CLEARWATER, Fla (BP)–As pro-life advocates around the world keep a watch on Florida to see what will happen to Terri Schiavo, some lawmakers and Gov. Jeb Bush are working quietly behind the scenes to see what, if anything, they can do to prevent the disabled woman from being starved to death.
At Florida’s state capitol in Tallahassee, there is a beehive of low-key activity as lawmakers “search for viable options” and educate each other about the stakes involved in the case, according to Bill Bunkley, legislative consultant for the Florida Baptist Convention.
“It is important to be praying for the members of the legislature and the governor,” Bunkley told the Florida Baptist Witness Thursday morning. “Stay informed and stay involved.”
Bunkley said all eyes are on Clearwater, where Sixth Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer will decide Friday whether to extend a stay preventing the immediate removal of a tube which delivers food and water to the 41-year-old woman twice a day.
On Wednesday Greer extended until Friday at 5 p.m. ET an emergency order preventing the removal of the tube.
David Gibbs III, an attorney representing Terri Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, told the Witness Feb. 21 that at issue in the most recent flurry of emergency stays and motions is whether Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband and legal guardian, has the court’s authorization to discontinue feeding Terri without hearing, again, from Judge Greer.
Greer ruled in February, 2000 that Terri’s feeding tube could be removed, and since that time it has been removed twice — only to be restored after intervention by another court and the Florida legislature.
Terri Schiavo was found unconscious in her home in 1990, having suffered brain damage after her heart stopped. Some doctors have said she is in a Persistent Vegetative State. Her parents disagree and in recent years have been in a tug-o-war with Michael Schiavo over whether she would wish to live and whether Schiavo should continue to serve as her guardian. No written request from Terri Schiavo exists. Michael Schiavo lives with his girlfriend, with whom he has fathered two children.
At a news conference after Wednesday’s hearing when Greer extended the stay for 48 hours, Bob Schindler stood flanked by his wife, Mary, his son, Bobby, and his daughter, Suzanne, in front of over two dozen television cameras and a crowd of reporters.
“We’re really elated, as ridiculous as it may sound, for 48 hours,” Schindler said, “Forty-eight hours to us right now seems like six years.”
Describing a “roller-coaster” of emotion during the week — while waiting to see if Michael Schiavo would begin the process to starve Terri — Bob Schindler said he was thankful for the extended time.
“We pray to God, and we thank God that we have some time,” Schindler said, also noting an attempt by Florida’s Department of Children and Families to intervene in the case.
Gibbs told reporters both he and the family are “deeply grateful” for the DCF’s action.
“[The Schindlers] are counting on God to do something, to miraculously save their daughter and the DCF intervention is another in a series of miracles to save Terri’s life,” Gibbs said.
Declining to name who brought about the complaint which resulted in DCF’s investigation, Gibbs said the government agency has authority under Florida law to “step in where they perceive where there has been an abuse of discretion or any abuse for the elderly, for the handicapped or for children.”
“If there is question among our government officials, let those questions be answered before we do anything to take Terri’s life,” Gibbs said.
Acknowledging a request by the DCF that the petition be part of Terri’s sealed record, Gibbs said he believes officials will examine her physical, medical and legal treatment to make sure she has been treated fairly.
“Their intervention in the court case has to be granted by the court,” said Gibbs. “They are asking to intervene in a pending judicial matter, but it would be in my opinion, be very unlikely for any court in Florida — certainly a probate court like we have here — to not allow the government agency tasked with overseeing abuse from becoming involved.”
Across the courtyard, George Felos, Michael Schiavo’s attorney, told the Florida Baptist Witness he suspects DCF’s intervention is nothing more than political posturing.
“I think it reeks of political intervention,” Felos said. “I think it’s no secret that the politicians are looking [for] some way to do an end run around the judicial system and this apparently is what they have chosen.”
Referencing “scores of complaints” to the DCF in the past six years, Felos said none of those prompted legal action.
“One or two similar complaints come in, and now all of a sudden they [take action],” Felos said.
Reciting Greer’s February 2000 ruling which authorized the removal of Terri’s feeding tube, Felos said there should be no delay because according to “clear and convincing evidence” Terri would not want to be dependent on the care of others.
“That’s what the court found, that’s what the appellate courts have found — assuming that is to be correct,” Felos said, recalling that Michael Schiavo testified to Terri’s views, as did two of his family members.
Responding to questions after the press conference, Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s younger brother, said he is “relieved” Greer has extended the stay for now — but said he has heard nothing new from Felos in the court room.
“It is amazing to me that Michael can say under oath that he wants to do everything he can to help Terri, and yet, there’s new testing out there and new medical advances available and he won’t do anything to help Terri,” Schindler said. “Instead, he’s taken the position that he has to kill her as fast as he can.”
Still, Schindler said he encouraged by the recent developments.
“I’m ecstatic that the DCF is in court, Schindler said. “So we’ll see what happens.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com. For more information about the Schiavo case, visit www.floridabaptistwitness.com/schiavo.fbw