.- After four tumultuous days of legal battling and heated debate, congress finally agreed on legislation, which could save the life of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed by court order Friday afternoon.
Shortly after midnight Monday morning, the House passed 203-58 a resolution to let Terri’s case be heard in a federal court. The Senate approved the resolution earlier Sunday afternoon by voice vote.
President George Bush hurriedly flew to Washington from his Texas ranch to sign the measure and begin the process of getting Terri’s feeding tube reinserted. That could happen as early as today.
In a statement early Monday, the president said that, "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. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo, who live at the mercy of others."
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R—Tex.) hailed the bill’s passage: "Tonight we have given Terri Schiavo all we could: a chance to live.
"After four days of words, the best of them uttered in prayer, Congress has acted, and a life may have been saved,” said DeLay. “Democrats and Republicans, congressmen and senators all deserve respect and gratitude for their commitment to giving Mrs. Schiavo the chance we all deserve.”
Earlier, DeLay had proposed the argument: "What will it hurt to have a federal judge take a fresh look at all this evidence and apply it against 15 years' worth of advances in medical technology?"
Terri has been at the center of a nearly decade-long battle between her family and husband Michael Schiavo, who has been trying to have the feeding tube, which provides food and hydration to his wife, removed.
In February, Florida Judge George Greer ruled in favor of Michael and ordered the tube removed last Friday.
The new legislation, being called “Terri’s bill”, will allow a U.S. District Court to "hear, determine and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right ... relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life."
Terri’s family is elated at the renewed hope for their daughter’s life.
David Gibbs, attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, told the Miami Herald that he had said to Terri, “We hope to get you some water”, and “We hope to get you some dinner later on.”
Gibbs filed a restraining order and lawsuit with the federal court as soon as the bill was signed into law, and a federal judge in Tampa was considering early Monday morning whether to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube, reported CNN.
Critics of the bill think it sets a dangerous precedent, and say that congress has no place interfering in state cases. Many think that they are throwing around undue power in an issue that should rightly be decided by families.
Lori Kehoe, congressional liaison for the National Right to Life, however, sees it differently. She told CNA on Friday, that she thinks many Americans see congress as a group who “fancies itself above the rest of us.” She thinks people will be encouraged “that members of congress, both on the right and left have come together to rescue a helpless woman.”
"We are very, very thankful to have crossed this bridge," Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri’s sister, reportedly said after the House vote. "We are hopeful, we are very hopeful, that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister's life."