Wednesday, March 9

Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, the National Right to Life Committee, and a host of other family advocacy and values organizations are calling on Congress to enact a bill introduced yesterday by Representative Dave Weldon, M.D. (R-FL) that could save the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo and many others facing grim prospects in the current legal and medical environment.

Terri and her parents have been in the fight of their lives since 1990 when she collapsed in her home and subsequently fell into a coma. The medical cause of her collapse is unknown to this day and she remains disabled. Her estranged husband has petitioned the courts repeatedly to end her life by starvation and dehydration despite the fact that she is happy and responsive to her family and has clearly expressed a desire to live. Her story—and that of her parents and siblings who have stood by her ever since her mysterious illness struck—is quite compelling. You can visit Terri’s website to learn all about that story yourself.

But as important as this bill is for Terri and her remarkable family, it is just as important for the rest of us. If her civil rights are threatened, our civil rights are threatened. Diminished legal security for any of us is diminished legal security for all of us. If her life is in jeopardy, our lives are equally in jeopardy. That is why so many advocates of moral values and family values are encouraging congress to pass this bill without delay.

That was essentially the argument of Lori Kehoe, Congressional Liaison for the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, during a press conference held in Washington yesterday. “Congress can act to ensure a federal court hearing on whether or not Terri will die of starvation and dehydration,” she said . “A proceeding known as the ‘writ of habeas corpus,’ which is protected by the U.S. Constitution, has been used for centuries to give a hearing to those whose liberty has been constrained by state courts in violation of the Constitution or federal laws. We call on all citizens to immediately contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to support Representative Weldon’s bill to amend the Habeas Corpus Act to allow its use when a state court orders denial of food or fluids in cases like Terri’s.”

Representative Weldon has only just introduced the Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act and it is already creating quite a stir on Capitol Hill. So, please encourage your congressman and senators to vote for this important pro-life provision—not only for Terri’s sake, but for all our sakes.

To contact your representatives visit the congressional contact website.

Here is the text of the bill itself:

Section 1. This Act shall be known and may be cited as “The Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act of 2005.”
Section 2. Findings and purposes.
The Congress finds the following:
(1) Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, “No State ... shall deprive any person of life ... without due process of law...nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
(2) Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment empowers Congress “to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions” of the Amendment. The United States Supreme Court has held that under this section, while Congress may not work a “substantive change in the governing law” under the other sections of the Fourteenth Amendment, it may adopt remedial measures exhibiting “a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end.” Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 21 (2004); City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 519-20 (1997).
It is the purpose of this Act:
(1) to facilitate balancing the acknowledged right of persons to refuse consent to medical treatment and unwanted bodily intrusions with the right to consent to treatment, food, and fluids so as to preserve their lives;
(2) in circumstances in which there is a contested judicial proceeding because of dispute about the expressed previous wishes or best interests of a person presently incapable of making known a choice concerning treatment, food, and fluids the denial of which will result in death, to provide that the fundamental due process and equal protection rights of incapacitated persons are protected by ensuring the availability of collateral review through habeas corpus proceedings.
Nothing in this bill shall be construed to create substantive rights not otherwise secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States or of the several States.

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