Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is refusing to take political advantage of his efforts to save a brain-dead woman whose husband won an extensive court fight to take her off life support 10 years ago, according to aides who back his expected candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I don’t think he wants to use the issue for political gain," Jim Towey, a former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told The Wall Street Journal.
Towey, who worked for Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush, added, "This is an intensely personal debate, and he’s aware there’s a great deal of pain that surrounds these issues for family members."
Some political observers urge Bush to emphasize his support for Terri Schiavo to boost his standing among social conservatives who believe he is too moderate to carry the GOP banner in the 2016 presidential election.
"I’ve not heard too many people talking about what Bush did for Terri Schiavo . . . so I think it’s important that he take the opportunity eventually to tell that story to the people who don’t think he’s a conservative," Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, told the Journal.
Bush has no plans to attend a Tuesday charity dinner hosted by the family of Terri Schiavo to mark the 10th anniversary of her death, which sparked a nationwide debate between pro-life advocates like Bush and supporters of the right-to-die movement.
But Bush has not ducked questions about his support for Terri and her parents, who wanted their daughter to remain on life support after a heart attack left her in what doctors called a "persistent vegetative state" at the age of 26. He addressed the controversy at Conservative Political Action Conference
last month outside Washington DC.
He told Sean Hannity of Fox News that he had no regrets about his decision to sign a bill overturning a court decision in 2003 that allowed her husband, Michael, to remove a feeding tube. The Florida Supreme Court struck down the so-called "Terri’s Law" the next year.
"I acted on my core belief that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line. They should receive our love and protection," he told Hannity.
Terri Schiavo died March 31, 2005, 13 days after her husband removed her from the feeding tubes. Public opinion tilted heavily against Bush with only 38 percent supporting his action, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll after her death.
"There’s no doubt this matter will be brought to the fore by opponents and supporters, because it was a seminal event," said Kenneth Connor, a lawyer who represented Bush in the case and is now a political supporter.
"I don’t think he ever took more political heat on a single issue."
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