Four big-name Republicans running for lieutenant governor said Monday night that a Texas judge erred when he ordered a brain-dead, pregnant woman off life support and vowed if elected to tighten state law so that a similar outcome couldn’t happen again.
“It is an extremely difficult set of circumstances. But we need to make certain that as a society, we are protecting life,” Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Sen. Dan Patrick echoed similar sentiments after a Fort Worth hospital complied this weekend with an order to pull life-sustaining treatment for Marlise Munoz and her 23-week-old fetus.
“We need to clarify the law on this and permit this baby to be born,” Dewhurst said.
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, through a spokesman, said the case was a “heartbreaking tragedy” and that “Texas strives to protect both families and human life, and we will continue to work toward that end.”
Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth,who supports late term abortions for any reason, said through a spokeswoman that any decision like this “should be made by Mrs. Munoz’s family, in consultation with her doctors.”
Erick Munoz, the husband of pregnant Marlise Munoz who was taken off life support over the weekend says he decided to name the 23 week old unborn baby she was carrying Nicole, which was Marlise Munoz’s middle name. He says doctors told him the fetus likely would have been a girl.
The unborn child was not delivered when John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth complied Sunday with a judge’s order to pull any life-sustaining treatment from Munoz. She was declared brain-dead in November, but the hospital had kept her on machines for the sake of the fetus.
The case had inspired debates about abortion and end-of-life decisions, as well as whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus, per Texas law. Anti-abortion activists attended Friday’s court hearing and spoke out in favor of trying to deliver the fetus. They also gathered outside JPS Hospital for a memorial service for little Nicole on Sunday.
About 50 people gathered Sunday afternoon outside John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft Worth.
“We’re very saddened that the baby is gone,” said pro-life activist Carol Novielli, who brought a rose and stuffed animal to remember the child.
Erick told WFAA that he’s seen a lot of negative comments about his decision, and realizes that everyone is entitled to an opinion. But he says something that was always talked about with his wife was quality of life.
Erick felt the child would not have a good quality of life if it had gone without oxygen for so many hours.
“I’m just glad they are not in my shoes. I hope every day that no one ever has to go through what I went through,” he said.
The family tells News 8 that Marlise Muñoz will be cremated. There are no plans for memorial or funeral services, because the family is concerned that protesters would show up.
Operation Rescue objected to way the term “brain death” was being applied to Mrs. Munoz and with the characterization of her as a “dead corpse.”
“We are not medical professionals, but we do understand that a dead corpse cannot sustain a growing pregnancy for two months, as Mrs. Munoz did,” said Newman. “This dehumanizing terminology was intentionally used for the purpose of making the murder of her and her baby more palatable. The law was clear that life support should have been continued in order to give the child a chance, but the intent of that law was completely ignored.”
A few Texas lawmakers have vowed to change the law:
“The pain that Mr. Muñoz went through I think is… I don’t see how he’s done it,” said State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston).
“I think that’s one of the things this situation has brought out — the ambiguity in the law,” agreed State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth).
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle want to see the code clarified in the next legislative session. But that’s where the agreements might end.
“It’s a very simple fix,” Coleman said. He will propose adding a line into the provision that nullifies it if the woman is already dead.
“You can’t remove life-saving treatment from a pregnant woman unless they are declared dead,” he said.
But Krause has a different viewpoint. He wants to see the law changed to add more protections for an unborn fetus.
“There was a little child inside Ms. Muñoz,” he said.
Krause would prefer that the fetus be appointed a guardian to protect its interests if the mother is declared dead.
“I think you always err on the side of life,” he said.
Pastor Stephen Broden of Fair Park Bible Fellowship and Founder of National Black Pro-Life Coalition, who addressed the pro-life supporters during Sunday’s vigil, reminded all of the Bible verses that state, “The life is in the blood,” meaning that as long as there is circulation, there is life. That concept was confirmed by the fact that the pre-born baby was nourished and growing.
In a statement released by Operation Rescue, they state that in addition to dehumanizing the mother, the baby was portrayed by attorneys as little more than a monster, leading one Twitter poster to ask, “The baby was deformed. How is that murder?”
“This baby was a precious gift and his or her life had value even if there were developmental issues. We don’t kill people because they are handicapped,” said Newman. “This was a naked attempt to redefine life and death in subjective terms that would make it acceptable to end the lives of people that have become inconvenient. This is a very dangerous road to travel on and could lead to lost protections for all our lives. We are thankful that we had the opportunity to speak the truth in opposition to this horrific attempt to strip two precious human beings of their humanity and dignity along with their lives.”
WFAA Channel 8 Reporter Jobin Panicker tweeted that Erick Munoz, “tells me that #MarliseMunoz will be cremated.”
A post on the facebook page SAVE BABY MUNOZ reads:
The death of Baby Munoz represents a colossal failure on so many levels. Her father failed her. The Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbot failed her. The hospital failed her. Finally, by usurping the will of the people of Texas, the courts failed her. If only one of those in position to stop this execution of Baby Munoz would have stepped up to the plate and done the right thing she would have been born alive in the next few weeks. Baby Munoz was a human being who deserved the same legal protections of born people. The truth is Baby Munoz was executed by judicial tyranny.”
Pastor Stephen Broden is reporting that since he led the prayer vigil in support of life for baby Munoz, he is, has :received a vicious and vile phone call blasting me for conducting prayer vigils for the Munoz baby. The language was mean and abhorrent. We are living in a strange and usual time.”