Messing With Death in Texas

Brain dead woman is kept alive because she’s pregnant.

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DENVER – It's bad enough that Texas politicians disrespect live women in Texas with sonograms and lectures. Now they're disrespecting a dead one and her family.

Marlise Munoz is, by her family's account of what the hospital told them, brain dead. She suffered a blood clot in her lungs on November and collapsed at home. But two months later, she is still on life support in a Fort Worth hospital. Why? Because at the time she suffered her fatal blood clot, she was 14 weeks pregnant.

According to the New York Times, "as her parents and her husband prepared to say their final goodbyes in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital here and to honor her wish not to be left on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital was not going to comply with their instructions. Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

This is beyond macabre. It is politicians inserting themselves into personal, private medical decisions and grieving families, in a way that violates human decency. And is the linear outcome of a barrage of right wing attacks and state laws designed to dehumanize individual women by stripping them of their right to make their own medical decisions, free from government interference.

And it's in the states where women's rights are being taken away. According to the Guttmacher Institute, states passed more abortion restrictions in 2011-2013 than in the previous decade. Per their report, "Twenty-two states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013. This makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year."

These included laws requiring medically-unnecessary sonograms, lectures that included incorrect scientific information and waiting periods designed to make women "rethink" their decision. None of these laws do anything to trust a woman, protect her health or respect her dignity.

[Check out 2013: The Year in Cartoons.]

In Colorado, we're looking at yet another "personhood" measure on the ballot in 2014. Regardless of what proponents call it, the latest iteration would have the same effect of stripping away the rights of women to make their own reproductive health care choices, including decisions about abortion and what types of birth control to use.

Meanwhile, the state of Texas won't allow a family in Fort Worth to end their agony and grieve for their daughter. According to Marlise Munoz's family, "It's not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life," said Mrs. Munoz's mother, Lynne Machado, 60. "It's about a matter of our daughter's wishes not being honored by the state of Texas."

Mrs. Munoz's father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. "All she is is a host for a fetus," he said on Tuesday. "I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?"

A question we should be asking of Washington, and of politicians in state capitals nationwide.

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