- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

When the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Terri Schiavo’s parents yesterday, it highlighted the broad coalition of conservatives, consumer activists, civil rights leaders and advocates for the disabled pushing for government intervention to save the brain-damaged woman’s life.

Mr. Jackson, a civil rights activist and two-time Democratic presidential candidate, joins a group ranging from Ralph Nader and Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, to President Bush and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who have fought either to have Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted or to allow further federal court review of her case.

“This is a moral issue, and it transcends politics and family disputes,” Mr. Jackson said after praying with Mrs. Schiavo’s parents in Florida.

Mrs. Schiavo suffered brain damage from oxygen deprivation to the brain during a heart attack 15 years ago. Her husband won a court order to have her feeding tube removed, arguing that doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state and her wishes were not to be kept alive. But her parents oppose her husband and won the support of Congress and Mr. Bush, who signed a bill offering another federal review of the case.

While the debate among Republicans over the limits of government power has gained the most attention, intriguing coalitions have emerged on both sides.

In the congressional debate, all but five Republicans voting supported a bill urging Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube be reinserted while federal courts perform a review. Democrats, meanwhile, nearly were split, with 47 supporting the bill and 53 opposing it.

Vocal opponents in the House included Reps. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, and John Lewis, Georgia Democrat and a prominent civil rights leader, while in the Senate, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, opposed the bill as an intrusion on states.

Among the supporters were advocates for the disabled, such as Mr. Harkin, and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Mr. Jackson’s son, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat.

Polls show an overwhelming percentage of Americans oppose government action in the case, but Mr. Nader said those polls did not tell respondents Mrs. Schiavo is not terminally ill, her internal organs work and her parents have offered to cover her costs of care.

“The polls are on another issue. These were polls that basically said, ‘Do you think Congress or the White House should intervene?’ That’s a jurisdictional poll,” he said. “The law should never be used as an instrument to order the death of an innocent person.”

Republicans have argued that the broad coalition shows the issue is not about pro-life politics, and Mr. Nader said the coalition of support is not just a confluence of different interests working on different issues who happened to come together.

“I think they’re all reverberating the same principles of decency and justice,” he said.

“This is an innocent human being whose death is being ordered on flimsy partisan hearsay when she has no preferences. It’s a slippery slope — a very, very dangerous slippery slope, where more and more life is being devalued.”

He also said he expects similar coalitions to pop up around other issues. He cited the opponents to extending parts of the Patriot Act — the anti-terrorism law-enforcement tools passed after September 11, 2001, that some conservatives and liberals say went too far — and to a “more modest” coalition he said will emerge opposing “corporate welfare” provisions in federal law.

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