Terri Schiavo: Political, Social & Judicial Implications

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Terri Schiavo "right-to-life" case brings to the fore a number of political, social and judicial implications for the future, some of which have surfaced in March 2005 regarding the legal issue of whether or not her feeding tube should be removed and controversy regarding the right to live or the right to die. It also, quite significantly, centers around who is to decide these matters: parents and siblings, spouse, Congress, the state, the courts or even the court of public opinion. Many more issues are likely to emerge as a result.

Moving to the Right on Moral Issues

Andrew Kohut wrote in the March 23, 2005, New York Times: "A Political Victory That Wasn't." [1]

"While there were probably more votes of conscience in Congress on the bill than the public thinks, it is also pretty clear that the Christian conservative movement now has the clout on life-and-death issues to do what the National Rifle Association has done for years on gun control. Strengthened by the results of the November elections, the movement can convey to legislators that the intensity of their constituents' beliefs is more important than the balance of national public opinion. Swayed by this reasoning, more than a few Democrats may be more interested in moving to the right on moral values than in staking out the middle of the political landscape.
"The problem with this strategy for the Democrats, and even perhaps for many Republicans, is that Americans have a strong pragmatic streak. While most Americans may say they believe in creationism rather than evolution, on issues that directly affect their own lives, like health and protection of the quality of life, science wins."

Congressional second-guessing

Harvard Law School Professor and constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe said that if the Schiavo legislation is "declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. It would throw out of whack the entire concept of separation of powers." Tribe "calls it 'trial by legislation' and he is right." --Andrew Cohen CBS News, March 19, 2005.

"constitutional coup d'etat"

"Republican leaders, eyeing an opportunity to appease their radical right-wing constituents, convened Congress over the weekend to shamelessly interject the federal government into the wrenching Schiavo family dispute. They brushed aside our federalist system of government, which assigns the resolution of such disputes to state law, and state judges. Even President Bush flew back from his ranch to Washington on Sunday to be in on what amounts to a constitutional coup d'etat." Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2005.

Court of Public Opinion

  • Beginning Friday, March 18, 2005, cable news channels "covered little else other than this right-to-die case, while reporters and pundits have mostly ignored a crucial element of the story -- public opinion." Polling data showed that "an overwhelming majority of Americans [backed] the position of Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, that he, and not his wife's parents, should have the final say in the removal of her feeding tube. The polling data seriously undercuts the notion that Americans are deeply divided on the Schiavo case ... [and] the press has all but disregarded the polls." Salon, March 21, 2005.
  • The Congressional intervention on Sunday, March 20, 2005, was probably "an extraordinary and probably unconstitutional intrusion into a personal family matter that traditionally has been the province of state courts. Simply put, Congress and the president didn't like the outcome of a case that already had been fully vetted in state court. So they challenged the case in federal court, alleging a violation of Ms. Schiavo's civil rights." Miami Herald, March 22, 2005.
  • The "extraordinary steps taken by congressional Republicans to save the life of Terri Schiavo have won plaudits from evangelical Christians and other conservative activists, but some Republicans worry about a potential backlash among others who view the intervention as an overbearing use of government power." Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2005.

Media Coverage

  • "Surely, many must have wondered: Aren’t CNN and Fox and MSNBC and radio talk-show hosts making a freak show out of this sad, sick woman’s predicament? And if those listeners and viewers considered the contrived shouting matches unseemly, what then did they make of the news media who used Terri Schiavo as a ratings gimmick?" Broadcasting & Cable, March 28, 2005.
  • Atrios Blogspot wrote that it was Speechless: "Fox News had John Edwards (the guy who talks to the dead, not the former senator) come on to give his expert opinion on the Schiavo case (as seen on the Daily Show)," and Media Matters for America said "Fox's psychic friend: Crossing Over's John Edward claimed Terri Schiavo is 'definitely clear on what's happening now around her.'" [2][3]

"demise of the GOP revolution"

"This week will go down in political history as the moment the conservative revolution died," writes Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times.

"How can I say that?," he asks. "Conservatives control the entire federal government. If anything, they appear set to win even more power at the ballot box. But the premise of the revolution is dead and gone. Republicans have abandoned the last of the principles that swept them into power a decade ago." March 24, 2005.

"judiciary willing to ignore elected officials"

"Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials." New York Times, March 23, 2005.

the "F" word

"On March 21, 2005 12:44 am, the extremists in charge of the US Government showed the world that when they don't like a law or a legally valid court decision - ANY law, ANY court decision, for ANY reason, no matter how carefully adjudicated - they are prepared to rip it up. There is a word for this.

"The word is fascism." Tristero, March 21, 2005.

trampling on "states rights"

The Schiavo law "tramples on the principle that this is 'a nation of laws, not of men,' and it guts the power of the states. When the commotion over this one tragic woman is over, Congress and the president will have done real damage to the founders' careful plan for American democracy." Editorial, New York Times, March 22, 2005.

trumping the "sanctity of marriage"

"In another sign of the priority that the GOP has placed on the Schiavo matter, they have let it trump their traditional calls for a limited federal judiciary and respecting the 'sanctity of marriage'." Washington Post, March 21, 2005.

SourceWatch Resources

External links