Congress Delays Murder of Terri SchiavoCongress Delays Murder of Terri Schiavo

By Valerie Schmalz | March 18, 2005 | 1:40 pm EST

Pinellas Circuit Court Chief Judge David Demers has ordered that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube remain in place past the 1:00 p.m., March 18th deadline. The delay came because U.S. Senate and House committees in the Congress issued subpoenas for Terri, her husband, Michael Schiavo, and two doctors and the hospice administrator. They are to appear at hearings on March 25 and March 28.

"They are not going to [remove the tube]; watch the news honey," said a woman answering the telephone at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast at 1:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The AP reports that the temporary delay came from Judge Demers "while fellow Judge George Greer, who is presiding over the Schiavo case, deals with conflicting legal issues." It is not yet clear what course of action Greer will take.

A U.S. Senate committee sent the subpoenas in a last-ditch effort to block the removal of Terri's feeding tube. The Congressional subpoenas call all as witnesses and also require that Terri's feeding and hydration not be suspended until they can investigate the case. Because Terri is named as a witness, Republican leaders believe she will be protected by federal law protecting federal witnesses

But the outcome remained in doubt until moments before the deadline. Michael Schiavo’s attorney George Felos told Reuters that Congress had no authority to stop the removal of the feeding tube. A spokesperson for Woodside Hospice, the facility where Terri Schiavo is being kept, told the Miami Herald this morning she did not know if the company had received word from the U.S. House.

''The big thing is if the people on the ground here honor the subpoena and not try to starve her," Randall Terry, a spokesman for Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, told the Herald.

''This inquiry should give hope to Terri, her parents and friends and the millions of people throughout the world who are praying for her safety,'' House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Government Reform chairman Tom Davis said in a joint statement. ``This fight is not over.''

Michael Schiavo’s attorney and right-to-die advocate George Felos told Reuters today: "(House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay and (House Speaker) Dennis Hastert are not members of the Politburo in Stalinist Russia," Felos told Reuters by telephone. "The state does not own Mrs. Schiavo's body and Congress cannot simply order her to remain alive contrary to her medical treatment wishes and court order."

Terri Schiavo is at Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park,Florida, under police guard. A prayer vigil continued underway outside.

The House subpoenas are to appear before the House Government Reform Committee’s "inquiry into the long-term care of incapacitated or non-ambulatory adults.

Meanwhile President George Bush was scheduled to be in Florida to discuss Social Security. In a statement issued by the White House, President Bush said, "In instances 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."

Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago and was judged by the Florida court now deciding her fate to be in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents dispute that finding and have lined up a series of neurologists who support their contention. They have been battling to block her husband from removing her feeding tube for seven years. It was removed twice before in 2001, and again in 2003 when emergency legislation known as Terri’s Law was approved by the Florida legislature and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. Terri’s Law was later overturned by the courts.

Federal law protects a witness "from anyone who ... influences, obstructs, or impedes an inquiry or investigation by Congress," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said.

Felos said Congress has no power to enter an injunction. "The only subpoena Congress can issue is to appear before a congressional body," he said.

The issuing of subpoenas follows the passage of two conflicting bills by the Senate and the House to save Terri Schiavo on Thursday. In Florida, the state House passed a bill but it was defeated in the state Senate.

"The Senate and the House remain dedicated to saving Terri Schiavo’s life," Tennesse Republican Frist said in a statement today, March 18th. "While discussions over possible legislative remedies continue, the Senate and the House are taking action to keep her alive in the interim."

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Mike Enzi sent a letter to Schiavo and husband Michael, her legal guardian, asking them to appear at a March 28 hearing to ``review health-care policies and practices.''

Federal criminal law protects witnesses called before official Congressional committee proceedings from anyone who may obstruct or impede a witness’ attendance or testimony.  More specifically, the law protects a witness from anyone who -- by threats, force, or by any threatening letter or communication --influences, obstructs, or impedes an inquiry or investigation by Congress. Anyone who violates this law is subject to criminal fines and imprisonment.
BlogsforTerri reported that the hospice had been served with the subpoena, according to Schindler family spokesperson Cheryl Ford. Meanwhile a petition for an emergency stay and a petition for Habeas Corpus was filed in federal court on Terri Schiavo’s behalf. If approved, this would do what the U.S. House legislation would have mandated, require review of her case in a federal court with her own attorney, rather than her husband’s.
The U.S. House and Senate are considering whether to delay their Easter recess to take up the issue on Monday.

Related Links:
• John Paul II on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas"
The Case of Terri Schiavo: When Does Dignity End? | By Fr. Michael Black
The Battle Over Terri | Valerie Schmalz
DCF's Schiavo Petition Unsealed | The Tampa Tribune (Friday, March 4, 2005)
Terri's Brother Fights For Sister's Life | by Margaret Zagroba | Vice President, Princeton Pro-Life. Saturday, March 5, 2005.

Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.

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