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Last night, the four Republicans vying for the right to run for lieutenant governor of Texas all declared that if it were up to them, Marlise Munoz would still be on life support.  All four claimed that a Fort Worth judge should have sided with John Peter Smith Hospital and held that Marlise should not have been removed from life support because she was still pregnant.    Never mind that she was brain dead on November 28, if not sooner--a fact JPS conceded in open court--and was therefore legally dead under Texas law.

First up, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.  

"In my view, we should always err on the side of life, and in this case there was an unborn child which was past the 20 week state limit on abortions, so I'm not sure what is the right case here," he said. "But I would always err on the side of life, and I'm not sure that's what happened here with the judge's ruling."

In his answer to the followup question, of whether the legislature needs to change the law when it convenes in 2015, Patterson said yes, but his reasoning was pragmatic. "We have the 20 week provision [after which abortions are banned in Texas] and then we have the legal definition of what's alive and what is not. If you're brain dead you're dead. So they conflict."

However, if there was a conflict, Patterson said, "we should always side on the side of life."  If I heard that right, Patterson seemed to say that even if someone is legally dead, they should be forced to stay on life support if pregnant.  I hope I'm wrong.  I really am.  Anyone else can watch and see.

Agriculture commissioner Todd Staples also felt Wallace made the wrong decision

"What we have here is a situation where there was life, and I think it's our responsibility as a society to have laws and regulations that encourages life and protects life and tries to find a viable way to continue to promote that life.

"Unfortunately I do believe that the court erred in this situation. I think the next legislative session, we're gonna to have to go in and clarify what the meaning of the statute is in order to remove the ambiguity. It's an extremely difficult set of circumstances, but we need to make certain that as a society we are protecting life and that we are giving unborn children the opportunity and the ability to grow and mature, and live the American dream right here in the Lone Star state."

However, based on my reading of Staples' response to the follow-up, he seemed noncommittal on whether any exception should be made for a brain-dead person.  That doesn't make me feel much better.

No such equivocation from state senator Dan Patrick.

"Life is precious, and there's nothing more precious than the life of a baby in the womb. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding that life, we should always do everything to protect that life.

"I appreciate the hospital fighting to preserve that life and save that life and I think the courts erred. ... We are born in the image of God, and whenever we have the opportunity to preserve life, we should do that. That's our duty, as Christians. That's our duty, I believe, as legislators."

His response to the followup: "We need to be very thoughtful, we need to lead, and we need again to go back to a very basic principle: that we need to protect life at all ages and all costs at all times. This has been a battle in the legislature, and as lieutenant governor, I will lead to the successful conclusion of passing legislation that will do just that: protect life at all times."

Or the incumbent, David Dewhurst:
"I'm a strong believer in the sanctity of life. This baby had passed 20 weeks, this baby could have been born, and so I think it was decided wrong... If I'd been in that judge's shoes, I would have ruled differently."

To the followup question: "I come back to the same point I made earlier. If you have a viable baby and it can be born, that's a life. So I think it was a mistake so I think we need to clarify the law on this and permit this baby to be born."

So there you have it.  If it were up to two--and maybe three--out of the four men in that room, it would effectively be legal to desecrate a corpse in Texas.  That's basically what happened to Marlise.  She was brain dead, the hospital knew she was brain dead, and yet they still kept her hooked up to life support.  Erick Munoz' lawyers addressed this very possibility in a statement last week--if Dewhurst, Patrick, and (I think) Patterson had their way, "it would be incumbent upon all health care providers to immediately conduct pregnancy tests on any woman of child bearing age who becomes deceased, and upon determining the deceased body was pregnant, hooking the body up to machines in an attempt to continue gestation."  If that is even remotely possible, then the pro-life movement is, at bottom, about a backdoor attempt to destroy all of our privacy.  And that is why I'm all the way off the fence and firmly in favor of a woman's right to choose.

Even without the inherent ghoulishness of such a situation were it to come to pass, in the end it would have been a fool's errand in Marlise's case.  In his first interview since Marlise was finally removed from life support, Erick told WFAA-TV in Dallas that the baby, whom he named Nicole after his wife's middle name, probably stood no chance in any event due to being without oxygen for so long after Marlise collapsed.

Erick already got one punch in the gut from this debate.  Hopefully he won't have to get another--having to pay for two months worth of treatment that even the hospital tacitly admits was to no avail.  Sign this petition telling JPS not to make the Munoz family bear any financial burden for this unnecessary and unwanted treatment.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 09:12 AM PST.

Also republished by State & Local ACTION Group.

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