A bitterly protested abortion on a comatose Long Island woman was begun Friday night after New York's highest tribunal and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop it.

In a final appeal by anti-abortion activists, Justice Thurgood Marshall, who is responsible for New York state cases, was asked late Friday night in Washington to delay the abortion on Nancy Klein after the state Court of Appeals earlier declined to intervene.Marshall, without comment, rejected a motion to stay the proceeding. At that point, the abortion process began, hospital spokeswoman Carol Hauptman said.

Klein is 18 weeks pregnant.

After Marshall's rejection, the opponents were free to seek a stay from any other Supreme Court justice. Long Island anti-abortion activist John Short, who fought Klein for guardianship rights, said they would turn to Justice Anthony Scalia.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said late Friday night that it was highly unlikely Scalia would rule until Saturday morning.

Short said the anti-abortion forces would attempt to continue the case even after an abortion is performed so that the questions raised by the case can be resolved.

Klein has been in a coma since a car crash Dec. 13. Her husband, Martin, 34, of Upper Brookville, had been told by some doctors that she might survive the coma if an abortion were performed.

"I hope this is the end of it now," her husband said Friday. "All I want to do is save my wife's life."