Death and Texas

Remember Terry Schiavo, the woman who spent 15 years in a vegetative state while her husband and parents battled over whether to keep her on life support? Her case prompted a lot of people to establish Advance Directives to make their wishes clear in the event that they could no longer make their own medical decisions. But an ongoing case in Texas is bringing new attention to how much (or how little) power Advance Directives actually have. 

In the early hours of November 26, Erick Munoz found his wife Marlise unconscious in their home in Texas. He performed CPR and called 911, but her brain had already been deprived of oxygen for over an hour. Marlise and Erick are both paramedics, and had discussed their wishes not to be kept alive by artificial  means. While it’s not clear whether Marlise had an Advance Directive, it really doesn’t matter, because she was 14 weeks pregnant – and that means the state, not Marlise or her family, gets to decide what happens to her.

Texas (and 11 other states) automatically invalidate a woman’s Advance Directive if she is pregnant. 14 states abide by the Uniform Rights of the Terminally Ill Act (URTIA), which requires that a pregnant woman be put on life support if it is probable that the fetus could be carried to term. (Only 4 of those states make an exception if carrying to term will cause the women physical harm or untreatable pain.) Some states use a ‘fetal viability standard’ to determine whether to honor a woman’s wishes, and 14 states have no language on the subject, leaving room for ambiguity and protracted legal battles. Only 5 states allow women to specify different directives based on whether or not they’re pregnant.

It’s important to understand that these laws don’t result in a hospital visit from a government official whose job it is to determine whether a woman’s wishes should be honored. What they really do is control doctors and hospitals by threatening legal action if patients’ wishes are honored. (The consequences of that threat were made terribly evident earlier this year in the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland.)

Today, Marlise Munoz remains on life support, against her wishes and those of her husband and family. No one knows how long her fetus was without oxygen or nutrients, and it will be another 6 weeks before doctors can determine whether and when it can be delivered.

You can learn more about Advance Directives and end-of-life rights in your state here.

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Messing with Texas

A Federal Judge has ruled that the restrictions on reproductive rights passed by Texas – the ones Wendy Davis filibustered – are unConstitutional! Hooray!

Of course Texas Republican Attorney General and Governor-wannabe Greg Abbott (the guy behind Texas’s recently-passed sexist Voter ID law) is expected to file an emergency appeal to the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans…

And these laws are specifically designed to make their way through the appellate system until one reaches the Supreme Court because anti-choicers think that’s the key to overturning Roe v. Wade…

And this ruling does not affect the part of the law that bans abortions after 20 weeks, because most abortions take place before that; or the part requiring that all abortions take place in an “ambulatory surgical center,” which means only 5 of Texas’s 42 abortion providers would be legal, because that part doesn’t go into effect until 2014…

But the rest of this terrible law was supposed to go into effect TOMORROW, and for the moment anyway, it looks like it won’t.

I’m taking my yays where I can get ’em!

Wendy Davis’s Texas filibuster is the best movie we’ve seen in years.

(For a play-by-play leading up to this point, visit Vagina News on Facebook.) Davis’s filibuster continued until about 10PM local time, at which point an objection was raised by Republicans on the grounds that Davis’s discussion of mandatory ultrasounds (or sonograms, I’ve seen conflicting reports) was not germane to the bill, and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst sustained it. This triggered an eruption from the gallery and a flurry of procedural objections by Democrats as Davis was removed from the floor. 

Sen. Kirk Watson objected to Dewhurst’s ruling on the basis that Dewhurst had previously stated the third warning would followed be a vote of the Senate on whether to end Davis’s filibuster, but no vote occurred. Noisy debate continued, and at about 11, Sen. Robert Duncan announced that Democrats’ objections were overruled; Dems continued to raise parliamentary challenges, and the noise of the crowds within and beyond the gallery made order difficult. 

At one point,  Sen. Leticia Van de Putte  – who had been absent previously, as she was attending her father’s funeral – raised a Parliamentary Inquiry requesting information about the three warnings that ended the filibuster so she could cast an informed vote on the appeal, but Dewhurst refused to acknowledge her. This prompted her to ask, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”, prompting fifteen minutes of cheering.

With 20 minutes left in the session, the Senate voted on Watson’s appeal of Dewhurst’s ruling on the third warning, and it was rejected. Duncan (who had taken over the podium from Dewhurst) moved to trigger a vote on the bill, and chaos erupted again. Despite Duncan’s efforts to restore order, the deafening noise continued for 10 minutes. Amidst the noise, Republicans claim they held a vote and passed the by 19-10 (or 17-12, accounts vary.) But the vote was so hard to hear and took place so close to midnight that there’s still no answer as to whether it met the legislative deadline. As of this moment, Senators are in caucus, debating whether or not the bill has been passed. 

For an alternate take on these events, here’s a good first-hand time line…

The outcome remains to be seen, but a few things are clear; Republicans have broken from their post-election contrition and commitment to win female voters, women are no longer willing to be passive witnesses to this strategy, and Wendy Davis is a superstar.

 

In Texas, a new level of stupid

The fight over abortion access in Texas continues, and it is big. There is no better demonstration of Republican legislators pushing an ignorant ideology against the will of the people – and at midnight tonight, we find out who wins.

The bill in question is being promoted by a female legislator – State Representative Jodie Laubenberg – who thinks rape victims don’t need access to legal abortion because “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out.”

Cleaned out. Texas women are being governed by someone who thinks rape kit = abortion. 

If you’re not up on the details of this story, WATCH THIS VIDEO

 

Let’s play pretend, Vagina News friends.

Ready?

Let’s pretend that you posted an ad on Craigslist saying you’re a chemistry teacher looking to make some extra money as a tutor. So I tell you I’ll pay you $150 to tutor me. You arrive at night, I give you $150, and then ask you to make me some meth. You say no, but thanks for the $150, and leave. I shoot you in the neck, paralyzing and eventually killing you. Did I do anything illegal? 

Um, yes Vagina News, what kind of idiot are you? It is illegal to shoot someone for refusing to commit a crime.

Not so fast, smartypants.  Because in Texas, Lenora Frago posted an ad on Craigslist offering paid escort services. So Ezekiel Gilbert told her he’d pay her $150 for escort services. She arrived at night, he gave her $150, and then asked her for sex. She said no, but thanks for the $150, and left. He shot her in the neck, paralyzing and eventually killing her. 

This week, a jury acquitted him of all charges. 

In related news, the Anonymous hacker who brought national attention to the Steubenville rape case is facing 5 to 10 times more jailtime for hacking-related crimes than either of the convicted Steubenville rapists got for committing the rape and distributing photos of the attack on social media.

Our law enforcement and legal systems do not consider sexual assault to be a serious violent crime. It’s that simple.