“All she is is a host for a fetus”: Brain-dead pregnant woman forced to stay on life support in Texas


You’re likely already familiar with the harsh reality of abortion restrictions in Texas. In particular, we’ve covered the ordeal of the Munoz family, who are being forced to keep Marlise Munoz alive even though she was declared brain dead before Thanksgiving when she was 14 weeks pregnant and despite her clearly expressed wishes to her husband, Erick Munoz, that she did not want this to happen. The New York Times has delved more deeply into their story. The results, compounding an already heartbreaking situation, are infuriating. It’s only 10am where I live but I’m already putting money on this piece as the feminist must-read of the day:

“But 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.

More than a month later, Mrs. Munoz remains connected to life-support machines on the third floor of the I.C.U., where a medical team monitors the heartbeat of the fetus, now in its 20th week of development. Her case has become a strange collision of law, medicine, the ethics of end-of-life care and the issues swirling around abortion — when life begins and how it should be valued.”

The quotes from Munoz’ family members were among the most compelling…and frustrating, for this reproductive justice advocate. I can really feel their pain. From her mother: “It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life.” From her father: “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?”

As a reminder, other lovely scenarios that result from abominable fetal rights laws in this country include women being imprisoned for supposedly endangering their fetus even if they have already ended their addiction and needing to travel to other states and pay exorbitant fees to abort a pregnancy that was known to have severe fetal anomalies. We shouldn’t have to highlight these extreme but unfortunately in the current climate, extreme has become the norm.

Read more about this case on the newly redesigned New York Times site. And if you’re moved to action, consider supporting the work of the excellent National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).

Lori Adelman is fed up. 

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to serving as an Executive Director at Feministing, Lori is the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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