Monday, March 21, 2005

An Activist Congress, a Winning Issue, and Federalism??

While the entire blogosphere burns up millions of miles of fiber optic cables going looney over the latest developments in the Terry Schiavo case, I have to do my part to demonstrate my contrarian nature.

This case is not about "the right to life." Oh yes, I know, that's the real reason that the Congressional Republicans and the President are darting about in feverish activity, passing and signing emergency legislation in the middle of the night.

But all that does is point out just what is going on here that makes me, well...It makes me ill.

This is, plain and simple, an exercise in utilizing a (presumably) legitimate end to justify an atrocious means.

Here is the (excerpted) text of the law signed by President Bush this morning:

"For the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo. . . . The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida shall have jurisdiction to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution or laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. Any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo shall have standing to bring a suit under this Act. . . . The District Court shall entertain and determine the suit without any delay or abstention in favor of State court proceedings, and regardless of whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted. After a determination of the merits of a suit brought under this Act, the District Court shall issue such declaratory and injunctive relief as may be necessary to protect the rights of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution and laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. Notwithstanding any other time limitation, any suit or claim under this Act shall be timely if filed within 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act."

Since the statute does not grant Terry Schiavo any rights that she doesn't already have under the U. S. Constitution, the sole purpose of the statute is to grant Ms. Schiavo's parents standing that they do not have because they are not her legal guardian (not for lack of trying -- for an exhaustive appendix of all court documents, see this)

So then, what Congress has done is, in this special circumstance, passed a federal law that grants two people standing who, under Florida law (and probably every other state law in the country) do not have that right.

This is a classic "means - end" analysis. Those who ardently support the end -- the protection of Terry Schiavo's status as a living being -- support the means being utliized to (attempt to) do that.

I do not, because I am not one to justify the means being used.

If Florida law does not provide the parents of a mentally disabled emancipated adult with standing to seek emergency judicial relief that is contrary to the wishes of the adult's court-appointed guardian, then the Florida legislature has all the power necessary to pass its own statute.

And if the U. S. Congress makes a practice of statutorily granting individual people standing in such "special circumstances," I for one can think of plenty of horrific implications.

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