Friday, March 18, 2005

The Schiavo Case 

Many of you have followed the sad case of Terri Schiavo, whose husband has been trying to have the feeding tube removed from this woman who has been living in a coma for over 15 years. The Florida Legislature, Governor Jeb Bush, and the Florida Supreme Court have all injected themselves into a dispute between Schiavo's husband, who wants the tube removed because he insists she would never want to live this way, and her family, who oppose the move.

Yesterday, our U.S. Congress got into the action. And as Charles Babington and Manuel Roig-Franzia from the Washington Post report, the House and Senate could not agree on a bill last night:

Both houses of Congress agreed this week -- in unrecorded voice votes -- to let
federal courts take the Schiavo case away from Florida's courts. The House bill
would require federal courts to review cases involving "incapacitated" people.

But some senators from both parties said the House language was too
broad. At 5:35 p.m. yesterday, the Senate approved a bill that would apply only
to Schiavo and would allow, but not require, a federal court review of her case.
But the House had adjourned 75 minutes earlier for the long-planned two-week

Those of you who study our Constitution know that Congress is overstepping its authority here. The body is trying to pass a "Bill of Attainder," explicitly prohibited under Article 1, Section 9:
Clause 3: No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

A Bill of Attainder is a law targeted at a specific individual or group. Our Founders were against such legislation because when we lived under British rule the King used to go after people through laws aimed directly at them. Congress has make this mistake before, in passing RICO legislation focused on the Mafia and by approving a decade-old bill from Representative Tom Davis allowing Elizabeth Morgan and her daughter to return to this country after they ran away to Australia to avoid a custody fight. About a year ago the Morgan bill was ruled unconstitutional, although by that time the damage was done since Elizabeth Morgan's daughter was now over the age of 18.

The fight over Schiavo is bound to continue. Let's see if anyone dusts off our Constitution to determine what is right.

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