House Bill Helping Terri Schiavo Has Hearing Wednesday, Senate Next

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Bill Helping Terri Schiavo Has Hearing Wednesday, Senate Next Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 16, 2005

Washington, DC ( — As the days tick away before a Friday afternoon deadline by which Terri Schiavo’s estranged husband can remove her feeding tube and start her week-long starvation death, members of the U.S. House will hold a hearing on a bill that could help Terri and her parents.

"We’re fighting a clock," said Sen. Mel Martinez told the Washington Times.

He and Rep. Dave Weldon, both Florida Republicans, introduced legislation last week that would allow Terri’s parents Bob and Mary Schindler to take their case out of the Florida court system, which has ruled in favor of starving Terri, and move it to federal courts.

The change of venue could help the Schindlers get a more favorable ruling and a new could could also issue an emergency stay if it has time to do so before Terri dies.

The Congressional bill would allow the Schindlers, and family of any similarly disabled patient, to use a habeas corpus review normally reserved for those on death row.

A patient’s family must be in disagreement and there must be no advance directive spelling out the type of medical care a patient wishes prior to their incapacitation. Both apply in Terri’s case.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told the Times he wants to move the bill "as quickly as we can."

"She is clearly alive today. Looking at the facts, I would think that the Senate should speak if there is not some action at the state level," Frist told The Hill newspaper.

He plans to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate this week for a vote without having it go through a Senate committee.

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, has scheduled a hearing for Weldon’s bill for Wednesday. It already has 115 co-sponsors.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told the Times he hasn’t taken a position on the bill yet but said it should first go through a Senate committee.

The bill could run into another problem. The Senate this week is considering the budget resolution and it would require a unanimous consent agreement to bring up Terri’s bill.

If Senate Democrats prevent the bill from being brought up, the earliest the Senate could vote on the legislation would be late Friday night, hours after Terri’s feeding tube is slated to be removed.

Both Michael Schiavo and Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler have been in Washington this week to lobby on the legislation.

President Bush would likely sign such legislation.

ACTION: Contact any Representative or any Senator. You can also reach any member of Congress by calling 202-224-3121.