An emergency stay delaying removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube expires this afternoon after a court hearing on the fate of the severely brain-damaged Florida woman.

Terri Schiavo with her mother in 2001

Yesterday, Florida’s 2nd Court of Appeal paved the way for Michael Schiavo to remove the feeding tube keeping his wife alive, but Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer immediately issued an emergency stay barring any action until 5 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon.

That ensures the tube will remain in place until after a scheduled 2:45 p.m. hearing.

At the hearing, Greer will give both sides instructions regarding the appeals court’s one-page mandate dissolving its stay and hear motions by Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler.

The Schindlers want to remove their son-in-law as her guardian and seek medical tests to support their claim Terri’s condition can be improved with physical therapy.

Michael Schiavo wants Greer to instruct that the order to remove the tube be carried out, claiming his wife had told him she would never want to be kept alive in such a state.

The estranged husband is living with another woman with whom he has two children but refuses to give up guardianship and divorce Terri, as the Schindlers have requested.

The Schindler family says there is evidence Terri’s sudden brain injury Feb. 25, 1990, resulted from trauma at the hands of her husband. Schiavo, who has employed well-known “right-to-die” attorney George Felos, claims Terri collapsed due to a potassium imbalance – likely triggered by bulimia – that caused her to suffer cardiac arrest.

The Schindlers’ attorney, David Gibbs, says he plans to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on religious liberty grounds, asserting Terri’s rights as a Catholic would be violated by forcing her to starve to death.

‘Nation’s struggle for its soul’

Meanwhile, pro-life advocate Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, has been lobbying on behalf of the Schindlers in the Florida capital Tallahassee.

Terry told WND he met with five state lawmakers yesterday with the aim of persuading the legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush to act again to save Terri Schiavo’s life.

“We believe Governor Bush wants to save Terri,” the activist stated, but he noted the governor’s representatives said they are running out of options.

“We will not stop fighting until Terri is saved or until Terri leaves this life, and we have not given up hope,” he said.

In October 2003, Terri went without food or water for six days before a new state law allowed Bush to order the tube reinserted. “Terri’s Law” later was struck down by the the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

The starvation process normally takes about seven to 10 days.

The problem legally for the family is that in the original hearings more than 10 years ago, they followed the advice of a lawyer who had them agree to stipulate that Terri was in a “persistant vegetative state.”

Subsequently, they provided the court with “reams of medical evidence” indicating Terri could be rehabilitated, but the court would not consider it because of the stipulation, explained Schindler family spokesman Gary McCullough.

“It was a huge error on the part of lawyers at the front end,” he said.

Judge Greer, said McCullough, is “simply playing by the rule book,” but “some other judge should have been able to start from square one.”

Terry said he is asking reporters covering the case to stop referring to Schiavo as being in a coma or “persistant vegetative state,” arguing medical professionals brought in by the Schindlers testify she is responsive.

The pro-life activist believes the case has broad implications, saying it “could be the Roe v. Wade of euthanasia.

“This is a woman’s struggle for life, but it also is a nation’s struggle for its soul,” Terry said.

Court documents and other information are posted on the Schindler family website.

Links to all “Terri briefs” regarding the governor’s defense of Terri’s Law are on the Florida Supreme Court website, public information.

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