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Courtroom showdown set for Fla. right-to-die case


ORLANDO, Fla. - Gov. Jeb Bush must return to court early next week to defend Terri's Law, a judge ruled yesterday, setting up a constitutional showdown over Bush's involvement in a nationally watched right-to-die case.

Earlier this week, Bush asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by Terri Schiavo's husband, which challenged the law that allowed Bush to restore his severely brain-damaged wife's feeding tube.

Pinellas County Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird denied the governor's request yesterday and commanded Bush's attorneys to explain, by close of business Monday, why he should not declare Terri's Law unconstitutional.

A spokesman for Bush's legal team, headed by right-to-life activist Ken Connor, said they had not yet determined whether they would appeal.

One of the more outspoken figures in Florida's battles over abortion and right-to-life issues, Connor has battled for decades against the popular interpretation of Florida's constitutional right to privacy. The Florida Supreme Court has found it guarantees abortion rights and the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment in end-of-life cases like Terri Schiavo's.

Connor, a devout Christian, has fought those interpretations at every turn, making him a hero to compatriots and a villain to those who think abortions and end-of-life medical decisions should be personal choices.

Among the many arguments he plans to use in his eventual defense of Terri's Law is one he has been repeating since the late 1980s: The right to privacy is important, but not as important as the right to life.

"The state has a compelling interest in preserving human life. The right to privacy means nothing to a corpse," he said in an interview.

Last week, Bush phoned Connor and asked him to lead the defense of the law, which, he said, he is doing for free.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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