Take a moment to remember the name Marlise Muñoz. Why? Because chances are we’ll be hearing about her for years to come as she’s is currently experiencing one of the most egregious reproductive rights violations, but she is not even alive to tell us about it.
If you aren’t already familiar with her story, Mrs. Muñoz is a now brain dead 33-year-old woman, who had fallen in her home and was found unresponsive, but her body is being kept on life support to incubate a fetus that she wasn’t aware she was pregnant with at the time of her demise. And, to further complicate the matter, she had a do not resuscitate wish. In short, if Mrs. Muñoz fell dead, she wanted to die. In Texas, hospitals are not permitted to withhold life-saving support from a pregnant woman. However, Mrs. Muñoz is not in a vegetative state or coma; for all intents and purposes, she is dead. So, the family would like for her to be removed from the machines and permitted to die as she wished. This would mean the baby could not be carried to term, but out of respect for Marlise, they would rather her life end at the time she wanted, even though it may mean eclipsing the beginning of life for a potential child. All I can say is, heavy is the heart over this one.
When I first read her story, it was hard to even fathom the complicated emotions her family must be dealing with. I could feel my own emotions start well up as I try to thread the moral and ethical needle of whose life (or death) should take precedent over the other in this matter. It forces us to face the paradoxical question of when a life begins, and furthermore, when it ends.
Although it’s difficult to come to any certain conclusion, I believe that Ms. Muñoz’s wish should have been honored because as women, our bodies belong to us, long before they belong to our children. And regardless of what some politicians may think, our bodies definitely do not belong to the state. No one is able to ask Mrs. Muñoz if she would have liked to amend her do not resuscitate wish in light of the life in her womb. We only have left with us her one solemn wish for the life of her body not be to be extended after her spirit has already departed from it.
By forcing Mrs. Muñnoz to carry the baby to the 20 week point (which is the gestational age at which terminating a pregnancy is no longer an option in most states) and placing her in a state of medical limbo, the hospital and the state of Texas have established a dangerous precedent that should give us all pause. In the long run, such a precedent doesn’t bode well for any of us and our personal right to live and die, even if it did produce a miracle.