Erick Muñoz has won his battle to have his pregnant wife taken off life support. Marlise Muñoz, 33, who is 23 weeks pregnant and brain dead, was removed from respirators and ventilators on Sunday morning after a two-week legal battle.
On Friday, a Texas District Court ruled a state law forbidding the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment to pregnant patients did not apply to those patients deemed legally dead. The judge ordered John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth to remove Marlise from life support by 5 p.m. Monday.
The case drew national attention, and prompted statements of sympathy from high-profile Texas politicians: Republican Gov. Rick Perry said called the situation was "tragic" and said while he was praying for the family, it was a "matter for the court." Democrat state senator and governor hopeful Wendy Davis said a decision "should be made my Mrs. Munoz's family, in consultation with her doctors."
Christian anti-abortion activists also quickly became involved in the case. Marie T. Hillard, director of bioethics and public policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center told Catholic media removing Marlise from life support before 23 or 24 weeks of gestation would amount to an abortion and that the Erick Muñoz needed to act in his child's best interest.
The Kansas-based advocacy group, Operation Rescue, held vigils outside the hospital and members of the group attended Friday's. Members of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition were also on the scene in Fort Worth.
These groups are now speaking out against the court's decision.
On Sunday, Operation Rescue's president, Troy Newman, released a statement calling the ruling an example of a "Culture of Death."
"It is despicable that dehumanizing and deceptive language was used to refer to Marlise as a 'corpse' and her baby's condition as 'incompatible with life' in order to elicit public support for putting them to death," he said.
Erick Muñoz found Marlise unconscious in their home two days before Thanksgiving. She was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple's second child, and doctors believe she may have suffered from a blood clot. She was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital on Nov. 26 and declared brain dead two days later.
The hospital initially refused to remove Marlise from life support, despite her husband's requests, citing a section of the Texas Advance Directives Act that states a person "may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient." The law was drafted in the late '90s with the help of the Catholic archdiocese of Austin.
Erick Muñoz sued the hospital on Jan. 14.
"Since my wife's death on Nov. 26, 2013, I have had to endure the pain of watching my wife's dead body be treated as if she were alive," he said in an affidavit. "As her husband, I wish every day she was live, but I am positive that my wife has passed away for many reasons." He also told the court Marlise had previously instructed him to not keep her on life support should something happen to her.