Kirsten Andersen

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As husband sues to end life support of pregnant wife, pro-life advocates hold vigil

Kirsten Andersen
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FORT WORTH, TX, January 14, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The husband of a pregnant Texas woman who is being kept on life support against his wishes filed suit today to have the life support removed – a move that would kill their unborn baby. Meanwhile, pro-abortion activists are petitioning the state of Texas on his behalf, while pro-life activists held vigil (video) Sunday outside John Peter Hospital, where both mother and baby are patients.

Marlise Munoz, who suffered cardiac arrest at her home on Nov. 26, remains on life support thanks to a Texas state law forbidding hospitals and doctors from removing pregnant women from life-sustaining care before their babies are viable for delivery. The law applies even if the patient has signed a do-not-resuscitate order as part of a living will.

But her husband, Erick, is arguing that the law should not apply to his wife because doctors have told him she is “brain dead.” The hospital, however, has repeatedly refused to confirm that is the case, saying merely that she is “pregnant and in serious condition.”

"Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family — Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial 'life sustaining treatment', ventilators or the like,” Erick’s attorneys, Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, wrote in the court filing. “There is no reason JPS should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz's dead body, and this Court should order JPS to immediately discontinue such.”

However, John Peter Smith Hospital spokeswoman Jill Labbe says state law is clear that Marlise’s baby’s life takes precedence over Erick’s wishes.

“JPS has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen while providing compassionate, quality care for our patients,” Labbe told AFP.  “In all cases, JPS will follow the law as it applies to health care in the state of Texas. State law says life-sustaining treatment cannot be withheld or withdrawn from a pregnant patient.”

According to the law, Marlise must be kept on life support until her baby is developed enough to survive outside the womb.  At that point, the child can be delivered via cesarean section and Marlise’s husband, Erick, will be able to remove her from life support if that is what he wants.

Abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America has joined the fray, circulating a petition to the state attorney general on Erick’s behalf which reads in part: “The Munoz family deserves better than this — and it's up to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to show them that the state of Texas respects their wishes and their privacy.”

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The petition demands that the state of Texas “leave difficult, personal decisions in the hands of families and support the Munoz family's decision to take Marlise off of life support.”

Meanwhile, pro-life activists held a vigil outside the hospital Sunday in support of the Munozes’ baby. 

“We must save this baby. It is a person, guaranteed protection under the constitution,” said Pastor Stephen Broden, who led a prayer vigil outside the hospital Sunday.  “There is an alternative for the family. There are families willing to take the baby and provide a safe place for it to grow in a loving environment.  If we err, we should err on the side of life.”

“We feel great compassion for the family of Marlise Munoz and her pre-born baby,” Troy Newman of Operation Rescue said in a statement prior to the prayer vigil.  “No one ever wants to be in their difficult and tragic situation. Marlise wanted this baby, and as long as there is a chance that he or she can be saved, we support John Peter Smith Hospital in their bid to follow the law and protect this baby's life.”

Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, told LifeSiteNews that the case “highlights the basic principle that while the vast majority of the time, the attending physician and the hospital should follow the wishes of the family in cases when a patient is not responsive, there are cases where the physician and the hospital are not legally or morally obligated to follow the wishes of the family, when it’s not in the best interest of the patient to do that.”

Said Pojman, “Here’s a case where the family apparently wants the hospital and the attending physicians to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for this woman, and we don’t think that the law should require that the hospital or the physician carry out those wishes, because there is a second patient, the unborn child, whose life should be protected.” 

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