With their daughter near death, the parents of Terri Schiavo saw their legal options to prolong her life all but disappear yesterday as the U.S. Supreme Court refused to order that her feeding tube be reinserted and a Florida judge blocked an effort by state officials to take the severely brain-damaged woman into protective custody.

Refusing to give up, Schiavo's parents again asked a federal judge in Tampa, Fla., to intervene. With their supporters, they also looked to the slim chance that Gov. Jeb Bush would ignore court rulings and use his executive powers to have her feeding tube replaced.

Both possibilities were considered long shots. Bush told a Florida news service that his legal powers "are not as expansive as people would like them to be." And U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore, who heard the parents' renewed plea last night but did not immediately issue a ruling, had refused two days earlier to order that the feeding tube be reinserted.

Yesterday's developments appeared to signal that an end was near in the seven-year legal battle between Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, and her husband, Michael Schiavo, who has maintained that his wife would want to die without further medical intervention.

An attorney for Michael Schiavo said the Schindlers should try, at the start of Easter weekend, to accept their daughter's imminent death.

"It should become obvious to everyone and every observer that the entire judicial system of the United States, the state courts in the state of Florida, the entire federal judiciary, has said this case must end, this case is over," attorney George Felos said in Clearwater, Fla.

"Mrs. Schiavo's legal rights have been ruled on again and again and again. The courts have consistently found that she did not want to remain alive artificially," Felos said. "Her wishes should be carried out. And in that spirit, I hope that the parents do not keep pursuing fruitless legal options to the end. I think their time would be better served in reflection."

Time running short

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was disconnected a week ago, and doctors have said that she would probably live for one to two weeks.

With time running short, supporters blasted the court rulings that continued to go against her parents' position and pushed hard for a last-minute intervention by the governor.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, compared the effort to prolong Schiavo's life to civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s, saying that no one would doubt a governor's decision to step in if the situation involved black residents denied the right to vote or a seat at a lunch counter.

"A citizen of your state is being brutally murdered. You need to intervene on her behalf, Governor Bush," Mahoney said in a direct appeal.

Other Christian conservatives held protest signs yesterday outside the governor's offices in Tallahassee, and his phone lines were flooded with calls from across the country about the case.

The governor made no public appearances yesterday, and it was unclear whether he had consulted with his brother, President Bush, who was at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

A White House spokeswoman said yesterday in Texas that President Bush was "saddened" by the latest court rulings but did not say whether the brothers had talked. A day earlier, the president told reporters at a news conference that he had not discussed any legal steps or strategies on the Schiavo case with his brother.

Strong efforts, opinions

This week's extraordinary legal and political effort to protect Schiavo began with President Bush racing from Texas to Washington to sign into law a measure crafted by Republican leaders in Congress that permitted the federal courts to review Schiavo's case.

But the effort had little effect on the case - the federal courts over the past two days have rejected her parents' pleas to have Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted - and it might have caused lasting backlash for Republicans.

Public opinion polls all week have shown that a large majority of Americans disapproved of congressional leaders and the president inserting themselves into the case. A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released yesterday showed that President Bush's job approval rating had dropped from 52 percent over the weekend to 45 percent at the end of the week. It was not clear, though, whether the Schiavo case was driving the numbers or if other news might be contributing, such as rising gas prices or a dip in the economy.