By Carrie Gress
ROME, FEB. 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Senator Barack Obama's claim that it was a "mistake" to vote in favor of an attempt to save the life of Florida woman Terri Schiavo is a statement that "dismisses life," said her brother.
Bobby Schindler, the executive director of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, told ZENIT today that the senator's comment "dismisses life in favor of death." Schindler is in Rome to participate in the Pontifical Academy for Life's congress titled "Close By the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects."
Schindler also received an award today on behalf of his parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, from the Italian Movement For Life and Science and the association Life Rome for the couple's efforts to fight on behalf of their daughter's life, whose death was induced by the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube in 2005.
Schiavo had been at the center of a long and bitter court battle between her parents, who wanted to keep her alive, and her husband, who wanted to remove her feeding tube.
After the local courts decided in favor of Schiavo's husband, the U.S. Congress passed a bipartisan law by a vote of unanimous consent that transferred jurisdiction of the case to the federal courts, giving the higher courts a chance to reverse the decision. The federal courts ultimately denied all petitions and appeals in favor of Terri Schiavo, effectively ending the Schindlers' legal options.
During a presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday with Senator Hillary Clinton, Obama said of his vote in favor of the attempt to save Schiavo's life: "It was not something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped.
"And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. As a constitutional law professor I knew better. I think that's an example of inaction, and sometimes that can be as costly as action."
In a debate in April 2007, the presidential hopeful said something similar: "I think professionally, the biggest mistake that I made was when I first arrived in the Senate. There was debate about Terri Schiavo and a lot of us, including me, left the Senate with a bill that allowed Congress to intrude where it shouldn't."
"And I think," Obama continued, "I should have stayed in the Senate and fought more for making sure that families make those kinds of decisions and not bureaucrats and politicians."
Bobby Schindler said Obama's comments, aired on the cable news network MSNBC, "illustrate all the more just how this issue isn't going away anytime soon. I think we are seeing something that is going to get much, much worse in the future if we don't start resisting what is happening in our culture."
"We have to do what we can to raise awareness and educate people about it," added Schindler.
Robert Schindler, Terri Schiavo's father, said in a press statement released today by the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation that he was "very saddened" by the senator's claim. He said "everyone with a disability, or who knows someone with a disability, should be outraged that" a person "would so callously reject his own action taken in favor of life over death."
"As a country," he added, "we should all be distressed that doing the right thing suddenly becomes a 'mistake.'"
Rights as a person
"Persons with disabilities, no matter how serious, are persons with the Constitutional right to life," said Robert Schindler.
In 2005 the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, made a direct appeal for the life of Schiavo. He said he felt it was the duty of his academy to affirm that the decision to remove her feeding tubes went "against Schiavo's rights as a person and, therefore, constitutes an abuse of the juridical authority."
"If such a decision was confirmed and leads to Terri Schiavo's death," he warned, "it would create a juridical precedent and would present euthanasia in reality as a right before the courts of the United States, with the serious consequences that can be easily imagined for the lives of many other more or less autonomous persons, in this country and elsewhere."
Then Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro Valls, released a statement the day Schiavo died condemning the circumstances surrounding her death: "A life was interrupted. Death was arbitrarily anticipated."
[Karna Swanson contributed to this report]