House Approves Terri Schaivo Measure by Wide Bipartisan Margin

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 21, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Approves Terri Schaivo Measure by Wide Bipartisan Margin

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 21, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Members of the House gave the final approval to a measure allowing Terri Schiavo’s parents to be granted standing in a federal court. That allowed them to argue that the court should review Florida courts’ decision authorizing Terri’s painful starvation death.

The House voted 203-58 in favor of the bill and the Senate approved the measure unanimously on a voice vote earlier in the evening.

President Bush planned to signed the bill just minutes after the House passed it.

Members of Terri’s family and their attorneys were elated by the vote.

”We hope to get you some water,” Schindler attorney David Gibbs told the Miami Herald that he said to Terri. "We hope to get you some dinner later on.”

The bill authorizes the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to "hear, determine and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right … relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life."

Gibbs said he discussed the impending lawsuit he will file with the federal court in Tampa with staff there and he said they understood the urgency of moving on the case soon.

”The worst possible scenario would be for the President and Congress to pass this and for Terri to pass away in the night before the court opens,” Gibbs told the Herald.

If the feeding tube is reconnected, Terri would need to be taken to a local hospital. Gibbs indicated he has instructed staff at Woodside Hospice to prepare for that eventuality.

Bob Schindler told the media on Sunday that he and Mary visited Terri on Sunday morning and that she appeared to be doing well all things considered.

As House members debated, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, told the chamber that "every life has purpose and none is without meaning."

An exchange before the vote between Terri’s brother Bobby and Democratic Rep Jim Moran of Virginia epitomized the debate between proponents and opponents of the bill.

Schindler gave a passionate defense for the bill, according to a WTOP report and he handed the legislator a CD with a video of Terri interacting with her father.

"I urge you, in fact I am begging you to at least listen to these videos of my sister communicating with my father," Schindler said.

Moran replied, WTOP reported, "I am happy to take a look at that. But my greater concern is not with the immediate facts of this case as much as it is the precedent, of overruling the state courts, of politicizing a tragic family situation."

Moran told reporters that Terri and her family had become "political pawns to larger political issues." Later he admitted, "I can’t say necessarily that I’m speaking for my constituents."

House members had to overcome objections to the bill from House Democrats, who decided against approving the bill on a voice vote and forced House members to return to Washington from the beginning of their Easter recess to cast a vote.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted the stalling lawmakers, who refused to approve the bill without a roll call vote.

"Time is not on Terri Schiavo’s side,” DeLay said, according to an Associated Press report. "The few remaining objecting House Democrats have so far cost Mrs. Schiavo two meals already today.”

Hamden Baskin, an attorney for Terri’s estranged husband Michael, told CNN that Michael may pursue having Terri’s bill be declared unconstitutional.

"It is in our opinion an absolute attack on the notion that we have separation of powers between the co-equal branches of government," Basking said. That’s the same argument the Florida Supreme Court used to strike down legislation approved by the Florida state legislature the last time Terri’s feeding tube was removed in late 2003.

Responding to possible objections from Democrats, the Terri measure specifically says it does not affect state assisted suicide laws, such as Oregon’s, and sets no legal precedent.

Related web sites:
Terri’s parents –