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It's your turn, Mr. President

The battle to protect the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo is down to the wire.

Yesterday, Circuit Court Judge George Greer granted a request by Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to delay the removal of her feeding tube until mid-March. The three-week reprieve was heralded as an answer to prayer, especially given Greer’s indifference toward Terri’s life in the past. Lawyers for the Schindlers hope the circuit court judge will extend the stay indefinitely while they pursue further legal avenues.

Even as the determination came down, pro-life individuals and groups were mobilizing to help defend the life of this brain-disabled woman who has garnered more love and support over the last year than many healthy individuals could hope for in a lifetime. Life advocates are joining hands for 24-hour prayer vigils outside Terri’s hospice in Pinellas County, Fla. Others are staging peaceful protests in front of Michael Schiavo’s house, begging him to end his decade-long quest to snuff out the life of his estranged wife.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush affirmed on Wednesday that he will do everything within the bounds of state law to protect Terri’s life, but added the caveat that there are “limits to what any particular person – irrespective of the title they currently hold – can do.” Such limits do exist, of course, but so do further possibilities.

The same day, the Department of Children and Families Services submitted a request to Judge Greer asking for a 60-day stay in which to investigate abuse and neglect allegations against Michael Schiavo. Although Greer dismissed the petition, he conceded that the department is free to pursue an investigation on its own. The question is: Will there be enough time, given the three-week stay granted by Judge Greer, to conduct a thorough investigation before the judiciary again threatens to remove Terri’s feeding tube?

In the Florida Legislature, a bill that would prohibit courts and other entities from “withholding or withdrawing nutrition or hydration except under specified circumstances” is currently being considered. Unlike “Terri’s Law” passed by the Legislature in 2003, the new bill would apply to all disabled individuals who are reliant on feeding tubes. This would clear the legal hurdle erected by the Florida Supreme Court, which declared “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional since it only applied to an isolated situation. But unless substantial action is taken soon, the bill will never be approved in time to save Terri’s life.

Many are publicly demonstrating their support for this woman and her right to life; many are promising to step forward and take a stand for her. But will these efforts be enough?

The U.S. Supreme Court and Florida judiciary have collectively turned a blind eye to Terri’s plight, trumping her constitutional right to life and due process under the law. Gov. Bush and many in the Florida Legislature rally around Terri in public, but how many will have the guts to potentially risk their political careers when push comes to shove? Protests and prayer vigils are critically important, but the individuals participating in them have no real power to intervene and stop this tragedy from occurring.

There is one man who does: the president of the United States.

Terri needs more than a temporary stay of execution from a circuit court judge. She needs the equivalent of a presidential pardon. President Bush has the power to issue an executive order saving Terri from the cruel judicial fist that is descending to destroy her life. The U.S. Constitution invests presidents with the power to grant reprieves and pardons to convicted criminals. How can we continue calling ourselves a fair-dealing nation if felons are allowed to go scot-free while an entirely innocent woman is sentenced to a slow starvation death?

President Bush often speaks about building a culture of life. He emphasizes the blessings brought about by shaping a society that welcomes and protects life in all of its stages. But if Terri Schiavo is starved to death, America’s conscience will be blotted in a way that time will not erase. The culture of life is nothing more than a pipe dream when our judicial system grants more rights to squirrels and capital murderers than to the elderly and disabled. If this state-sanctioned murder takes place, a legal precedent will have been established that will inevitably lead to the outright legalization of euthanasia on demand. Quality of life will replace sanctity of life, and convenience will replace justice.

Mr. President, my generation does not want to inherit an America like that. We want an America that honors life, even if it is unborn; we want an America that cherishes each individual, even if they are old or disabled; we want an America in which Jesus Christ’s command to love others as you love yourself is not political rhetoric, but is fused into the hearts and minds of its citizenry.

Mr. President, you have a duty. The life-honoring constituency that elected you in November is watching. We expect you to fulfill your sacred oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, which grants all citizens, including Terri Schiavo, the right-to-life and due process under the law.

Individuals from every corner of America see Terri not as a vegetable or houseplant, but as a sister human being created in the image of God. They have stepped forward to defend the life of this precious human being.

It’s now your turn, Mr. President.

David N. Bass is a 19-year-old Christian homeschool graduate who has written for World Newspaper Publishing and is a regular columnist at AmericanDaily.com, IntellectualConservative.com and RenewAmerica.us. While attending college, he interns at a pro-family public-policy organization. Bass is currently working on his first novel.