Writing in the October 22 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Yale University professor David Gelernter observes that the recent case of Terri Schiavo (the Florida woman whose husband sought to have her feeding tube disconnected) has implications for how our culture faces issues of life and death:

"The governor can grant a stay of execution when a condemned murderer's life is on the line. Mrs. Schiavo's stay required that the whole Florida legislature mobilize for action. The frightening question is: What happens to the next Mrs. Schiavo? And the next plus a hundred or a thousand? How much attention will the public and the legislature be able to muster for this sort of thing over the years? The war against Judeo-Christian morality is a war of attrition. Time is on the instigators' side. They have all the patience in the world, and all the patients. If this one lives, there is always the next. After all, it's the principle of the thing.

"For years, thoughtful people have argued that 'reasons for taking a human life' should not be treated as a growing list. There are valid reasons to do it, and they have been agreed for millennia. If the list has to change, better to shorten than lengthen it.

"Thoughtful people have argued: Once you start footnoting innocent human life, you are in trouble. Innocent life must not be taken . . . unless (here come the footnotes) the subject is too small, sick, or depressed to complain. One footnote, people have argued, and the jig is up; in the long run the accumulating footnotes will strangle humane society like algae choking a pond.

"Who would have believed when the Supreme Court legalized abortion that, one generation later, only one, America would have come to this? Mrs. Schiavo's parents wanting her to live, pleading for her to live, the state saying no, and a meeting of the legislature required to pry the executioner's fingers from the victim's throat?

"I would never have made such an argument when the abortion decision came down, and I would never have believed it. I still can't believe it. Is this America? Do I wake or sleep?"