- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
U.S. Senate on Sunday unanimously passed legislation aimed at prolonging
the life of a brain-damaged woman, Terri Schiavo, in an extraordinary intervention
by Congress to move the Florida case into the jurisdiction of federal courts.
- President Bush cut short a Texas vacation and flew back
to Washington to sign the bill as soon as it passes both houses of Congress.
- The House of Representatives is expected to take up the
same bill and pass it early Monday morning after a brief delay caused by
objections by some Democrats who said it put Congress in the middle of
a family dispute and undermined state rights.
- The 41-year-old woman's feeding tube was removed on Friday
under a Florida state court order. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a
Tennessee Republican, said he expected the state courts to order feeding
be resumed so Schiavo could stay alive while the case was pursued in federal
- "We in the Senate recognize that it is extraordinary
that we as a body act," Frist said. "But these are extraordinary
circumstances that center on the most fundamental of human values and virtues,
the sanctity of human life."
- While Schiavo's husband says she asked not to be kept
alive artificially, the rest of her family has disagreed.
- The feeding tube has twice been halted and resumed in
the past amid legal wrangles, and Schiavo was expected to survive for one
to two weeks without it.
- Until now, federal courts have turned the case back to
state courts, but intense lobbying by Christian conservatives and widespread
publicity pushed lawmakers to act.
- Several Democrats objected, calling the legislation a
"grotesque" intervention in a tragic family matter.
- "What the majority is proposing to do here is to
take a tragic personal situation and make it grotesque," said Rep.
Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat.
- "It is not the place of Congress, at the eleventh
hour, in the most abusive fashion, to undermine the Florida court system,
particularly given the fact that it has been seven years and 19 judges
who have participated," said Florida Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler.
- In Pinellas Park, Florida, Schiavo's mother, Mary Schindler,
pleaded for lawmakers to act. "My daughter is in the building behind
me, starving to death," she told reporters. "Please, please,
please save my little girl."
- Lawmakers forged a deal on the bill on Saturday, 24 hours
after doctors removed the feeding tube. House action was delayed by objections,
but Republican and Democratic leaders later agreed to begin a debate Sunday
night with the final vote to occur shortly after midnight.
- White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "This
legislation will give her parents another opportunity to make sure that
her rights have been protected."
- Schiavo's husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo,
has long argued -- and has been supported by the courts -- that his wife
would not have wanted to live in such a condition.
- He accused Congress of political opportunism and "trampling
all over a personal family matter."
- He vowed to fight on, telling CNN, "I made that
promise to her."
- However, Bobby Schindler, her brother, said the family
was grateful for what Congress was doing. "Terri is alive. She's not
dying. She's a human being," he said.
- Schiavo has been fed through a stomach tube since a heart
attack starved her brain of oxygen in 1990, leaving her in what the courts
declared was a persistent vegetative state.
- The Washington Post said the case would excite the party's
anti-abortion base and put pressure on Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat,
who faces re-election next year.
- Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida said, "This
is not a political issue. This is an issue about saving a life."
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