Barney Frank on the Legislative Response to Schiavo
FACTthat Congress adopted a bad law in the Terri Schiavo case -- unwise, unprincipled, and unconstitutional -- does not mean Congress must never again return to the subject. It is too early to adopt any legislation, but it is appropriate for Congress to begin discussing what public policy ought to be with regard to the anguishing issues in this case.
While I find myself far more willing than some of the organized disability groups to give legal force to individual choices to remove life support in some circumstances, I acknowledge the validity of their argument that economic pressures may sometimes influence that decision unduly. Individuals facing this terrible decision ought not to have to worry that they might incur economic ruin for their families or find themselves bereft of the support to help them cope.
Here, our negative example is not what was in the March 27 legislation, but rather what was not in it -- any resistance to President Bush's budget, which proposes cuts in virtually every program at the federal level that eases the burden on the severely disabled: reductions in what Medicaid will need in coming years to meet its caseload; a proposal to cut by 50 percent in the next fiscal year the number of housing units built for disabled people; a Social Security proposal that seems to have been formulated without concern for or understanding of its impact on disability payments. There does not appear to be much comfort for the severely disabled in the president's ''ownership society."