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Texas judge orders pregnant mom removed from life support: cites legal abortion during arguments

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FORT WORTH, Texas, January 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Texas judge has ordered a hospital to remove Marlise Munoz, 33, who is 22-weeks pregnant, from life support, in accordance with her husband’s wishes.

While removing life support would lead to the death of the baby, the judge pointed out that if Munoz was conscious she could legally choose to abort the baby, given that the baby has not yet reached the legal stage of viability, usually defined as 24 weeks. “As I understand the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that if this fetus were not viable [and] Ms. Muñoz were alive…she could abort the child,” the judge reportedly told the court room.

John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has kept Marlise on life support ever since she suffered cardiac arrest in November, due to a Texas law that prohibits hospitals from removing life support from a pregnant woman until the baby is viable.

However, her husband Erick sued, claiming that his wife had made clear that she would not want to be kept on life support for an extended period of time, adding that tests also show the baby may suffer from abnormalities. "This information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body,” lawyers for Erick Munoz argued.

Under the fetal pain bill Governor Rick Perry signed this summer, children may be aborted in the event of fetal abnormalities.

Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. issued the ruling in the case today after hearing an hour's worth of arguments from Munoz's family and the hospital. He gave the hospital until Monday at 5:00 p.m. to remove life support.

He based his decision in part on the fact that the hospital has said that Marlise is "brain dead," and that the section of the law in question, relating to pregnant patients, doesn't apply to deceased patients.

“I respect JPS’ arguments in trying to follow the law,” the judge said, according to Dallas News, “but every section doesn’t apply to someone who is dead.”

The hospital responded by pointing out that Marlise has not officially been pronounced dead.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the hospital declined to say what it's next step will be, instead saying that it "will be consulting with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office.”

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Pro-life leaders have rallied in support of Marlise and her baby.

"We are appalled by Judge Wallace’s order to terminate life support for Marlise Munoz and her baby," said Troy Newman of Operation Rescue in a statement following the ruling. "The order is the equivalent of signing a death sentence for Baby Munoz. We utterly reject the false notion that Marlise’s body is a rotting corpse, which is impossible since a decaying body cannot support the life of a baby for weeks, as Marlise has."

"Killing people because they are disabled is wrong, and dangerously devalues all life. We condemn in the strongest terms this order to fatally discriminate against this disabled mother and her baby, especially in light of the fact that there are people standing by to adopt the baby knowing that the child will have special needs," Newman said.

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