Liberal Columnist Nat Hentoff Blasts Barack Obama on Terri Schiavo Flip-Flop

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 26, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Liberal Columnist Nat Hentoff Blasts Barack Obama on Terri Schiavo Flip-Flop Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 26
, 2008

Barack ObamaWashington, DC ( — Barack Obama made headlines last month for flip-flopping on whether or not the federal government should have helped Terri Schiavo’s family to save her life. Now, Obama is coming under fire from liberal columnist Nat Hentoff for saying he should have opposed the bill allowing the Schindler family to help their beloved daughter.

Terri is the disabled Florida woman whose husband won the legal right to starve her to death.

In March 2005, just weeks before Terri died from a painful 13-day starvation and dehydration death, Congress approved legislation allowing her family to take its case from state courts to federal courts in an effort to stop the euthanasia from proceeding.

The Senate unanimously approved a compromise bill but Obama said he should have stood up against the life-saving legislation.

“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped,” Obama said. “And I think that was a mistake."

Hentoff takes Senator Obama to task for the flip-flop in a column published in the magazine Forward.

He called Obama’s decision to flip-flop an "irresponsible robot-like judgment " not based on the facts of the situation Congress considered.

"He should be proud of the Senate vote he now recants–and learn a lot more about the disabled," Hentoff wrote.

"The reason Congress asked the federal courts to review the Schiavo case was that the 41-year-old woman about to be dehydrated and starved to death was breathing normally on her own, was not terminal, and there was medical evidence that she was responsive, not in a persistent vegetative state," Hentoff explained.

Hentoff points out that "staunchly liberal Democratic Tom Harkin of Iowa" was one of the leading advocates of judicial review because he is so well-informed on disability rights cases.

He also notes that Obama apparently doesn’t know that "29 major national disability-rights organizations filed legal briefs and lobbied Congress to understand that this was not a right-to-die case, but about the right to continue living."

That included the largest American assembly of disability-rights activists, the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Terri was not on any artificial breathing apparatus and only required a feeding tube to eat and drink. Her family had filed a lawsuit against her former husband to allow them to care for her and give her proper medical and rehabilitative care.