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March 31, 2005

Cashing in on Terri Schiavo

Tony Coppola

      Shortly after recessing for Easter, hundreds of Congressmen and Senators rushed back to Washington for a very important vote. Obviously, a vote under such circumstances certainly would have to have monumental effects or they wouldn’t have rushed back to Washington during recess. What was this vote on you ask? Did they solve the Social Security crisis, provide healthcare to all Americans, implement a hike in the minimum wage, or pass a bill to reduce poverty? No, instead they passed a bill regarding one woman which ultimately had zero effects.

      After years of court battles, the parents of Terri Schiavo have finally given up their fight to keep their daughter alive, telling supporters to go home on Easter Sunday. I have the utmost respect for Bob and Mary Schindler and sincerely believe that they love Terri. But I also have no doubt that Michael Schiavo loves his wife just as much. For years, he consulted doctors in an effort to reverse his wife’s vegetative state before giving up hope. Unfortunately, the Christian Right and members of the Republican Party have branded him as deprave and callous, falsely claiming that he beat his wife and is now just looking to cash in on her insurance policy. Many of these conservatives do truly believe that removing Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube is wrong despite the courts’ determination that she would want to die. Others, however, are looking to cash in politically on the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her case.

      The ring leader of this conservative circus is none other than the most ethical man on the planet, House Majority Leader Tom Delay(R-Texas). It is amazing that Tom Delay believes that what is being done to Terri is so wrong and immoral considering that he pulled the plug on his own father. I fully support Delay’s decision to do so, if he felt that was what his father would have wanted. But why does he not believe that Mr. Schiavo should have the same right to do that for his wife? It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the Schiavo case is greatly distracting everyone’s attention from the investigation into Delay’s numerous ethical violations. A memo, possibly leaked from Delay’s office, told Congressional Republicans to use the Schiavo case to make the Democrats look like they support death. Even more specifically, they were told to use this against Senator Bill Nelson(D-Florida), as he did not support the bill and is up for re-election in ’06. For his part, President Bush signed a bill in Texas in 1998 upholding people’s right to die with dignity. But Bush, for the first time during his presidency, cut a vacation short to sign a bill that would allow federal courts to review only Terri’s case. Bush is in this for political gain just like Delay. He simply cannot deliver the things that conservative Christians want, like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, so he is using Terri, not to mention his brother Jeb, to prove he is a good Christian and keep himself from becoming a lame-duck president. Not only have Bush and Delay used the case for their own political gain; they have attacked the Constitution.

      There is no precedent for the federal courts to intervene in a case like this, and the Supreme Court upheld in 1990 a person’s right to die with dignity. The state courts had decided on multiple occasions in consultation with her family and friends that Terri would not want to live like this and that Michael Schiavo could remove her feeding tube. Congress has now set a precedent that they will overrule the judicial system and give federal courts jurisdiction in cases that they should not be involved in. Many liberals have claimed that the Republican Party does not believe in separation of church and state; what it really has no regard for is separation of powers. Congress is not the ultimate arbiter of the constitution, the courts are. The Schindlers appealed their case numerous times to the Supreme Court of the United States and other federal courts before Congress passed the bill to force the federal judiciary to hear the case, and each time the federal courts ruled they did not have jurisdiction.

      The party of small federal government and states’ rights has apparently decided that the federal government should get involved in one woman’s medical condition. They do not care about the millions of American children in poverty or the millions of Americans without healthcare who have a greater risk of death because of their plight. They call this lack of concern small government, but they rushed back to Washington to give the federal courts control over the life or death of one woman. Everyone should applaud the federal courts and the Supreme Court for not caving in under the enormous pressure placed on them by the Congress. Similarly, Judge George Greer should be praised for his willingness to put himself and his family in danger to uphold the law. Greer had the chance to retire rather than see the Schiavo case to its conclusion. Instead, he opted to take on the case as well as bodyguards for him and his family, due to fear that they would be assaulted by activists. Both Greer and Michael Schiavo have had threats against their life, and in one case hundreds of thousands of dollars were offered as a reward for the deaths of these two men. The actions of the Schindlers, Michael Schiavo, and Greer are in stark contrast to those of George W. Bush and Tom Delay. The former, despite being on different sides, decided to do everything in their power to do what they believe is right for Terri. For their part, Delay, Bush, and the Republican Party decided that they would use Terri as a political football.

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