Praise and Criticism for Congressional Involvement in Schiavo Case

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - An attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents early Monday filed a request in federal court in Florida for an emergency injunction to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted, a move that might save her life.

A ruling on the injunction is expected later Monday.

At the request of her husband and with permission from a Florida state court, Terri's feeding and hydration tube was removed at 1 p.m. EST on Friday. The brain-damaged woman -- who can breathe on her own but not swallow -- is expected to starve to death within two weeks.

The Schindlers' attorney acted early Monday after Members of Congress and President Bush returned to Washington to pass and sign legislation allowing the federal courts to review Terri's case.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), a key backer of the bill, hailed its passage early Monday morning: "Tonight we have given Terri Schiavo all we could: a chance to live," DeLay said after the House passed the bill.

"After four days of words, the best of them uttered in prayer, Congress has acted, and a life may have been saved. Democrats and Republicans, congressmen and senators all deserve respect and gratitude for their commitment to giving Mrs. Schiavo the chance we all deserve."

Earlier, DeLay noted that the legal issues in the case are complicated, but the moral ones are not: "What will it hurt to have a federal judge take a fresh look at all this evidence and apply it against 15 years' worth of advances in medical technology?" DeLay asked.

'Exploiting personal tragedy'

"We're not doctors, we just play them on C-SPAN," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who strongly objects to Members of Congress concluding that "the entire judicial system of the state of Florida" didn't give Terri a "fair chance."

Likewise, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement, expressing sympathy for Terri Schiavo's "sad and tragic situation," but objecting to congressional involvement in the case:

"Congressional leaders have no business substituting their judgment for that of multiple state courts that have extensively considered the issues in this intensely personal family matter," Pelosi said. "The actions of the majority in attempting to pass constitutionally-dubious legislation are highly irregular and an improper use of legislative authority.

"Michael Schiavo is faced with a devastating decision, but, having been through the proper legal process, the decision for his wife's care belongs to him and to God.

"This rush to exploit a personal tragedy is not fair to those involved and will not create good policy," Pelosi concluded.

'Protecting life'

As of early Monday morning, a number of pro-life groups had also weighed in - with praise for Congress.

Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson thanked the Congress and President Bush for giving life the benefit of the doubt:

"Today, we have witnessed the extraordinary will of Congress to ensure that Terri Schiavo's right to life -- the first right set out in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence -- is protected," Dobson said in a press release.

"This bill represents a congressional act of mercy -- and Americans can be proud of the representatives they sent to Washington, D.C., who have voted to save Terri's life. We especially appreciate House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's passion for seeing that this innocent, helpless woman is treated with the dignity she deserves."

Dobson expressed hope that the federal judge who gets the case will "proceed with the care and caution due such an important test of our country's -- and mankind's -- most foundational right."

'Laws have not worked'

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the laws have not worked for Terri until now, and he praised the dedication of lawmakers who took time to try to help the Schindler family.

"So often we see members of Congress portrayed as unfeeling and unconnected, but this case has brought good people on Capitol Hill to the forefront," Perkins said. He also said the "facts are not on Michael Schiavo's side."

According to Perkins, most press reports have not given a full account of Terri's collapse "under mysterious circumstances."

"She is disabled but she has not suffered brain death," Perkins said. "She has not received the full benefit of aggressive treatment that was her due after settlement of her malpractice case. Instead, Michael Schiavo has worked tirelessly for many years to end her life. He is the sole inheritor of her insurance money, lives with another woman and has two children with her, but he refuses to divorce Terri."

Perkins added, "The details prompting serious suspicion are endless and should be enough to grant the family who wants to care for their loved one the right to keep her alive with their hard work, sacrifice and compassion."

Perkins discounted Michael Schiavo's claims that Terri, in an offhand comment long ago, said she would not want to have extraordinary care if it came to that. "To be clear, food and water are not extraordinary care," Perkins said.

He also noted that no state permits significant financial contract to be enforced on the basis on one party's assertion of the other's oral commitment -- and "certainly no 'contract with death' should be enforced by the state of Florida on the basis of such alleged comments."

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