I need to thank my friend Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this story. The state of Texas isn’t known as a safe place for women or a bastion of reproductive rights. A new case arising in a Texas hospital takes things to a new low, however.
Marlise Munoz suffered what appeared to be a blood clot and collapsed in her kitchen. She was rushed to the hospital but doctors were unable to revive her. They informed the family that she was brain dead. Her husband and parents sadly prepared to honor her explicit wishes and disconnect her from life support.
The hiccup? Ms. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant. Under Texas law, care cannot be removed from a pregnant woman. Although medical ethics experts argue that the law applies to vegetative and comatose patients, John Peter Smith Hospital opted for a broad interpretation rather than risk legal action, and applied it to Marlise Munoz. As her father bluntly observes:
All she is is a host for a fetus. I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?
He is absolutely right. The law itself is horrific and violates personal and family choice. That these doctors would take it to such an extreme clearly illustrates how every chip made in the bedrock of reproductive rights can be opened into a chasm.
The hypocrisy is palpable. The hypothetical rights of a non-viable fetus have been elevated above the clear wishes of a woman and her family — and it’s all done in the name of protecting life. Of course, if that kid manages to be born and grows up to break the law, (s)he has a better chance of being executed in Texas than anywhere else in the country.
But that’s all right. After all, Marlise Munoz was just a woman. Sadly, women have more restrictions over the governance of their bodies since 1972. I worry about the message this sends to both women and men. It has now become the norm for our government to police women’s bodies in ways that would never be acceptable to police men’s bodies. For more information regarding the backwards trend for women’s reproductive rights, click here.
According to the New York Times there is some good news for this family: Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. of State District Court in Texas ordered the John Peter Smith Hospital to pronounce Marlise Munoz dead and to remover her from life support. Sadly, the hospital now has the chance to appeal that ruling, which would dishonor the wishes of Munoz’ family.