For the pro-life movement, the center of gravity these days isn't the Supreme Court, but the Virginia Hospital Center just across the Potomac River from the Capitol. That is where 26-year-old Susan Torres lies, brain-dead, her body fighting melanoma. The hope is that she will stay alive until her unborn daughter, Cecilia, can be delivered in August.
Torres's plight has garnered worldwide attention, but mercifully it is not a replay of the Terry Schiavo case. Instead, it may be a quiet antidote. Torres was 15 weeks pregnant when she collapsed from a brain tumor May 7. Her family was never torn about what to do. Everyone understood that Susan was already gone. The Roman Catholic church they attend has no quarrel with the family's decision to remove Torres from life support once the child is born. And no one is threatening to sue to keep her alive. (The closest the Torres family has gotten to the Supreme Court was when Susan's husband, Jason, ran into Chief Justice William Rehnquist while he was a patient at the hospital and had a chat.)
Jason quit his job as a salesman to be with his wife and their 2-year-old son, Peter. Doctors say his little sister has a good chance of survival now that she's beyond 26 weeks. People from Baghdad to New Zealand have sent thousands of letters and more than $400,000 to help pay the medical bills.
For some prominent members of the pro-life movement, bruised by the Schiavo battle, Torres presents a simpler cause. The group Faith and Action has been handling the donations. The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, formerly of Operation Rescue, attends prayer vigils.
The family says Susan Torres, a determined vaccine researcher, would have shied away from the attention. Her husband has tried to make her hospital room homey: there are family pictures and cards everywhere. But it was hardly the place he wanted to commemorate their fourth wedding anniversary. Her gift to him: he recently felt Cecilia kick for the first time.