House Approves Bill Allowing Terri Schiavo Case to Head to Federal Courts

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 17, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Approves Bill Allowing Terri Schiavo Case to Head to Federal Courts Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 17, 2005

Washington, DC ( — The House of Representatives approved a bill late Wednesday night that would allow Terri Schiavo’s parents to take their case to prevent Terri’s painful week-long starvation death from Florida to federal courts.

Members of the House approved the legislation on a voice vote.

They placed the bill on an expedited course through the legislative process because Terri’s estranged husband Michael is slated to begin the painful week-long starvation process Friday afternoon.

Representative Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican, led the charge on legislation that would allow Bob and Mary Schindler, and family of any similarly disabled patient, to use a habeas corpus review normally reserved for those on death row.

Later, Weldon, and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), who is heading up the bill in the Senate, crafted new language out of response to concerns that attorneys for criminals on death row would take advantage of the new law.

They retooled the bill to remove cases like Schiavo’s from state courts and allow parents or anyone else with a close relationship to a disabled patient to get a federal court hearing if a feeding tube’s removal is pending.

It would only affect patients who did not leave an advance directive detailing preferred medical treatment and for whom a state judge had already authorizing withdrawing food and water.

"What’s going on in Florida regarding Terri Schiavo is nothing short of inhumane," House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, said before the House vote.

Meanwhile, the Senate is considering a "private relief" bill that would only handle the Terri Schiavo situation. Backers of the bill hope it will avoid problems with some lawmakers who don’t want to make major policy on disabled patients during the heat of the battle over saving Terri’s life.

The Senate is expected to debate the bill Thursday.

The House bill would allow the Schiavo’s to ask a federal judge to hear their case once their appeals in state courts have been completed.

That appeared to be the case when a Florida appeals court overturned a request for a new trail on the decision of a local judge to allow Terri’s estranged husband to starve her to death.

The federal judge would be limited to determining if withdrawing food and water from an incapacitated patient violates the U.S. Constitution or federal law.

Senate Democrats don’t support moving ahead with a bill in that chamber unless it first goes through a Senate committee. The could hold up the vote on a bill with a filibuster.

Martinez told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Senate Republicans will do everything possible to move the legislation.

"The leadership in the Senate is completely committed to getting a bill passed and having it on the president’s desk by Friday," said Martinez.

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.

The bill is H.R. 1332, the "Protection of Incapacitated Persons Act of 2005."

ACTION: Contact any Representative or any Senator and urge them to support any legislation to save Terri Schiavo’s life. You can also reach any member of Congress by calling 202-224-3121.