- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

As in most culture war issues, the battle over Terri Schiavo’s life has attracted an outpouring from an army of traditional values, pro-life, conservative and religious groups.

But there is virtual silence from many of their usual adversaries: The National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other major pro-choice and feminist groups don’t mention the brain-damaged Florida woman on their Web sites. Neither does Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Council of Churches or the National Coalition for Domestic Violence (NCDV), even though these groups often lock horns with some of the organizations defending Mrs. Schiavo’s right to life.

In Congress, some Democrats have been outspoken on the issue.

“There is no bedroom safe in America. There is no hospital room safe,” said Democratic Rep. David Wu, of Oregon, which has a right-to-die law.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said: “I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, but that’s the point. Neither do my colleagues.”

And a few Democrats lobbed accusations at Republicans that political motives drove their passion for Mrs. Schiavo and her parents.

“If you don’t want a decision to be made politically, why in the world do you ask 535 politicians to make it? Does anyone think that this decision will be made without consideration of electoral support or party or ideology? Of course not,” said Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat.

The NCDV has “gotten a lot of calls” from advocates who are concerned that Mrs. Schiavo suffered domestic violence, “but we don’t have any evidence” for that, said Jill Morris, policy director for the coalition. In the NCDV’s view, “this is a personal family matter that should only be handled by the family,” she said.

Stepping up for Michael Schiavo, who supported removing his wife’s feeding tube, is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“If Congress can intervene in the Schiavo case, it can intervene in any case” in which politicians disagree with family members about decisions regarding ending life-sustaining measures, Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said recently.

Mr. Simon applauded a federal judge’s decision yesterday rejecting a request from Mrs. Schiavo’s parents to have her feeding tube reconnected.

“What this judge did is protect the freedom of people to make their own end-of-life decisions without the intrusion of politicians,” he said.

Other groups that generally support Mr. Schiavo’s efforts are the American Humanist Association (AHA) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

“Part of respecting the worth and dignity of life is respecting individual choice. A responsible society must honor Terri Schiavo’s wishes,” said Tony Hileman, AHA executive director.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, said: “Just because medical technology can artificially keep alive someone in a near-brain-dead state does not mean it is ethical or compassionate to do so.”

Other groups are using the Schiavo case not to take sides, but to promote the need for personal “advance directives” or written instructions about what to do if someone becomes incapacitated.

The Schiavo case is a “critical teachable moment” for the nation, said Washington lawyer Robert Raben, who represents Compassion & Choices, a Denver-based end-of-life group.

“The greatest fear of many people is that complete strangers are going to make end-of-life decisions for them,” he said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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