- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

The legislation passed Sunday and signed early yesterday morning by President Bush gives Bob and Mary Schindler, the parents of Terri Schiavo, yet another chance to save her life. The so-called Palm Sunday Compromise allowed the Schindlers to petition a federal judge to review their request for an emergency injunction to reinsert the feeding tube. We applaud Congress and Mr. Bush for their swift action on behalf of Mrs. Schiavo’s life, which has been under a near-constant state of uncertainty for 15 agonizing years.

In that time, Mrs. Schiavo’s case has inspired a national debate on when to decide if a life should end. Her husband, Michael, insists that Terri would not have wanted to live under her current conditions; her parents argue that their daughter, a Catholic, would have wished otherwise. The Vatican has vociferously defended the sanctity of her life “from conception to natural death.” As Robert George, professor of jurisprudence and a member on the president’s Council on Bioethics, told National Review Online, “What we must avoid [as a society], always and everywhere, is yielding to the temptation to regard some humans lives as … lives unworthy of life.” This is especially true in medical cases.

Indeed, it’s disturbing that a system of laws affords more protection to death-row inmates than an innocent and disabled woman. Without knowing as fact what Mrs. Schiavo’s wishes were, it was right for Congress to intervene.

We usually do not favor the federal government pre-emptively intruding into a civil issue of the states. But in light of the many distortions and ambiguities of fact presented in the Schiavo case, substance must trump procedure. After signing the bill early yesterday morning, Mr. Bush succinctly expressed this point of view: “In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.” We agree.

It was an act of pure hypocrisy for certain Democrats who voted against the Schiavo bill to cite federalism in their defense. Liberals are only too willing to let federal courts decide for the country on matters they deem protected by the Constitution, like abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Yet in a case where it appears that Mrs. Schiavo’s 14th Amendment right to due process is violated, they shamelessly wave the flag of “states’ rights.”

Federalism is not the issue here. There’s a moral obligation on the part of Congress to defend the life of those who cannot defend themselves, particularly when the law fails to accommodate the extraordinary circumstances that persist in Mrs. Schiavo’s condition. The Schiavo case is vital to appreciating the life of one person, and just how easily the law allows that life to be extinguished.

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