A Race Among the Ruins

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These pieces are not fun to put together. When finally assembled, the picture of Texas looks more than a little unsettling. In fact, it often looks pretty damned backwards. Greatness outweighs the absurdity in this state, but you often have to keep looking to see it. The reverse gear was spinning fast cogs in the lieutenant governor’s debate in Dallas between four Republican candidates seeking to win the primary. A quartet of be-suited and privileged white males lectured on life and the right to choose in a city where a family has just endured one of the most horrendous situations anyone might ever contemplate. 

They were busily trying to save the fetus of an unborn child, described by doctors as “distinctly” abnormal, which was, nonetheless, alive inside of a brain dead mother. A former CIA agent, a former Marine, a former vice president in college of the Future Farmers of America, and a former sportscaster known for wearing large blue foam hats on television, offered their advice and counsel to a man who had discovered his 33 year old pregnant wife unconscious as a result of an embolism. 

“This baby could have been born. If I had been in that judge’s shoes, I would have ruled differently,” said current Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who is believed to have never been photographed in the wild without wearing a suit and tie.

Dewhurst
The Casual Mr. Dewhurst

Dewhurst’s politically craven comments ignored the facts that doctors said the child was sufficiently deformed on the lower half of the body that it was impossible to tell its sex and that there appeared to be an accumulation of fluid on both the brain and heart. After being beaten by Ted Cruz in a U.S. Senate race, Dewhurst continues to recalibrate his conservatism to exhibit adequate extremism to please the people who voted against him in that contest. Thankfully, neither Dewhurst nor his opponents have gotten anywhere near a judicial chair in Texas. A district judge in Tarrant County ruled that the doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital could legally remove Marlise Munoz from life support. The hospital administrators had insisted they were following a Texas law that does not allow disconnecting pregnant women from life support, which meant that her husband, Erick, already dealing with the inevitable grief of losing his young wife and child, had to seek a legal remedy to the idiocy that was compounding his tragedy.

He spent two months fighting to save his wife from the indignities of misinterpreted law and the backwards reproductive politics of Texas.

Marlise Munoz
Marlise Munoz

Doctors had said there was no way the child could have been born alive at 23 weeks of gestation, and with apparent deformities. But they had not consulted with Dan Patrick; the TV sports guy turned state senator, who knows better than any doctor. “Life is so precious,” he said. “There is nothing more precious than the life of a baby in the womb. … We are born in the image of God. Whenever we have the opportunity to preserve life, we should.”

And whenever we have the chance to ignore ignorance, we ought to do that, too, because any handicapped child born into a life in Texas has been delivered unto additional disadvantages by the mere fact of their geography, and the politics of people like the four “debating” GOP candidates.

Consider what might have happened to Erick Munoz, a paramedic and firefighter, had he been a single father with a profoundly disabled child. If caring for the baby caused him to lose his job, the four Republicans might help him get the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in Texas, which is a maximum $263 per month. The courageous quartet would have saved the child for life in a state that has the highest percentage of its population uninsured, and, if there were problems caused by development as a result of fluid on the brain, the baby and its father would have learned that Texas is 48th in Medicaid payments and 50th among all states in mental health expenditures.

They are consistently sanctimonious and in favor of life while it exists the womb. After that, if the child finds itself in Texas, it is pretty much on its own.

Fortunately, sanity prevailed in the legal system and the district court judge ruled that the hospital was misreading the Texas Advance Directives Act and that the regulation did not require a brain dead, pregnant woman to be kept alive for the sake of the fetus. Unfortunately, the four ponies of the apocalypse dedicated themselves to changing Texas law surrounding brain dead women and fetuses.

“It’s a tragic intersection, the right-to-life concerns and when life ends,” Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said. “We should always err on the side of life.

I think we have to change the law. We have conflicting statutes.”

There is a tragedy, of course, but it is political, and reflects the possibility that one of these four Republican males might end up holding public office and further influencing life in Texas.