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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Life and Death Issues in the Case of Terry Schiavo
Aired March 18, 2005 - 15:29 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States Congress wants to see her. They want to evaluate her condition.
ANNOUNCER: Last-minute maneuvers today by the House and Senate to prevent the plug from being pulled on Terri Schiavo. We'll take a look at what's next and whether the federal government should be getting involved.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What a great honor that mom's here.
ANNOUNCER: Selling Social Security becomes a family affair.
BARBARA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY: I'm here because when else can I see my two oldest boys?
ANNOUNCER: President Bush gets some motherly humor and help as he takes his case for reform to the American people.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live from Washington, JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.
Republicans on Capitol Hill are going to unusual lengths to keep a brain damaged Florida woman alive on the day that her feeding tube had been scheduled to be removed. We are seeing urgent political and legal maneuvering in the Terri Schiavo case both here in Washington and in Florida, where one judge today ordered her feeding tube remain in place and another then ruled that it should be removed afterall. More appeals, more uncertainty are expected in the hours ahead.
Outside the hospice caring for Schiavo, demonstrators are holding vigil and praying for her to be kept alive, a sentiment shared by some top Republicans right here in the nation's capital. Our congressional correspondent Joe Johns is watching all this unfold on Capitol Hill. ] Joe, try to bring us up to date.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, this is an unusual attempt by the Congress to interject itself into a case that has been in the courts for years. First, House Republicans issued five subpoenas, including two to Terri Schiavo and her husband. That happened earlier today.
Then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office said they would go to court to try to keep any court from allowing that tube to be removed from Terri Schiavo. They were rebuffed at least one time in state court in Florida. Apparently the attempt now is to go to an appeals court in the state of Florida. There's also, of course, a question as to whether they will go to federal court later.
The House Government Reform Committee said subpoenas and the inquiry were under way and instructed health care providers not to destroy, modify, remove or disconnect anything. Schiavo's husband, of course, wants the feeding tube removed. But the House majority leader said the interest in preserving life outweighs the wishes of the husband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: In my opinion, the sanctity of life overshadows the sanctity of marriage. I don't know what transpired between Terri and her husband. All I know is Terri is alive and this judge in Florida wants to pull her feeding tube and let her starve for two weeks.
That is barbaric. And unless she had specifically written instructions in her hand and with her signature, I don't care what her husband says.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: DeLay also slammed Democrat in the Senate for blocking legislation that he said would have stopped the feeding tube from being removed. Not everyone agrees, of course.
Congressman Henry Waxman of California put out a statement a little while ago. We have a graphic of it. In it, he said, in part, this was a flagrant abuse of power. "Congress is turning the Schiavo's family's personal tragedy into a national farce. The committee has no business inserting itself in the middle of an excruciating family matter."
So it does appear there is a possibility of more court action today as the Congress tries to stop that feeding tube from being removed -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: So Joe, clarify something for us. It was the Senate Government Reform Committee that issued this subpoena to Terri Schiavo, to her husband Michael, three people who work at the hospice in an effort to prevent anything happening to that feeding tube. Why is it that the House leadership disagrees with that approach?
JOHNS: In fact, this has been a very confusing situation, so let me clarify it for you, Judy. First, the House Government Reform Committee issued five subpoenas today in this case.
On the Senate side, that's the Senate Health Committee -- of course the chairman of that committee is Mike Enzi. He has issued what is being called an invitation for Schiavo and her husband to appear on March 28. It's a little different over on the Senate side. They have not issued a subpoena.
Nonetheless, they say, that invitation has the force of law that attaches to it indicating that in their view, if anybody tries to take the feeding tube out, a certain person, probably the United States attorney could go to court to say the U.S. Congress is investigating this or has an interest in it so back off.
WOODRUFF: OK. So thank you for straightening me out. It is the House committee that has issued the subpoena. It's the Senate committee that has simply offered an invitation. And the reason they can't get together, you're saying, is essentially partisan?
JOHNS: Well, it's not a question really of partisanship because it's the Republicans who control the committees, of course, as you know, Judy. They're the ones who have the power, they say, to do what they're doing.
There are issues, of course, with some Democrats who disagree with how all of this is going on. But your other question, the thing you're referring to there, is legislation that was on the floor yesterday of the Senate.
Obviously, the House had passed some legislation to try to stop the feeding tube from being removed. They couldn't get the same language in the Senate. Democrats, of course, got blamed by -- for that by Republicans -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: OK. Joe Johns helping us understand what are many threads to the story.
And we want to tell our audience that CNN has now confirmed that the feeding tube that has been keeping Terri Schiavo alive has now apparently been withdrawn. And for the very latest, let's go to our Carol Lin. She is in Clearwater, Florida, just outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo is being carried for -- Carol.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, I just spoke with Suzanne Vitadamo (ph), who is Terri Schiavo's sister, and she has confirmed that the feeding tube has been removed from Terri Schiavo. It was a tough meeting with Suzanne Vitadamo (ph). She is very emotional about this.
The family is not speaking otherwise. It has been a really tough day for them, a roller coaster in essence when they had a delay in the feeding tube being removed at 1:00 Eastern this afternoon while a House subpoena was being considered by a local circuit court judge who turned down the ruling essentially by saying that the -- that Congress has no jurisdiction in this matter, that congressional committees should not intervene in what essentially is a personal matter, and that the concern and the argument expressed by Michael Schiavo.
The husband's attorney in this case, he said that if this subpoena was valid, that it would mean that Congress would be able to act on the care of any similar patient here in the United States. So, in talking with some of the right to life groups who have assembled here in prayer vigil, what they are saying is that the only real legal options that seem viable to them right now, as they've met with their team of attorneys, is to either try to convince the Florida state legislature to come to some compromise on legislation that would specify if people in persistent vegetative states did not actually specify in a living will not to disconnect, that they should remain connected.
And they are also hoping that the House and Senate on the federal level will be able to come to some agreement on legislation allowing federal courts jurisdiction in this matter. But Judy, as you know, you're looking at two political bodies that are not known necessarily for their speed, and time is running out now that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been disconnected. Doctors -- typically in this matter, doctors say she has anywhere from five to 10 days before she starves to death -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Well, as we understand, when the tube was removed on another occasion several years ago, she did live for several days before the decision was made to reinsert the tube.
Carol, how much information do you have about what time this took place and also who was in charge? Who oversaw the removal of the tube? One assumes it was following the orders of the circuit judge.
LIN: Yes. So the hospice is not giving out that confidential information. Frankly, the sister was not in any frame of mind to discuss the circumstances of the tube being removed. But it can be safe to say that it was sometime after 1:30 Eastern Time this afternoon, after a teleconference call between the judge and the U.S. House of Representatives' counsel and other counsel representing the families.
Typical in this procedure, there was not anything, I understand, anything unusual. I do not think that U.S. marshals were present to oversee that process.
Typically it is the family who is present and the doctors administering the procedure, which is not complicated. It's some pain medication and then the clamping of the tube. And over a period of time, just that process going forth.
WOODRUFF: And Carol, tell us about the reactions, if you've seen any, of the people who are milling around. Who are those individuals behind you?
LIN: Right. Well, they represent about half a dozen various Christian groups and right to life groups who have been here holding prayer vigils.
They were here two years ago, the last time Terri Schiavo's tube had been removed. And then by court order -- or rather by the order of Governor Jeb Bush, reinstated two days later.
The best and fairest way I can say is that this is not a protest. They insist this has been a prayer vigil. They are deeply and profoundly moved by the experience today and coming out and standing vigil for Terri Schiavo. They are deeply disappointed and frankly, Judy, they are worn out. This is 10 years of court litigation, 10, maybe now 12 court rulings in favor of Michael Schiavo's case to disconnect the tube that is keeping his wife alive.
WOODRUFF: OK. Carol Lin, who is outside the hospice in Clearwater, Florida, where Terri Schiavo has been carried for a number of years. And as Carol has just reported, the tube, the feeding tube that the hospice has used for Terri Schiavo has been removed. We believe that took place at some point over the last two hours.
Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, the last time the tube came out, the governor of Florida got involved, and the tube -- a tube was put back in a few days later. What's to stop that sort of thing from happening on this occasion?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it could happen again. There are legal avenues available to Terri Schiavo's parents and the people who want to keep her alive.
Mostly it seems those options are at the federal level, but they could go back to the state legislature as well. You know, as long as she is alive, and as long as the feeding tube can be put back in, there are legal maneuvers that can possibly succeed, and certainly I expect will be undertaken.
WOODRUFF: And Jeff, we know that, as we mentioned, the decision of this state circuit judge, that the tube should go ahead and be removed, we now have the United States House of Representatives say they are going to appeal that. Do they have the jurisdiction to do that?
TOOBIN: Not clear. I mean, this is a really complicated legal area where frankly a lot of the questions don't have answers. But any time a court makes a decision in this case it can be appealed. And certainly the decision to remove the tube, notwithstanding the subpoena from the House, is something that can be appealed.
Remember, those are just state court decisions. There is the entire area of federal courts that the House of Representatives can pursue.
I understand that they are thinking about, at least, if not actively pursuing, getting a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order, asking that the tube be put back in. In almost all situations, a federal court will trump a state court.
Then there is the issue of the legislation that stalled in the House and Senate last night. But that could be revived. If that becomes law and if President Bush signs it, that is another avenue for litigation to try to get the feeding tube placed back in.
WOODRUFF: You were saying that in most instances -- many instances the federal courts are going to trump the state courts. But under what circumstances would the state courts prevail in a situation like this?
TOOBIN: Well, so far the state courts have prevailed. The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling supporting the decision to remove the feeding tube. That was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which, of course, is supreme over both state and federal courts. And the United States Supreme Court declined to hear it.
That's what happened last week. That's what set off this final round of litigation because that case was finally over. So the state courts, which have consistently upheld what they view as Terri Schiavo's own decision to let her life end in this way, that decision has consistently been upheld throughout all appeals.
WOODRUFF: Just one other thing, Jeff, for right now. Why was -- why do you expect, believe that they went ahead and pulled the tube? I mean, given all the legal maneuvering that's going on out there, why would they go ahead and do this?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, to us, it seems like this has been a very frantic day. To the people who are actually litigating the case, they view this as the end of a 15-year process.
You know, she has been in this state for 15 years. The litigation has gone on for 10 of those years. There is -- there is no legal impediment to the removal of the tube.
Even though people are, obviously, very upset about it, I think the people who are on the side of what they say is carrying out Terri Schiavo's decision to die on her own terms, they are just as passionate. They won their case. They feel like it's time to put that decision into effect.
WOODRUFF: OK. Jeff Toobin, please stand by because I know we're going to want to come back to you.
Well, as it turns out, President Bush is in Florida today to promote his Social Security reform plan, but at this critical stage in the life of Terri Schiavo, that case is difficult for the Bush administration to ignore. Our White House correspondent Dana Bash is with us for from Orlando.
What is the administration saying about all this, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the president actually left Florida about 30 minutes ago. He was here, as you mentioned, all day long in the home state of Terri Schiavo, two stops, about six hours in all, and he did not say one word about her fate at all. As a matter of fact, our producer, Matt Burn (ph), went up to the president after his first event in Pensacola and asked him about it, and he simply declined to respond.
White House officials are saying -- is that the president did put out a statement last night which essentially said that he supports continuing or keeping the feeding tube in Terri Schiavo because he supports a culture of life, he said. And, you know, as you can imagine, Judy, this morning, even last night, there was a lot of anticipation about the irony of the president being here, being in Schiavo's home state, being with his brother, who has been very involved, very opposed, of course, the governor I should say, his brother, very opposed to the idea of removing the feeding tube and whether or not the president would talk about it. And he simply, as I mentioned before, did not.
What the White House said this morning, coming down here, was that they thought that this case was temporarily closed because of the fact that the House did send these subpoenas. They thought that this was going to at least temporarily stop the judge or the family from removing the feeding tube. And that simply didn't happen.
And as this went back and forth all day, what White House officials said is that, because it was moving so quickly, they wanted to just simply take a step back and make it clear that the president has his views known, that he does not want the feeding tube removed, and wait and see what happened. As I mentioned, the president is now in the air on his way to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and has not said anything about this at all today publicly.
WOODRUFF: Dana, are they talking about the precedent that this sets, if -- for the federal government to get involved here, the precedent it sets for similar cases down the line?
BASH: Well, it was very interesting. When the House and the Senate both talked about and brought up these issues before their bodies yesterday, the White House spokesman made clear that if it came to the president's desk, something came to the president's desk that allowed the feeding tube to stay, Terri Schiavo to keep the feeding tube, that he would probably sign it. So in terms of the president, they're being very, very careful not to be very specific on what that means, but just really talking in general about the idea that the president feels that it is very important not to take that feeding tube out.
WOODRUFF: OK. Dana Bash, who is traveling with the president today in Orlando. As we heard her say, the president left the state just about half an hour ago. Dana, thank you.
Well, the lawyer for Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, is expected to hold a news conference at the top of the hour. That is in just about 13 minutes from now. We'll carry that live.
Plus, are congressional Republicans preserving life or abusing their power by intervening in the Terri Schiavo case? We'll ask Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan
WOODRUFF: We're following the breaking news this hour, the feeding tube that has been helping to keep Terri Schiavo alive. The woman severely brain damaged in Clearwater Florida. That tube has been removed, according to sources who have talked to CNN, removed at some time during the last two hours.
This follows a state circuit judge's ruling in the state of Florida that the tube should be removed. All this in the aftermath of a number of court rulings and an extraordinary effort by members of Congress to get involved.
Right now you have members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives saying that they will attempt to appeal what the judge has done. And we are waiting to hear further word on what form that appeal will take.
Well, joining us now as they do every week, campaign -- former Gore campaign manager, Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.
The United States Supreme Court has -- would not hear this case. The Florida Supreme Court would not hear this case. So, Bay, what is -- is it appropriate for Congress to be taking such an extraordinarily aggressive posture here?
BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Absolutely. Congress are leaders in this country. And it's the will of the parents that this girl live. That's all we want, is the girl to be able to live. Not to kill her, not to murder her by taking the tube out.
Just because some judges have said, no, that's the appropriate action does not mean it's the right action. And it's the right action of Congress to do something where they have the power to save somebody's life.
WOODRUFF: Before we go further, Donna, let me -- let's let our audience hear what a spokesman for Michael Schiavo, who is the husband of Terri Schiavo, the man's name is John Sentizone (ph). He spoke just a short time ago with reporters in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael just called me a little while ago, and I believe the tube was removed. It's kind of hard to understand him because he was pretty emotional and upset and crying about it.
And, you know, he still loves her. That was the love of his life. And it's hard.
People think he's a big ogre and whatever else, but he's just a teddy bear. I think the bigger they are, the softer they are. But he's just very emotional about the whole thing right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: John Sentizone (ph), who is a friend of Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri Schiavo.
Donna, Bay's point is that this is such a crucial story -- such a crucial set of developments, it's entirely right for the Congress to get involved here. DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I disagree. Look, this is a very personal matter. And I know from my own experience, a situation involving my brother, to have Congress enter into this debate is a farce.
Congressman Waxman is right. Congress has no role in abusing its authority and power to intervene in what really is a family matter.
This should be resolved with the families, with the state courts, with the judges. I don't see why the Republican Congress should unilaterally issue subpoenas demanding that doctors come up and talk about their treatment and this woman who's disabled clearly to come up and appear before Congress.
This makes it -- appears as a circus. Bay, this is not just about the right to life. This is about Congress policy and abusing their authority.
BUCHANAN: They are not abusing any authority. They certainly have all the authority to put subpoenas out there.
What is more important for the Congress of the United States if they have the opportunity to save the life of a woman? Is that not -- what is more important and what work are they doing that's more important than that? You tell me.
BRAZILE: Bay, I'm sure there are literally thousands of people right now that's on life support. Who decides this case versus another case?
What Congress is doing now is setting in a new area where they can demand to see the medical records of an individual and demand to play the god, to decide who lives and who doesn't live. That's not their job.
BUCHANAN: We have no evidence that this woman wanted her feeding tube taken out. There's no evidence whatsoever about that.
We're listening to a low life who happens to have moved on in his life. This husband has no integrity. He has moved on 10 years ago, has his own family. And this -- his wife's family wants to take care of her. That's all they want, just to give her kind of nurture that she...
BRAZILE: That's he-said, she-said, Bay, we don't know.
BUCHANAN: We don't know. And so when you don't know you give the benefit to the life, not death.
BRAZILE: You give it to -- you give it to the family to resolve. You give it to the state courts. And they're involved in this. I don't believe Congress has a role in making these decisions.
WOODRUFF: Bay, what about the precedent, the point that Donna raises, that if you -- if Congress is going to get involved in this situation, there are thousands if not tens of thousands of situations like this around the country.
BUCHANAN: You know, the key is, you know, Donna is talking about life support. There's nothing extraordinary.
She's breathing on her own, has reactions to the family. There's reason to believe that she could with therapy come back. There's a lot of debate going on.
WOODRUFF: Well, there's some question about whether she has reaction to the family.
BUCHANAN: Well, there's question. The family believes it can, and there's other people who have said, "I've been in the same circumstances, same diagnosis, and I'm here to tell you that I could hear everything going on around me."
The key is, is there a question that, indeed, she could recover? Is there hope? The family, the mother and dad and the brother...
BRAZILE: They've been discussing this for 15 years. They've been discussing it.
BRAZILE: It should stay where it is in Florida.
BUCHANAN: The family wants her to live. What is -- who in the world wants this girl just to die? Who wants to...
BRAZILE: The bottom line, it's not about -- it's about a process. We've got to also look at the rule of law and the process.
BUCHANAN: The rule of law has not been violated.
BRAZILE: The process is it's in Florida courts. The farther -- I mean, the husband is fighting the family. They should resolve this matter. Congress has no role to intervene.
BUCHANAN: If they can keep somebody alive, let them do it. It's more important than anything else they're doing any day of the week.
BRAZILE: Well, we have a whole bunch of people on death row who probably should not be there that should be kept alive, and Congress is not intervening.
BUCHANAN: Well, take the case.
WOODRUFF: Yes. Donna, what about, though, the argument, that, you know, what does -- who does it harm to keep her alive?
BRAZILE: It harms the process. We are harming the congressional process. This is abuse of power to issue these subpoenas. I mean, Ron Watlin (ph) last night said, you know, if this -- if we want to take this up as a Congress...
BRAZILE: ... let's bring it before the appropriate committees, let's have a debate. This young lady has been under the same circumstances for 15 years. Congress did not hold one hearing. They should have held a hearing.
It should involve a process. And then we can get into the life and death situation.
BUCHANAN: We need to keep her alive before the hearing.
BRAZILE: I would like to see her alive as well. That's not my issue.
BUCHANAN: And she is alive. She's disabled, she is not dead. And we should not -- we should not allow a court to decide that she should be murdered tomorrow.
BUCHANAN: But the court -- this is an appropriate role for the courts to resolve the family...
BUCHANAN: Courts make mistakes, Donna.
BRAZILE: Of course. Don't I know.
BUCHANAN: Yes. And this is one of them.
BRAZILE: But you have the judges involved, you have the family involved, and that's -- that's where it should be decided. Not by Tom DeLay and the House Republican leadership.
WOODRUFF: All right.
BUCHANAN: No, the will of the people -- the will of the people in this country is overwhelming that this poor girl should live and her family should be allowed to take care of her. And that's why Congress...
BRAZILE: I don't think anybody would like to see her harmed and hurt. But this...
BUCHANAN: The judge.
BRAZILE: ... this is a matter that is before a judge. And we should respect the process. We should respect the process, Bay.
WOODRUFF: Very, very difficult story. Very difficult situation.
BRAZILE: Very difficult.
WOODRUFF: Donna, Bay, thank you very much. Appreciate it. See you next week.
BRAZILE: Yes. WOODRUFF: And we are awaiting word from Michael Schiavo, who has battled his wife's family throughout this long ordeal. We do expect his attorney to come before cameras in just a few minutes. We'll have live coverage.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back. It is just after 4:00 on the East Coast. Well, her sister says that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed after a long and emotional battle over the fate of this brain-damaged Florida woman. The presiding judge in the case ruled earlier today that the tube must be removed, despite intervention by Congress and another judge's order to keep Schiavo's feeding tube in place.
A House committee actually subpoenaed Schiavo to appear before Congress in a last-ditch effort to keep her alive. A vigil is now under way outside the Florida hospice where Schiavo is being cared for. She has been at the center of a legal fight between her husband, who wanted the feeding tube removed, and her parents, who did not. We are expecting to hear soon from the attorney for Schiavo's husband, Michael. We do plan to carry his remarks live as soon as they get under way.
Meantime standing by for us outside the hospice, CNN's Carol Lin. Carol, when you and I talked just a few minutes ago, you described the crowd that has been holding a vigil for many hours.
LIN: That's right. Since early this morning, Judy, about a half a dozen Christian groups and Right to Life groups have been standing vigil outside the hospice here, where Terri Schiavo is now lying. We have confirmation from Terri Schiavo's sister, Suzanne, that doctors indeed have disconnected the feeding tube. Her parents have been here throughout the day.
We saw Bob Schindler earlier in the day. He said that he would not speak until after 1:00, when they would have a better resolution of whether the feeding tube would remain in. Clearly, this is not the news that they expected to hear after so much legal wrangling throughout the day. Yesterday the parents, having gone all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state legislature, debating legislation.
The House of Representatives issuing a subpoena and, yet, it has all come down to this for the parents of Terri Schiavo, that the feeding tube has been disconnected, as they now wait to see whether the House of Representatives can take this to the court of appeals or whether the state legislature here in Florida can pass legislation in time to save her life. It may take as long as a week to ten days before Terri Schiavo expires -- starves to death, essentially, from the disconnection of this feeding tube -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Carol, members of Schiavo -- Terri Schiavo's family there, her mother, father, sister, are they at the hospice now?
LIN: Yes, yes. The mother and father have been pretty much by their daughter's bedside throughout the day. The sister, as well. I bumped into Suzanne, the sister, a short time ago. She was very distraught but confirming to us that the feeding tube had been removed.
I think they had hoped, their best hopes was that they would be able to go to the microphone stand, to the midst of that group back there and pronounce some good news some time after 1:00 that they had won some sort of an appeal or that the subpoena by the U.S. House would stand, but that was not to be the case yet -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Carol, we're looking at live pictures. It's a wider view of the crowd outside the hospice. Carol, when you spoke with the sister, you saw her in person?
LIN: Yes. I saw her in person.
WOODRUFF: And are they -- is the family, I mean, do they say -- are they optimistic at all that they can turn this around? What are they -- what's their view at this point?
LIN: I think their view right now, Judy, and this is just my read, you know, human being to human being, that they are exasperated and exhausted. They are trying to remain hopeful but I think it's pretty tough after having lost the sheer number of battles that they have had so far this week. Now, this is the third time that they've been right here to the brink, where the tube either was about to be disconnected or, in fact, was disconnected and eventually reinserted because of some kind of 11th hour appeal.
When I talked with Suzanne, and it was ever so briefly, I did not get any sense of, frankly, vigilance or hope from her. She looked exhausted to me. She just shook her head, looked down to the ground. It was all she could offer at that time because this has been exhausting.
And they are now depending on a very cumbersome process, Judy. The state legislature here in Florida, as well as the court of appeals, if an appeal would be filed on the federal level. Already the Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court, has ruled that this is not a federal matter. This is a state matter and a private one. And the state courts have already decided.
WOODRUFF: And, Carol, we are about to hear -- we believe we're going to be hearing shortly from an attorney for Michael Schiavo, Terri Schiavo's husband. Obviously, the family disagrees, you know, with his position on this. What are they saying about him, if anything?
LIN: The family of Terri Schiavo is not saying much. I mean, you've heard the arguments before. This is a classic blood feud, Judy. There is no love loss between these two parties and they have said things about one another that I think are, you know, they're taken to the realm of where you better check your facts, because so much is being said out of emotion.
They believe that this is a man, because he has been involved with another woman and has fathered children with her, that he has every incentive to have that feeding tube disconnected. But Michael Schiavo has stated in public, in a network television interview this week, as well to a local newspaper, that this is really about what Terri's wishes were.
He confirmed that he was offered $10 million to sign away his guardianship to this family and has declined because he felt so strongly that this would have been his wife's wishes not to live in this way. But Terri Schiavo's parents feel that this is a man who has no regard for the woman that he is married to. They refer to him as the estranged husband, even though he is still legally married to her and her guardian.
And you know, just as recently as this week, they had asked for an investigation by what essentially is family services here in the Tampa area into allegations of abuse -- that Michael Schiavo, as Terri Schiavo's legal guardian, was allowing her to fester in her hospital bed with bed sores and not at least promoting the kind of attention that Terri Schiavo should have in order to remain comfortable in her condition.
WOODRUFF: And one other thing, Carol, the family denies Michael Schiavo's allegation about the $10 million that he's been offered to turn power of attorney over his wife to her family, I assume?
LIN: Well, that I have not heard. I've seen confirmation that he's been offered $1 million. He talked about the $10 million offer and that person has been profiled. The person who was offering the money has been profiled on various media services. I can only speak to the interview that I saw with him, where he stated his case about being offered that money. But the family, today, it was not about money. It was really about how can we win this court battle today? How can we figure out some way to buy some time?
So today was not really a discussion about the hurtful allegations of the past. Today was a discussion about what can be done, what we expect to happen and, frankly, even the hospital -- or the hospice behind me woke up to the news that the U.S. House of Representatives had issued the subpoena. So, it was all faith and hope in the legal process today and not the ugly words that you have seen in the past between the two parties.
WOODRUFF: All right, Carol Lin, who's been standing outside the hospice in Clearwater, Florida, where Terri Schiavo has been cared for. Carol, we just saw a car -- a truck go by with a large sign on it saying "Save Terri's Life." Clearly there is an active group of people there who are trying to make sure their side of this story is made public.
All right, Carol, thank you very much. I know we're going to be coming back to you. And we are waiting any moment now to hear from the attorney for Michael Schiavo.
In the meantime, let's keep in mind what has happened up until now. It is a story that goes back 15 years, when Terri Schiavo collapsed at her home and suffered severe brain damage. It was eight years later that her husband Michael Schiavo, saying he represented her wishes, asked a court to allow his wife's feeding tube to be removed. After three years of appeals by Terri Schiavo's parents, the court, indeed, ordered that the removal take place and then ordered that it to be reinserted just two days later.
About a year and a half after that, a federal appeal's court ordered the second tube removal. That occurred in October of 2003. But then the tube was reinserted again, this time six days later. After a special law was passed by the Florida legislature. Then, just last September, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional and after another court order to have the tube removed, the United States Supreme Court refused last night to reverse the planned removal.
Well, to bring us up-to-date not only on the legal aspects of this, but where it's been, but where it's going, let bring in our legal analyst Jeff Toobin. Jeff, given that history, what are the options left for those who want that feeding tube reinserted?
TOOBIN: Well, I think in a broad way, there are really two options. The first is for -- let's call them Terri's parents, the people who want the tube back in, to go to federal court and try to enforce the subpoena that was issued by the House of Representatives last week. Simply to say, look, this woman is under subpoena. Under federal law you can't allow or initiate the death of someone who is under subpoena. Enforce that subpoena. That's one option that is possible.
The other option, which is more dramatic and, frankly, I think less likely, is for the House and Senate, which actually came very close to passing a law directed at this issue last night, to have them come back into session and pass the law. Last night, amazingly enough, both the House and the Senate passed laws, but they were somewhat different. And for a law to take effect, the House and Senate have to pass exactly the same law and it has to be signed by the president.
So, if the House could simply say, OK, we'll sign -- we'll pass the Senate's bill and if the president signs that bill, they could go into federal court and say, look, we want to enforce this federal law, which would, I think, at least get a state judge to look at the issue again, which may mean the feeding tube would be replaced. But I think either enforcing the subpoena or passing the law, those are the big, the main options available to Terri's parents at this point.
WOODRUFF: We're talking -- I'm talking with Jeff Toobin, about the options left to Terri Schiavo's parents, now that the feeding tube has been removed. That has been confirmed. Jeff, what would the president be set here, if Congress, if either the family were to do what they're doing, but especially for Congress to get involved in an even more aggressive way than they have. What are the implications down the road for other cases similar to this?
TOOBIN: Well, I think it's really unusual and, you know, there's actually even a provision in the constitution called a bill of attainder. And what that means is under the constitution, the Congress is not allowed to pass a law directed at a specific person. That was dealt with in the American Revolution because the British Parliament had, you know, passed laws saying John Adams, for example, is a criminal. Under our constitution, we can't make laws about specific people. So, that would be an issue in the challenge to this law, if it became effect.
But, Judy, I think one thing, you know, really needs to be said here. Is what this issue is really about. I mean, what the larger context for all of this is, is abortion politics. That is really what's the very clear undercurrent here. The right to life movement feels very strongly in what President Bush calls a culture of life.
And they begin -- that matters at the beginning of life, in abortion, and the end of life, in a situation like this. The people supporting the removal of the feeding tube feel very strongly about the autonomy of the person. But that's the subtext here and that is, I think, what's really driving a lot of the partisans on both sides.
WOODRUFF: And very interesting, especially since the United States Supreme Court has now refused to hear this case. All right, Jeff Toobin, our legal analyst, we are going to be coming back to you.
We are going to take a break, but when we come back, we are waiting for that news conference by the attorney for Michael Schiavo. That's due to get under way any moment. We're also going to take a look at the blogs in our "Inside the Blog" segment because they are talking about the Terri Schiavo case on the blogs. We'll be right back.