- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Republicans ignored polls showing public disapproval of congressional involvement in the Terri Schiavo case and instead acted on behalf of their party’s pro-life base.

“It is political, but everything in Washington is political to some degree,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said of the successful move by congressional Republicans, with President Bush’s support, to let federal courts review the case.

Pro-life groups have rallied around the case of Mrs. Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose husband and parents have clashed over whether she should continue to be sustained through a feeding tube.

Congressional involvement in the Schiavo case was opposed by about 70 percent of the 501 adults surveyed Sunday in an ABC News poll, and 63 percent agreed with a judge’s order that Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed.

Despite those numbers, Republicans say single-issue, pro-life voters outnumber pro-choice voters by about 2-to-1 — one possible reason, they say, that 47 House Democrats sided with the president in the vote early Monday morning.

“It appeals to the religious right, the pro-life movement, evangelical Christians, and that probably accounts for a lot of Democratic votes, depending on whether their districts have significant evangelical populations,” said former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, a conservative Republican and former federal prosecutor.

Mr. Perkins warned that “House members who led the opposition [to the Schiavo bill] could well be remembered for their blind allegiance to a far-left agenda that says oppose anything that smacks of protecting life.”

Yet some Republicans worry whether the pro-life politics of the Schiavo case trumped their party’s principles of limited government.

“This is not business of the federal legislature,” said Mr. Barr, adding that he doesn’t know how many of his former Republican colleagues in the House feel as he does on the issue.

“Maybe they feel very different from how they voted on this, since the politics of this Schiavo case trumps everything else,” Mr. Barr said. “There are among Republicans probably quite a few who in their more deliberative moments would see folly in the federal government jumping into this kind of issue the way it did. It’s a very slippery slope.”

The issue raised conflicting sentiments for other conservatives.

“I am of two minds here — schizoid, you might say — and I’m probably not all that different from a lot of people,” said Cleta Mitchell, a conservative Republican and a lawyer specializing in election law.

“I didn’t like the idea of Congress coming into session to act on a matter involving one family — anyone’s family,” she said. “But I don’t like the idea that the state and a judge can just decide to take an innocent person’s life.”

Even most supporters of congressional action to help keep Mrs. Schiavo alive made no bones about the difficulty that the case poses or the electoral politics in play.

“It was good politics and good principle,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. However, he also said, “It is not clear who is truly speaking for Terri here” — her husband, who says she would not want to go on living ina vegetative state, or her parents who say she can recover with therapy.

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