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Schiavo's parents turn to court of public opinion

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry will coordinate efforts to block the removal of a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

Associated Press
Published February 15, 2005

TAMPA - With their legal options narrowing, the parents of Terri Schiavo again are mounting a public and political campaign in hopes of blocking their son-in-law from removing the feeding tube keeping her alive.

Bob and Mary Schindler announced Monday that Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry will again coordinate efforts to block the courts from allowing Michael Schiavo to disconnect the tube.

Terry was a key player in a massive campaign to lobby state lawmakers and Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 to enact a law blocking removal of the tube. Michael Schiavo contends his 41-year-old wife, who suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago, would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents contend that is not so.

The case has been fought in the courts for nearly eight years, but on Friday the Schindlers were turned down in an attempt to stop their son-in-law from removing the tube. They also have been unsuccessful in persuading either the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

But in a case that has drawn international attention and rallied right-to-life and religious forces worldwide, the Schindlers are now turning to the court of public opinion.

Protests are planned outside the Pinellas Park hospice where Terri Schiavo lives, Terry said, accompanied by e-mail and letter-writing campaigns to lawmakers.

"Basically we are going to fight tooth and nail to save Terri from starvation," Terry said. "Part of this has to do with who has the will to save her and who has the will to kill her and whose will is stronger."

Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage at the age of 26 when a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop beating. Some doctors have said she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope for recovery. Others have said she has some mental capabilities.

In October 2003, the Florida Legislature and Bush enacted a law allowing the governor to order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted six days after it was removed.

The measure was struck by the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case last month.

The Schindlers have since launched a series of legal maneuvers aimed at either ordering a new trial on what their daughter's wishes would be or voiding the original judgment allowing Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube. But they have yet to succeed in winning any permanent decision.

Michael Schiavo is looking to Feb. 22 as the date when he can legally remove the tube again.

The Schindlers' attorneys did not return telephone calls for comment Monday.

George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney, said he doubted a new round of political pressure would move lawmakers to act.

"I think the Florida Supreme Court made it clear that although they (lawmakers) may legislate prospectively for future cases, there is nothing they can do to overturn the result of Mrs. Schiavo's case," Felos said.

The Schindlers' contention that their daughter is not brain-dead was buoyed last week by news from Kansas that a woman left in a coma 20 years ago in a car accident recently began to speak after years of only being able to communicate in the simplest ways.

[Last modified February 15, 2005, 01:15:09]

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