New "Terri's Law" Introduced at Congress

Two of Florida’s Republican Congressmen introduced legislation that may possibly save the life of Terri Schiavo on Tuesday – just ten days before the scheduled removal of her feeding tube.

Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Rep. David Weldon (R-FL) introduced the Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act (HR 1151, S 539), a bill that would enable disabled persons such as Terri Schiavo the right to have their cases heard in federal court.

To date, the nation’s high court twice refused to intervene in the Schiavo case citing complications in jurisdictional authority. The case has thus bounced back time and time again to the Pinellas Circuit Court where the original ruling to remove Terri’s tube was made five years ago.

Should the legislation pass, it would give Schiavo and other incapacitated people the right to a review of evidence by a different court – namely the federal court. The legal protections afforded under the proposed bill are the same as the rights given to inmates on death row.

According to Tony Perkins, president of the Federal Research Council (FRC), the bill is a “common sense legislation” that must be passed.

"Dr. Weldon's legislation would allow Terri to have her own counsel that can argue her case, a right given to any criminal in the United States, and Terri not a criminal but a woman truly fighting for her life," said Perkins in a statement released Tuesday.

"The disabled deserve due process. In the United States we don't execute people without due process and we shouldn't execute the incapacitated by starvation. Beyond being cruel and unusual punishment, this is an opportunity for Congress to finally check the power of runaway courts,” he continued. "We commend Senator Martinez and Congressman Weldon for taking the initiative and acknowledging a vital inconsistency in the process by which our courts determine the fate of those who cannot speak for themselves."

The introduction of the new legislation marks the latest in a flurry of legal actions pushed forward by Terri’s supporters since the March 18th “death sentence” was issued late last month.

Also on Tuesday, attorneys for Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler -- who have been fighting against their son-in-law Michael for seven years to keep their daughter alive – asked the Pinellas Court Judge George Greer to allow the re-evaluation of Terri’s mental capabilities using new medical technology.

The Schindlers’ attorney, David Gibbs III, asked judge Greer to allow the motion regarding new medical evaluations to proceed to a hearing that would include evidence and witness testimony.

"In three years there have been tremendous advancements in the understanding of brain injuries," Gibbs said as he stood before the same judge who determined Terri was in a “Persistent Vegetative State” and should have her hydration and nutrition tube removed in 2000.

Greer said he would rule on the motion as early as Wednesday.

Gibbs also argued on Tuesday that Greer’s order to have Terri’s feeding tube removed should be thrown out because the judge mistakenly discounted the testimony of a key witness during the critical trial.

Greer said he will rule on the motions as early as Wednesday, the same day he will hear arguments from lawyers for the Department of Children & Families, which is trying to intervene in the case to investigate what it says are new complaints of abuse and neglect by her husband.

It is uncertain how Greer, who has had a track record of supporting Terri’s pro-death husband, will rule on the cases. It is also uncertain whether Congress could pass the Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act in time to save Terri’s life.

At that light, pro-family leaders in Washington urged the faithful to intervene in their own way:

“The clock is ticking,” wrote Perkins in an FRC email alert. “Now we have the opportunity, finally, to be able to help Terri and I am asking that you do so right now.

“Let your U.S. Senators AND Representative know that you want the Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection (H.R. 1151, S. 539) passed right away - before its too late for Terri. I have made it very easy for you to contact your two Senators and your Representative. And please forward this to many friends. Terri needs all the help she can get.”

For more information on Terri’s case, visit: www.terrisfight.org .