I seem to keep putting my foot in it over the horrible situation in Texas. I’ve now read almost all your enraged emails, thought about this some more, and yes, rethought as well. I still believe that the rights of the fetus do have some weight here – as they do in Roe vs Wade, and in almost all legal abortion regimes – alongside the rights of the mother over her own body. But, on reflection, and having read your emails closely, I see why the Texas law in this case over-steps. First and most important, the woman is not in a coma or a vegetative state; she’s brain-dead and kept artificially alive by a ventilator. She is no longer alive. And her explicit wishes were not to be kept alive in this kind of situation – and she had experience with this kind of thing as a paramedic. Her husband is clear on this; and if marriage is to mean anything, it must mean he has the legal power to end the ventilator. Reading more about the case, I came across this statement:
“All she is, is a host for a fetus,” said Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin [the state capital]?”
I don’t think I had fully reflected upon the grotesque indignity the state of Texas has enforced on this woman, or the extreme pain the family must still be feeling, until today. I apologize for that. At 14 or 20 weeks, I cannot see either how the baby can be successfully brought to term in any meaningful way. If a woman were pro-life and had insisted her child be born regardless of her own condition, it would be one thing. But turning a dead woman into a host for a non-viable fetus against her wishes violates some core principles – of limited government, of family rights, of human dignity. I see that more clearly now; and I’m grateful for being forced by the vehemence of your emails to rethink.
What I was expressing, however, is respect for life. And I do not believe that is somehow inappropriate. Can we agree, for example, that not only the death of this woman but the death of her unborn child are both tragedies? And that, with one fate decided, it is not insane to think of the one life still alive in some form? One need not endorse the Texas law to see the tragedy and the conflict here – a conflict largely created by medical technology unimaginable not so long ago. For me, all human life is precious. I believe in deferring to the family’s wishes in this case and to the power of attorney. But it is an excruciating moment in a horrible tragedy.
In other news, we covered a new drug that might be able to teach adults perfect pitch; I worried about the Clinton clique and its ability to distort a dynasty’s judgments; the Christie scandal metastasized some more; we offered various assessments of the life and career of Ariel Sharon; and Jake Weisberg recalled Roger Ailes’ briefly liberal past. On a more cosmic level, a few dogs tried to get their sticks past a few gates.
See you in the morning.
(Photo: Mike Riddle of Canada warms up ahead of the men’s freeskiing halfpipe final on day 5 of the U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix Breckenridge on January 12, 2014 in Breckenridge, Colorado. This image was made using a multiple exposure by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.)