this, just like a car has the potential to be driven around just before you add gas to it.

  • T o n y||

    You're still appealing to some mystical definition that I'm supposed to accept by force. Were blacks people before legally recognized as such? Who cares? Without the legal rights the words mean nothing.

    Somebody has to decide these things, and I'd rather secular practical thinking inform them than religious absolutism. You're welcome to try to sell your position, but the only people I see advocating imprisoning women and doctors are fringe crazies. Sell your policy honestly, that's all I ask.

  • ||

    So the personhood of a black person or of a fetus is an "arbitrary", abstract legal decision, which you're okay with, as long as the person making the arbitrary, abstract legal definition is not in any way religiously affiliated? You're a miracle, Tony. You really are.

  • T o n y||

    Religion does not do well in informing policy choices, no.

    It is possible to be ethical without being religious, so religion is unnecessary.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    I'm an atheist and I think fetuses are persons. It doesn't entail theocracy at all (as it happens I also think that abortion should be legal up until birth).

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Abortionists? Really?

    They are called OBGYNs. They are real doctor's.

  • shrike||

    Its why conservatives feigned surprise when an ABC moderator asked Romney about contraception/vaginal inspections and the Griswold Right to Privacy case in a primary debate. They need to kill any notion of privacy to enact their social police state - from contraception to no-knock sodomy searches.

    That is some notion of "freedom" conservatives have.

  • John||

    Get back in your hole you retarded little deviant.

  • ||

    Just ignore it, John. Just walk away. It hatesessss it when you ignore it.

  • shrike||

    Right, I am the troll as you reply to a far-right conservative Team Red freak.

    You are consistent in your lack of awareness, I'll give you that.

  • BakedPenguin||

    So sockpuppets want gasoline?

  • Apostate Jew||

    Whose hand is in the sock?

    I ask because I have never understood the hatred displayed toward the shrike.

  • John||

    Because he is completely tiresome and predictable. Every post he makes is some inane point about how wonderful Obama is or how the evil fundies who live in his underwear are out to destroy the world.

  • Apostate Jew||

    If he's really worried about the people who live in his underwear he's likely harmless but that still doesn't answer whose hand is in the sock.

  • wareagle||

    and yet Romney - like the vast majority of conservatives - believe the state should butt the hell out of contraception and let people make their own decisions. Some right-wing statists, like Ricky from PA, think they know better than anyone else but most folks are content with letting grownups make their own decisions about pills, condoms, and the rest.

    Please, you're of the same side that believes it has a divine right to dictate salt usage and gas mileage.

  • shrike||

    No, Romney deftly dodged the issue in that debate. In all probability he has no firm conviction (as in all issues) but he knows the raving looney GOP base hates the Right to Privacy.

  • wareagle||

    wrong...he was quite clear in saying "there is nothing wrong with contraception; leave it alone". Please. This issue is a distraction drawn by the left, usable against the likes of Ricky but bullshit in the mainstream. Even Catholics who want birth control have long since figured out how to get it without the state's intervention. A distraction under the bigger Dem heading of "free stuff".

  • shrike||

    Yes, he did say that.

    The moderator was asking about 'Griswold' and the Right to Privacy though.

  • wareagle||

    the moderator was asking things designed to paint a party he will never support in a negative light. Nothing about Romney's campaign has been about social issues; it's all about economics.

  • sarcasmic||

    Your ability to slay men of straw is nothing short of amazing.

  • anon||

    It's the +3 silver sword of hay vanquishing he carries.

  • juris imprudent||

    More like his ability to shoot them in the knee with an arrow.

  • Seamus||

    intervening federally in end-of-life decisions by Terri Schiavo’s family in 2005

    By "family," I presume you mean "adulterous husband who stood to inherit whatever was left of the tort award she had won to pay for her medical care." Every other person in her family that I've read about wanted her kept alive.

  • anon||

    Re: You fuckers and Terri Shiavo:

    Do any of you actually give even a little of a fuck? Because I certainly still can't find a single fuck to give about the entire case.

  • John||

    I care about the idea of a state court deciding someone was unfit to live and giving the okay to starve them to death. Sure, Shiavo was in a very bad way. But she left no instructions on how to be treated.

    Aren't you just a little bit concerned about the state killing someone because they didn't find their condition to be worthy of protection under the law? Just a little? Shouldn't we try not to get too comfortable with that idea no matter how convenient it was in the Shiavo case?

  • anon||

    Aren't you just a little bit concerned about the state killing someone because they didn't find their condition to be worthy of protection under the law?

    I'm far more worried the court would order me to pay to keep her alive.

  • John||

    Really? So I guess you are okay with the courts ordering the death of anyone they see as "unfit" in order to keep you from having to pay under medicare?

    And she wasn't under medicare last I looked. It was her private insurance company not you that was going to pay. But it is good to know that you consider someone's right to live to be directly dependent upon the money they may cost you to be that way.

    I guess you are okay with us killing everyone in a nursing home.

  • anon||

    Really? So I guess you are okay with the courts ordering the death of anyone they see as "unfit" in order to keep you from having to pay under medicare?

    Straw man.

    If the court can order me to pay for the care of someone that can't care for their self, where do you draw the line?

    Schiavo was unable to care for herself. Her husband no longer wanted to care for her. Why should he be forced to?

  • anon||

    Also, I don't want Medicare to exist, nor Medicaid... So if that's "killing unfit peoples," so be it.

  • John||

    "If the court can order me to pay for the care of someone that can't care for their self, where do you draw the line?"

    Where do you? That is a good question. And you totally misunderstand the Shiavo case. Her parents wanted to care for her. They never asked you to pay for it. What the court said was "no parents, you can't take care of her, we are going to let her soon to be ex husband kill her".

    It is not about making you pay for anything. It was about the parents right to take her in and take care of her. And the court said no. The court effectively killed her.

    And Libertarians cheered the government telling a parent they couldn't take care of their daughter because they were so fucking wrapped up in the kulture war.

  • Brett L||

    John. The important point in the Schiavo case is that the next of kin was petitioning the government. That is -- the husband was following the legal steps necessary to carry out what he believed his wife (who due to incapacitation was now his ward) wanted. There was a concern that he was acting in his own interest and not the interest of his ward, which was reviewed by a civil court. It ain't a death panel.

  • anon||

    Only 15 years after the initial incident, when their daughter had become a political football, did the parents offer to feed their daughter my "natural means," which they knew well she couldn't swallow.

    Yeah, not buying it. The parents wanted to either keep Terri alive on the husband's dime or the taxpayer's dime; or merely just to prevent the husband from receiving a piece of Terri's estate. I don't know their motives, but I know they weren't willing to pay out of their own pocket; else I doubt the courts would've objected 14 times.

  • John||

    but I know they weren't willing to pay out of their own pocket; else I doubt the courts would've objected 14 times.

    If that is true, which I doubt, it makes the court look even worse. Either the husband had the right to make the decision and was acting in her best interest or not. The family's ability to pay should have had nothing to do with it.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    "soon-to-be" is the operative word. By FL law, and most states, IINM, all medical decisions are left to a spouse or closest living relative.

    As he was her legal spouse, the decision was his and his alone. The court did not "order her death", it upheld the law of the state and deferred to her husband.

    You know this, John, but your partisanship is shining through on this one.

  • Zeb||

    John, where are you getting "unfit to live" from? They just decided that the husband was the person who can make decisions for her. If her parents had been the ones who wanted to pull the plug, it woudl have been the opposite outcome with the same legal reasoning. None of it had anything to do with fitness to live.

  • Brett L||

    If the state judiciary reviewed a petition from the next of kin AND allowed a federal appeal from another interested party, how is that a lack of due process?

  • R C Dean||

    I care about the idea of a state court deciding someone was unfit to live and giving the okay to starve them to death.

    That would worry me, too. Fortunately, the state court's involvement here was to review the decision made by Terri's husband as her legal surrogate decision-maker, not to order the removal of care sua sponte.

    Congress and the federal court's involvement was completely unnecessary and politically driven. She had due process already, at the state level. It is highly unusual, BTW, for a state court to review a surrogate's decision to withdraw care, so she had already gotten an extraordinary amount of due process.

  • R C Dean||

    One other thing about these cases:

    The last thing you lose when you are in a permanent vegetative state is the ability to feel pain. Ordinary care for someone who has been in a vegetative state for any length of time is painful.

    Providing a full suite of care for someone who is in a permanent vegetative state is an exercise in sadism, which is very hard, not just on what's left of the patient, but on hospital staff.

  • John||

    The court allowed her husband to starve her to death over the objection of every other member of the family.

    I am fully aware of the legal issue at hand. But stop insulting my intelligence by pretending that the effect of the ruling was anything but what it was.

    And yeah, I am sure it is hard for the staff to take care of someone like that. But who cares? How happy the nurses are is not relevant in determining whether someone is fit to live.

  • Zeb||

    You keep saying "fit to live" But I don't see how that is relevant here at all. That has nothing to do with what the courts were deciding. There was no question that she was in a state such that whoever was able to make decisions for her would have had the power to remove life support.

  • R C Dean||

    How happy the nurses are is not relevant in determining whether someone is fit to live.

    One of the difficulties in these cases is, in fact, the staff, who have their own moral and ethical obligations.

    In cases like this, a court ordering that care be continued would be a court ordering that care be provided by hospital staff regardless.

    Now, you may think a court ordering someone to go in and inflict pain on someone every day when there is no real therapeutic benefit, or lose their job, is no big deal.

    But, to me, its a very big deal. I suspect if you were under a court order to commit immoral and unethical acts every day, you would, too.

    But stop insulting my intelligence by pretending that the effect of the ruling was anything but what it was.

    I'm not insulting your intelligence. I am trying to provide you with some context for what was happening there.

    The courts allowed her legally authorized surrogate decisionmaker to give consent to withdrawal of care, which he had the legal authority to do. And which happens routinely all over the country.

    The Schiavo case was a media feeding frenzy on par with the Zimmerman/Martin case.

  • alittlesense||

    I hate to get involved in this discussion, but I feel I have to, because there is a boatload of misinformation flying. I remember the Schiavo case well, and I read a great deal about it.
    First, anyone who looks at a widely available CAT scan image of her brain at the time of her death, cannot realistically doubt that she could never recover any functioning. Her cerebral cortex was mostly gone, replaced by large areas of fluid. What was left of it was lace-like. The rest of her brain was similarly lace-like.Had she continued in her Persistent Vegetative State, her brain would have likely continued to atrophy, until there was almost nothing left.
    Second, Terri Schiavo did not starve to death. She died from dehydration. When one is in a state such as hers, there is no sensation of thirst, or of hunger for that matter. This is not my notion, studies have been done on this.

  • Mr. Soul||

    Nice work Matt. Great point about reduction of scope yeilding reduction of culture conflict. When the Federation and the Klingons figured that out, they became allies.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I would point out that the Federation wnd th Kilgons ar fictional, and thus arguably poor examples.

  • Old Mexican||

    Why Big Government Is Offensive


    Besides thieving and murderous...

    Ok, I guess being thieving and murderous makes one sufficiently offensive already.

  • Old Mexican||

    “Most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure,” wrote Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick, “in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced.”


    Wait - what? Can't the same be determined with just a regular tummy ultrasouund? Why does it necessarily have to be with a vaginal probe?

  • Trespassers W||

    Pardon my medical lingo, but I think that when the embryo is weeny, they need to get up closer to it. I don't think you use a probe after the first trimester.

  • DrC||

    because pelvic US images are much better than transabdominal.

  • Zeb||

    In any case, it seem like that is the sort of thing that doctors and their patients should determine. Even if it is appropriate or necessary in every case, a law requiring it is stupid.

  • T o n y||

    The state should not force doctors to do unnecessary procedures on patients who don't want them. I don't see how you can be a libertarian and disagree with that.

    You just have to outlaw abortion because it's equivalent to murder. That means, in some states, the death penalty for mothers who seek them and doctors who perform them.

    You should have to sell that when you talk about fetuses as persons with full rights. If women shouldn't be given prison sentences for murder 1, then there must be some gray area, mustn't there? Fetuses can't possibly be exactly like persons, can they?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tiny,

    You just have to outlaw abortion because it's equivalent to murder. That means, in some states, the death penalty for mothers who seek them and doctors who perform them.


    Actually, it would mean the death penalty for the abortionist (I'm not going to denigrate doctors by lumping them with abortionists), not necessarily for the mother. The mother would just be an accessory to murder, like when letting a murderer enter her house so he can kill her children.

    You should have to sell that when you talk about fetuses as persons with full rights.


    Fetuses are persons with full rights. Why do you speak as if they weren't?

    If women shouldn't be given prison sentences for murder 1, then there must be some gray area, mustn't there? Fetuses can't possibly be exactly like persons, can they?


    Just because arsonists are sometimes not found guilty does not mean ipso facto houses are not property, you moron.

  • T o n y||

    Never let it be said that you entertain gray areas.

    Throwing women and abortion providers in jail is supposed to be an absurd proposition. Guess not.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tiny,

    Never let it be said that you entertain gray areas.


    Never let it said that comprehension is your strongest suit. I haven't enternained such notions and there's nothing in what I wrote that could lead you to conclude such, unless (again) you liberaly apply intellectual dishonesty and spin.

    I pointed out a gross failing in your logic - again, just because some people get away with murder does not confer murder any sense of moral validity.

    Throwing women and abortion providers in jail is supposed to be an absurd proposition.


    Supposed by whom? People are thrown in jail for killing a dog, so why would receiving punishment for killing a person be absurd?

    Besides, I am not an advocate of jail as punishment. I believe that banishment is a much better form of punishment.

  • T o n y||

    My logic is simply that if embryos and fetuses are persons, then people who provide and receive abortions ought to be treated the same as perpetrators of first-degree murder. I think you agree with the logic. I think you might even agree with the sentiment.

    As someone in favor of abortion rights, obviously I don't see fetuses as full persons with the right to life. Stipulating that I have exactly as much empirical justification for that opinion as you do for yours (none), that leaves practicality and common sense. Not your preferred authorities, I know.

    You "minarchists" have got to figure out how you're going to impose your worldview on everyone without it seeming like you're just another (especially authoritarian form of) statist.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    So when a pregnant woman is murdered, you're ok with the murderer being charged with one murder, not two?

  • ||

    The bizarre, tangential discussion about the rights of fetuses aside, Matt's point is well made. Not every personal conviction used to become a federal case, because people used to understand the idea that if they can bludgeon their neighbors over the head with the club of government to get them to conform to their values, their neighbors could just as easily do the same to them. Or, as the famous quotation goes "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have". Keeping the state's functions limited to preserving individual rights is the most values-neutral proposition, and, in a nod to utilitarian sensibility, also preserves the most liberty for the most people. Win-win.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    One need not appeal to a religious or any other moral guide in debunking T O N Y and his culture-based morality (which leads to slavery being morally justifiable if the majority says so) when dealing with the abortion issue. Parties on both sides (prolife, prochoice) always treat the issue as deterministic (i.e., asking if a fetus is a "human" or not). This is not a question that will be clearly answered by science (or any other party) to the satisfaction of the populace any time soon. So why not treat the issue as probabilistic using risk theory? That is, let's say that there's a 10% chance that a fetus is human. The consequence of an abortion is a death. As risk is the product of probability and consequence, even at a low probability the risk of doing an abortion is high. The consequence of NOT doing an abortion is that the mother must deliver the baby. I find deliveries are less severe than death by at least one order of magnitude, so the risk of not doing an abortion is less than doing one. Therefore, abortions should be illegal.

  • T o n y||

    Forcing a woman to give birth against her will is not the only bad consequence to outlawing abortion. And the horror of imprisoning women who seek abortions isn't the extent of them either.

    The state can't waffle on the issue with esoteric arguments about probability, it would have to decide definitively on personhood, thus taking the side of religious conservatives over modern liberal society, which has discovered that the harms of outlawing abortion are worth preventing.

    If you don't think you should have to pay taxes to feed unwanted children, then I don't see how you can ask mothers to give birth to them against their will.

  • Lar Gand||

    What if she wants to get rid of the baby after it is born it causes undue hardship or unwanted? Can she be allowed to kill it, if she thinks adoption is not an option?

  • yu100w||

  • Shirley Temple of Doom||

    If a woman wants an abortion, who on earth believes she'd suddenly change her mind just by SEEING an ultrasound? Newsflash, gents: women already know when they're pregnant, a gratuitous ultrasound viewing would only serve to reinforce whatever decision they've already made.

    If women aren't disposed to wanting a living, breathing, possibly even cute full-term baby in a year's time, how is the sight of a blurry grey lima bean going to change their minds today?

  • R C Dean||

    Any power that government has to do something you like will invariably be used for something you abhor.

    Quoth the Iron Law:

    Me today, you tomorrow.

  • Bilwick||

    Just because a gang has millions of armed agents and claims the right to take as much of your money as it wants, and kill you if you resist, is no reason to distrust it. If history--especially modern history--teaches us anything, it's that the State is our best friend, and the more power we give it the better off we are.

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