Rich Lowry
In response to the GOP-led congressional action intended to restore Terri Schiavo?s feeding tube, those Democrats in opposition have attacked Republican hypocrisy in the case. Why suddenly, they ask, is the party of federalism and hostility to an overweening federal judiciary interfering in a state matter and handing the Schiavo case to a federal judge?

If it is disorienting to see Republicans scrambling for federal intervention, at least they are acting on their deepest pro-life convictions ? life is to be treasured in whatever form it takes, and preserving it is a paramount value. The starkest inconsistencies are on the other side, on the part of liberals who ordinarily support the federalization of everything, but can?t bear the thought of a federal judge reviewing the facts of the Schiavo case to determine whether or not she should be starved to death.

Let?s stipulate for the sake of argument that the facts of the Schiavo case are in dispute (and they really are) ? whether she is in a persistent vegetative state, whether she can improve, whether she had previously expressed a desire to die in these circumstances. Then, let?s tally the inconsistencies.

Federal habeas review. Deathrow inmates, as a matter of course, appeal their cases in the federal courts, even after they have been in the state courts (like the Schiavo case) for years. Liberals have traditionally defended this federal habeas review, even when it drags on endlessly. In the 1990s, Republicans passed legislation signed by President Clinton limiting death-row inmates to one federal appeal. Democratic Rep. John Conyers attacked the bill as ?inconsistent with our democratic system of laws.? Conyers was one of 53 House Democrats ? half of all Democrats voting ? to oppose giving Schiavo essentially the same right to have her case reviewed by a federal judge that he supports for convicted killers.

Civil rights. Under the Schiavo bill, a federal judge will review whether any of her federal civil rights have been violated. Since when do Democrats oppose federal scrutiny of potential civil-rights violations? They have consistently used the 14th Amendment to make what had previously been local matters ? from voting rights to housing ? the jurisdiction of the federal government on civil-rights grounds. They supported federal intervention in 2000 to investigate traffic stops on the New Jersey turnpike that allegedly violated motorists? rights. Traffic stops! But federal judicial review of whether Schiavo should live or die is out of bounds?

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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