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Texas Lawmaker Plans Bill To Appoint Legal Representation for Fetuses

Texas Lawmaker Plans Bill To Appoint Legal Representation for Fetuses

February 10, 2015 — Texas lawmaker is planning a bill that would require the state to provide legal representation for fetuses when a pregnant woman is incapacitated, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Bill Details

State Rep. Matt Krause (R) is working on drafting the bill and has not yet introduced the legislation. According to the Morning News, Krause's proposal would appoint legal representation to speak on a fetus' behalf in court if a pregnant woman is clinically dead or permanently incapacitated in another manner.

The proposal comes after a nationally watched Texas case last year in which a clinically dead pregnant woman, Marlise Muñoz, was kept on mechanical support against her family's wishes. Krause said the bill would allow courts to "hear what the family wants," as well as "give the pre-born child a chance to have a voice in court at that same time" (Dallas Morning News, 2/9).

Background

Muñoz's mother said her family is insulted by the proposal, which she feels implies that her "family was not looking out for the best interest of Marlise and the fetus." She added, "We feel our actions and decisions were based on what was best for both of them." The family has said that Muñoz's body was deteriorating in the hospital and that it was anguishing for them to watch.

Separately, Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, argued the proposal would make the legal situation regarding pregnant women's end-of-life care "worse." She said, "The circumstances are so different from family to family that what you need is for the family to have the fullest latitude to do what's best for them."

The antiabortion-rights groups Texas Alliance for Life and Texans for Life support the notion of recognizing a fetus as a separate person in court proceedings. A fetus is already considered a person in homicide and assault cases in Texas, according to the Morning News.

NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby said giving fetuses the same legal representation as children could create "a dangerous legal precedent that will have a widespread impact on reproductive health care" (Dallas Morning News, 2/9).

Morning News Columnist: Proposal an 'Insult' to Muñoz, Family

In related news, Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd writes that the proposal to appoint representatives for fetuses in court is "a grotesque insult to Marlise's husband and family, a presumption that they did not act in the interests of the dead woman and the fetus she carried."

The proposal is also "an insult to Marlise herself, a statement that, on becoming pregnant, she did not have the same rights as other citizens to a humane and dignified death," Floyd says, concluding, "We can't let that happen to anybody else" (Floyd, Dallas Morning News, 2/9).