Pregnant Texas Woman Kept On Life Support Against Family's Wishes To Protect Fetus

Two weeks ago, Bustle reported that the state of Texas is keeping a brain-dead pregnant woman, Marlise Munoz, on life support against her family's wishes. The reason? To protect her unborn fetus. Yes, apparently, that is completely legal. Now, Munoz's story is making rounds on the Internet, with Slate's Amanda Marcotte asking for the law to be overturned — and medical and legal ethicists saying the life support law has been misinterpreted. As we reported, this case takes protecting the life of a fetus to new extremes:

This isn't a stand-alone incident. Several cases in which the fetus's "personhood" has been valued over the mother's have occurred in just the past few months:

1. In Louisiana, a 17-year-old woman admitted she'd snorted cocaine a few days before giving birth to a stillborn. She was promptly charged with feticide.

2. In Wisconsin, a 28-year-old pregnant woman, Alicia Beltran, was handcuffed and taken to court for refusing to accept treatment for drug addiction — even though Beltran had successfully weaned herself off a Percocet addiction the year before, and had no substances in her system at the time of her arrest. The police also appointed a lawyer for her unborn child.

In the case of Munoz, what the Texas Health and Safety Code says:

“A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.”

Here's what experts had to tell Salon's Katie McDonough about the application of the law:

In the case of the 17-year-old Louisiana woman, here's what the law had to say, as we reported:

The Wisconsin case with Beltran follows in the same pattern: A law being misapplied or applied much too broadly. The law was created to give authorities the power to incarcerate pregnant women engaging in substance abuse. That said, Beltran wasn't even abusing substances, yet authorities applied the law very broadly and used it to restrain her.

Putting aside that the laws seem to have been misapplied, even if this legislation was applied correctly, it still implicitly supports that a fetus is worth more than the mother it resides in and is sustained by.

Many of these laws (and pending bills) also defy moral and scientific logic. A Wisconsin neonatologist, Dr. Steven Leuthner, has dissed the law that allows Wisconsin authorities to jail substance-abusing pregnant women, condemning it as "a bunch of crap" in a 2005 article that alleges it treats women like criminals, instead of patients.

In Ohio, Republicans have constantly submitted and resubmitted the Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortion after a few weeks into the pregnancy — around the time that the fetal heartbeat can presumably be heard. The bill is faulty by so many standards: Whether or not a heartbeat can be detected depends on any number of factors; from the embryo's position in the uterus, to the woman's fat percentage.

So, we have to ask ourselves: Since when did pregnant women lose their personhood? Since when were unborn embryos and fetuses worth more than their mothers? How can we let this stand?

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