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Supreme Court rejects Schiavo appeal

Feeding tube to be removed from brain-damaged woman Friday

• Fla. Supreme Court opinion:  Bush v. Schiavo FindLaw (PDF)external link
Supreme Court

(CNN) -- Less than 18 hours before Terri Schiavo was scheduled to have her life-sustaining feeding tube removed, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal by her parents to stop the procedure.

The court rejected the appeal by Bob and Mary Schindler on Thursday, clearing the way for Schiavo's husband, Michael, to have the feeding tube removed Friday -- 15 years after she collapsed from heart failure that led to her brain damage.

Meanwhile, legislation that would keep her alive appeared to stall in the Florida Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

With time running out in the case, President Bush weighed in on the matter Thursday, saying society and the nation's courts "should have a presumption in favor of life" on such matters.

"Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed and protected -- and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities," Bush said in a written statement.

The Schindlers filed an emergency appeal early Thursday with the Supreme Court to stop the feeding tube from being removed, arguing that their daughter's religious freedom and due process rights were being violated. But at 7 p.m., the high court rejected the appeal without comment.

On another front, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay by the state's Department of Children and Families, citing a lack of jurisdiction. The agency had argued that it needed time to investigate allegations of abuse by Schiavo's husband.

In Washington, the U.S. Senate passed a narrower version of a House bill that would give federal courts jurisdiction in Schiavo's case. The House passed a broader bill Wednesday that would give federal courts jurisdiction, not only for the Schiavo case, but also for people in similar conditions.

With the House in recess for Easter, it appeared that a compromise bill would not make its way to Bush's desk, because there was not enough time to reconcile the differences.

The Senate's bill prompted a terse response from House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

"House Republicans knew we had a moral obligation to act and we did just that last night," they said in a joint statement. "As Terri Schiavo lays helpless in Florida, one day away from the unthinkable and unforgivable, the Senate Democrats refused to join Republicans to act on her behalf."

In response, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid shot back, "If the House Republicans refuse to pass our bipartisan bill, they bear responsibility for the consequences."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he was proud of the Senate bill and called on the House to follow its lead.

"To knowingly and purposely starve Ms. Schiavo to death would be callous, cruel and immoral," said Frist, a doctor. "I am hopeful that the House will consider and pass this legislation quickly."

Bills in the Florida legislature also seemed to fizzle by late Thursday.

Lower courts have ruled that Schiavo, 41, is in a "persistent vegetative state."

Michael Schiavo contends his wife would not want to be kept alive artificially. But her parents argue she had no such death wish and believe she can get better with rehabilitation.

Both sides have been embroiled in a legal wrangle over whether Schiavo should live or die. Schiavo did not leave anything in writing about what she would want if she ever became incapacitated.

Courts have sided with her husband in more than a dozen cases over the years.

A probate court late last month ruled that, barring a stay, Schiavo's feeding tube would be removed at 1 p.m. Friday. Upon removal of the tube, the court estimated Schiavo would die in seven to 14 days.

Her feeding tube has been removed twice before, most recently in 2003. That year, Gov. Jeb Bush pushed a law through the Florida Legislature that authorized him to resume the woman's feedings six days after a court stopped them. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled the law unconstitutional.

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