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Congress Ponders Terri Schiavo’s Fate

By Joseph A. D'Agostino

It’s an odd world in which a disabled Florida woman can be killed by a method outlawed as too cruel for animals, and in which she is not covered by the habeas corpus protections granted to murderers. When it comes to federal legal protection, Terri Schiavo ranks below Ted Bundy, and when it comes to protection from suffering, she ranks below an unwanted pet.

“When is that b---- going to die?” Terri’s husband, Michael, once asked, according to a nurse. He was wrong: Terri is no b----, not only because she is a human person, but also because a female dog has more rights under Florida law—rights he will not allow Terri. Dogs in Florida cannot be legally dehydrated and starved to death, as Terri will be if Congress does not act. Meanwhile, Michael lives with a woman he calls his fiancé, who has borne him two children since Terri’s collapse (or beating—only Michael
knows) in 1990—but he refuses to divorce Terri. His legal bills in his fight to murder his wife with state permission have been paid by the $1 million that an insurance company paid to provide Terri with rehabilitation, therapy that Michael prevented from taking place. He melted down Terri’s wedding and engagement rings to make a ring for himself. He even had Terri’s cats put down, presumably by a method more humane than the one he intends to use on his better half.

Terri’s parents the Schindlers have offered to take care of Terri, but Michael has refused. They made the same offer about the cats, but that didn’t work, either.

Right now, Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate are deciding whether to allow votes on a bill that could save Terri Schiavo’s life.
Pro-life Americans should consider expressing their opinions on saving Terri to these leaders and to their congressmen and senators.

Terri is scheduled to be executed by dehydration and starvation beginning March 18, when her feeding tube is to be disconnected. That tube is the closest thing to life support that Terri is on. She cannot swallow, but she is not in a vegetative state, can recognize her family, and responds to stimuli. She tries to talk.

Two federal legislators from Florida, Rep. Dave Weldon (R.) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R.), have introduced the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act in the House and Senate, respectively. The proposed law would extend federal habeas corpus protection to severely disabled people and enable federal courts to determine if they are being put to death illegally.
Habeas corpus is often used by death row inmates, but does not apply to innocents such as Terri because they are not under arrest. Thus, federal courts have refused to determine if Terri’s right to life is being violated by state court Judge George Greer, who has ordered her execution at the request of Terri’s husband.

If Terri is murdered, her case will be another step forward for the culture of death. Killing a conscious disabled person not on life support will receive official government sanction.

Kate Adamson experienced an attempt to kill her by the same method, but fortunately woke up from her coma before it was too late. She told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly in 2003, “When the feeding tube was turned off for eight days, I thought I was going insane. I was screaming out in my mind, ‘Don't you know I need to eat?’ And even up until that point, I had been having a bagful of Ensure as my nourishment that was going through the feeding tube. At that point, it sounded pretty good. I just wanted something. The fact that I had nothing, the hunger pains overrode every thought I had.”

Wesley J. Smith wrote in an article posted on the Weekly Standard’s website Nov. 12, 2003 that the practice is not uncommon. “Beyond the Terri Schiavo case, it is undisputed that conscious cognitively disabled patients are dehydrated in nursing homes and hospitals throughout the country almost as a matter of routine,” he wrote. “Dr. [Ronald] Cranford, for example, openly admitted in his Wendland testimony that he removes feeding tubes from conscious patients. Thus, many other people may also have experienced the agony described by Adamson and worse, given that dehydrating to death goes on for about a week longer than she experienced.”


Politely express your opinion on this matter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.). They will decide if the House and Senate versions of the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act come to the floor for votes.

You could say something like this after introducing yourself: “Please allow a floor vote on the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act as soon as possible, in order to protect the life of Terri Schiavo.”

Also, contact your congressman and your two senators and let them know what you think. Politicians pay especial attention to people who can vote against them. The bill number of the Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act in the House is HR 1151, and in the Senate it is S 539.

House Speaker Hastert: 202-225-0600, House Speaker Hastert Senate Majority Leader Frist: 202-224-3344

For contact information for other congressmen and senators, go to and, or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121.

Joseph A. D’Agostino is Vice President for Communications at PRI. _________ PRI P.O. Box 1559 Front Royal, VA 22630 USA

Phone: (540) 622-5240 Fax: (540) 622-2728
Media Contact: Joseph A. D’Agostino
(540) 622-5240, ext. 204
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