The parents of Terri Schiavo asked a judge to reinsert the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube today, following an extraordinary political fight that consumed both chambers of Congress and prompted the president to rush back to the White House.
An attorney for Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, arrived at federal district court in Tampa, Fla., and filed a request for an emergency injunction to keep their daughter fed.
It was assigned to U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, who was nominated to the court in 1999 by President Clinton. He set a hearing for this afternoon, according to a court Web site.
David Gibbs II, attorney for the parents, said the judge had sent a message saying he was reviewing the filings in the case.
Earlier today, the House, following a move by the Senate, passed a bill to let the parents ask a federal judge to prolong Schiavo's life by reinserting her feeding tube. President Bush signed the measure less than an hour later.
Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, said he was outraged that lawmakers and the president were intervening in the contentious right-to-die battle. He has fought for years with his wife's parents over whether she should be permitted to die or kept alive through the feeding tube.
"This is a sad day for Terri. But I'll tell you what: It's also is a sad day for everyone in this country because the U.S. government is going to come in and trample all over your personal, family matters," he told ABC's "Good Morning America."
Michael Schiavo has not responded to repeated interview requests from the Associated Press.
The lawsuit alleges a series of rights violations, including that Terri Schiavo's religious beliefs were being infringed upon, that the removal of the feeding tube violated her rights and that she was not provided an independent attorney to represent her interests.
Outside the hospice where his daughter entered her fourth day without food or water, Bob Schindler told reporters, "I'm numb, I'm just totally numb. This whole thing, it's hard to believe it."
A shout of joy was heard from the crowd outside the hospice when news of the House bill's passage came. Among those cheering was David Bayly, 45, of Toledo, Ohio: "I'm overjoyed to see the vote and see Terri's life extended by whatever amount God gives her."
When dawn broke this morning, fewer than a dozen demonstrators remained at the hospice, but the area bustled with television lights, cameras and reporters covering the saga.
The 41-year-old woman's feeding tube was removed Friday on a Florida judge's order. Schiavo could linger for one or two weeks if the tube is not reinserted -- as has happened twice before, once on a judge's order and once after Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed "Terri's Law," which was later declared unconstitutional.
George Felos, a lawyer for Michael Schiavo, did not return repeated phone messages seeking comment today. The voicemail box of George Greer, the Florida circuit judge who presides over the case, was full and didn't accept messages.
Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly because of a possible potassium imbalance brought on by an eating disorder. She can breathe on her own, but has relied on the feeding tube to keep her alive.
Court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. Her husband says she would not want to be kept alive in that condition, but her parents insist she could recover with treatment.
Bob Schindler visited his daughter late Sunday and said he noticed the effects of dehydration on her. He said she appeared to be getting tired, but eventually responded to his teasing by making a face at him.
"It tells us she's still with us," he said.
Brian Schiavo, Michael's brother, said he spent Sunday afternoon with his brother and Terri at the hospice, but Terri did not move or make any noises. "Anybody that thinks that she talks and responds, they need to have a mental health examination," he said.
The bill passed in Congress applies only to Schiavo and would allow a federal court to review the case. The House passed the bill on a 203-58 vote after calling lawmakers back for an emergency Sunday session. The Senate approved the bill Sunday by voice vote. President Bush cut short a visit to his Texas ranch to return to the White House.
"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.
A crowd of about 50 people prayed and sang outside the hospice on Sunday. One man played "Amazing Grace" on a trumpet, as a pickup truck pulled a trailer bearing 10-foot-high replicas of the stone Ten Commandments tablets and a huge working version of the Liberty Bell.
Gov. Bush, praised the actions of Congress. "We in government have a duty to protect the weak, disabled and vulnerable," he said in a statement today. "I appreciate the efforts of state and federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have taken this duty to heart."