Congress Passes Schiavo Bill - Fate Rests in Judge's Hands

Four days have passed since Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed, and after an extraordinary battle in Congress, her fate once again returned to the hands of the court, early Monday.

Over the weekend, the Senate and House agreed on a compromised bill that would let Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, ask a federal judge to review the case and prolong Terri’s life by reinserting her feeding tube. The Senate passed the bill Sunday by a voice vote and the House early Monday passed the bill with a 203-58 vote after calling lawmakers back for an emergency Sunday session.

President Bush also rushed backed to the White House, and within an hour after the bill passed the House, he signed the measure that would give Terri her right-to-life.

"In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life," President Bush said in a statement after signing the bill.

Meanwhile, the Schinders’ attorney arrived at a federal district court in Tampa, and filed a request for an emergency injunction to keep Terri fed.

When the attorney, David Gibbs II, was asked by the Associated Press if he had any indication of when the judge would rule on the request, he answered: "I have no way to know, just that it's in the hands of the court."

Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband and legal guardian, said he was outraged that congressional leaders stepped in at the last moment to keep her alive.

"I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss," he told CNN, calling the move political.

Michael had battled for seven bitter years with his in-laws over the fate of his wife; he says Terri never wanted to be kept alive “artificially”, but has no written directive to prove his claim. Michael also currently resides with his longtime girlfriend with whom he has fathered two children, and received a $1.2 million malpractice suit on his wife’s behalf some time before claiming she wanted to have her feeding tube removed.

Brian Schiavo, Michael’s brother, said he spent Sunday afternoon with his brother at Terri’s hospice, but did notice any movements or sounds coming from the 41-year-old disabled woman.

"Anybody that thinks that she talks and responds, they need to have a mental health examination," he said.

However, Bob Schindler, Terri’s father, visited his daughter late Sunday and said she responded to him by making a face at him -- though he said she appeared to be getting tired after four days of starvation and dehydration.

"It tells us she's still with us," he said.

Court doctors have said Terri is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) with little or no chance of recovery, but other doctors have noted she is responsive – although only at the level of a six to eleven month-year-old child.

Videos posted on the Terri Schindler Schiavo website – www.terrisfight.org – shows her interacting with her parents.

Earlier in the month, the Schindlers requested that members of the media be allowed to see Terri for themselves in the hospice, but the court ruled in favor of Michael who opposed the request.

Outside the Woodside Hospice Sunday afternoon, Bob Schindler told reporters that he is “numb, I’m just totally numb.”

“This whole thing, it's hard to believe it,” he said.

Hundreds of pro-life supporters came out to the hospice since Terri’s tube was removed Friday on a Florida judge’s order. The many Christians and Catholics at the rallies held prayer vigils and recited Bible verses outside. A few protesters were arrested for trying to take a piece of bread and water to Terri in a symbolic move – Terri would not be able to eat or drink anything without her tube – prompting her parents to issue a statement requesting all protests to be non-disruptive.

Doctors say Terri could survive for up to two weeks if the tube is not reinserted. Twice before, Terri’s tube was removed, but was reinserted, once upon a judge’s order and once after Florida governor Jeb. Bush passed “Terri’s Law” that was later declared unconstitutional.

Gov. Bush, who has since given his full support to Terri’s case, praised the actions of Congress, in a statement released Monday.

"We in government have a duty to protect the weak, disabled and vulnerable," Gov. Bush said. "I appreciate the efforts of state and federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have taken this duty to heart."