It’s Time to Repeal State Advance Directive Laws That Discriminate Against Women


Read more of our coverage on Marlise Munoz’s case here.

The recent Marlise Munoz case should be a call to action for anyone who believes that pregnant women and their families deserve respect. In this case, a Texas hospital forced Munoz’s family to look on as it literally appropriated her lifeless body to try to keep her 14-week fetus alive. Attorneys for the hospital argued that Texas’ advance directive law required this gruesome and costly experiment. While Texas may be especially aggressive in denying pregnant women access to abortion and other health services, it is not an outlier when it comes to discriminatory advance directive laws.

Today, more than 30 states have laws that require a pregnant woman to be kept on mechanical support no matter what her living will says, or what her health-care proxy decides if her wishes are unknown. In the 1980s and ’90s, most states passed “advance directive” laws giving people the right to create a living will and appoint a health-care proxy to ensure that their end-of-life wishes are respected. In return for supporting these laws, groups including the United Catholic Conference insisted that women who are pregnant be excluded from that important right. In several states, pregnant women are excluded from the beginning of their pregnancies. As we explained in an earlier commentary:

[These laws] establish that while men are free to determine what will happen to them if they become sick and unable to communicate their health-care wishes, women who may become pregnant are not free to plan the course of their health care, lives, and deaths.

These explicitly sex discriminatory laws finally gained widespread public attention when the Texas hospital invoked such a law not to sustain Munoz’s life over her objections, but to use her dead body for almost nine weeks as what the family’s attorney described as a “dysfunctional incubator.” Her husband challenged this in court. After nine weeks of “living hell” for the family, a judge found that the law did not apply because Munoz was dead. Her body was finally freed from its callous use by the hospital, but there would be no funeral or memorial service because the family feared it would be interrupted by protesters.

Marlise Munoz and the child she hoped to have did not survive. But the law that deprived Munoz and her family of respect and dignity remains. Munoz’s mother, Lynne Machado, has called for changing the law because “one size does not fit all” in cases like these.

She is right. It is time to take action.

1) Go here to find out if your state has a discriminatory advance directive law.

2) Take action to repeal your state’s law. Write to, petition, call, meet with, email, and tweet your state legislator, and demand repeal of these discriminatory laws and support for ones that respect women’s right to make end-of-life decisions. Wisconsin activists and legislators are already fighting back with legislation that requires a pregnant woman’s advance directives to be respected.

Need a model law? New Jersey law explicitly allows a woman to include in her advance directive instructions as to what she would want if she were pregnant. The laws should also expressly empower the woman’s designated health-care proxy, such as a spouse, to make this decision if her wishes are not known. Finally, it is important that state laws clearly authorize a health-care surrogate, such as a spouse or other family member, to decide whether or not to keep a pregnant woman on mechanical support when she does not have an advance directive. This is critical because most women of childbearing age have not filled out a living will or signed papers appointing someone as their health-care proxy.

Changing laws does not happen overnight. While the discriminatory laws remain, it is important that you:

3) Take action to inform women and families in your state if they are subject to discriminatory advance directive laws. Any information given by your state to the public, like handbooks and living will forms, should inform women that their advance directive will not be honored if they are pregnant. If your state does not discriminate or is silent on the issue, make sure that public information encourages women to give specific instructions so those acting on her behalf know what she would want if she were pregnant.

4) Take the important steps of filling out a living will and appointing a health-care proxy to make the decisions you would want but might be unable to make—and, again, include instructions about your wishes if you were pregnant. (It is best if you have both documents, since your living will gives guidance to your proxy.)

If your state has a discriminatory advance directive law, do some living will “civil disobedience.” When filling out your living will form, acknowledge the existence of the law but still make your wishes known regarding what should happen if you are pregnant. In addition, when you designate your proxy you should explicitly authorize him or her to challenge any law and/or hospital practice that is being used to deny you the right to end mechanical support because of pregnancy.

It is time to end all laws that dehumanize pregnant women and disrespect families. Repealing discriminatory advance directive laws is one very good place to start.

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To schedule an interview with Katherine Taylor or Lynn Paltrow, please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • BJ Survivor

    Holy shit. I just knew that somehow the Catholic Church was behind this. It’s baffling how any person of conscience can still be a follower of that evil, misogynistic institution.

    • blfdjlj

      The Catholic Church is on the record stating that young girls who have been raped should give birth. At times, a horde of ultra-Catholics terrorized a raped 14 year old to pressure her to continue with her pregnancy.

      • CBJ_Uno

        That would be a great time to leave the Catholic Church then.

        Isn’t freedom great?

        • blfdjlj

          Fortunately I’ve never been part of the Catholic Church, even though my community is overwhelmingly Catholic.

          • expect_resistance

            Lucky you. You missed out on all the guilt and shame. :)

          • BJ Survivor

            Sadly, I was, but fortunately my father would not allow us to be baptized until we were adults and could honestly make the choice.

          • Shan

            My mom always said that nobody should even PICK a religion until they were an adult.

        • Ivy Mike

          Sure is. Also, it’s a great time to investigate the Catholic Church under RICO laws, for its unbelievable and innumerable crimes against humanity. In the meantime, it’s also a great time to tax the living shit out of the deadbeats, who pay ZERO taxes on all their land, buildings, profits, etc.

        • lady_black

          How exactly would that keep them from terrorizing you?

        • expect_resistance

          I’m an ex-Catholic and am very happy with it.

        • Arekushieru

          Hmm, so you like the Catholic Church because rapists are not automatically excommunicated but someone who has an abortion is? You like the Catholic Church because the ones who should make the choice to leave are the ones who experience the Catholic Church’s oppression, DAILY, but it shouldn’t be the one to take responsibility for its actions? I have a NEW name for ya: MHVT. The M stands for misogynistic, the H for hypocritical, the V for victim-blamer, and the T for troll.

          • CBJ_Uno

            You apparently don’t know how to read. When did I state I liked the Catholic Church?

            It’s ok. I didn’t expect much from the hyphenman.

          • Lieutenant Nun

            Boring.

      • BJ Survivor

        Oh, it’s even worse than that. There was a 9-year-old in Brazil, raped by her stepfather and pregnant with twins, which were killing her, so her mother was able to procure an abortion. The RCC and its vile minions believed that she should have given birth or died trying. The RCC excommunicated the mother and doctors, but not the rapist, of course.

        • blfdjlj

          That’s how crazy as it gets, they would prefer to kill a nine year old and blame her for being raped. Sickening extremism IMO, and it just shows how out of touch the clergy is. I think the problems stem from the fact that the vast majority of cardinals and bishops are aging white men, and not to mention the autocratic structure of the church where any disagreement leads to excommunication.

          My second issue with the RCC is that they are power-hungry thugs who seek to impose their religious views on everyone else, including non-Catholics. You’ve got ALEC-like groups like Opus Dei, which have at times proposed draconian legislation to deal with abortion, like in El Salvador, where women who miscarry are interrogated by the police, with 30-year jail terms possible. Even in places like Poland they have been consistently trying to roll the clock back decades, and impose religious terminology to throw women into jail for abortions. In the U.S. too they look for every chance to introduce their religious doctrine and make it law, such as with the recent Hobby Lobby case or the wave of state-based anti abortion laws.

        • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

          The catholic church is the most extreme, most hateful, most sick and disgusting existing in this world. In other christian denominations their misogyny might be a mistake; in RCC it is the very coor of their business idea. I read about that girl when it happened, and was outraged then, and it comes back to me now with full strength. They are 100% evil.

        • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

          And the rapist was her Father.

  • BJ Survivor

    I’m appalled to find out that my state, California, discriminates against pregnant people in the manner experienced by the Munoz family. Thank you for the heads up and the steps to take to repeal those crap laws.

  • fiona64

    I was dumbfounded to see my otherwise liberal and intelligent state on the list … clearly it’s time for another e-mail to my state representative.

    • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

      I am really upset the state of PA is into this discriminatory law. I am on this.

  • CocksackieBJ

    Gotta love how this author calls trying to keep a life going “gruesome” while at the same time supporting dismembering the human fetus limb from limb.

    Stay classy RHRC.

    • Mindy McIndy

      Forcing a clinically dead woman’s heart to continue beating just so she can gestate a grossly malformed and damaged fetus that won’t survive birth is gruesome.

      • CBJ_Uno

        “grossly malformed and damaged fetus”

        You have proof of this or just speculation?

        • lady_black

          Look you lazy fuck, look up your own proof. The fetus gestating in Marlise Munoz was a monstrosity. But that’s beside the point. She didn’t want her dead body kept going. It was a Frankenstein experiment.

          • CBJ_Uno

            “The fetus gestating in Marlise Munoz was a monstrosity”

            Oh, I didn’t realize that you saw it. Sorry.

          • lady_black

            Bye!

          • CBJ_Uno

            Bye? Where are you going? I thought you wanted to talk about your love for allowing owners to pick which cakes the find offensive.

          • Arekushieru

            Nope, you’ve been proven wrong over and over, again, but you just don’t get it. And it DOES get tiring for us to keep banging our heads against a wall like yours..

          • expect_resistance

            Yes, she was paying attention and you are not. Lady black understands you are a troll who does not. What’s your point? If you have one other than trolling.

          • CBJ_Uno

            Oh you saw the fetus, too?

            How come everyone has seen this “monstrosity” of a fetus except me? Could you post a link with the picture of this monster?

          • Shan

            “Could you post a link with the picture of this monster?”

            I don’t normally say things like this but FUCK YOU. You are disgusting to even ask for something like that.

          • goatini

            Fetus fetish gore porn lovers can never get enough of their favorite fap material, you know.

          • Arekushieru

            Tone policing while attacking women and expecting a cool-headed response is misogyny at its worst, troll.

          • Shan

            “The language…..really necessary?”

            Yes.

          • Ella Warnock

            Oh noes, ladies, watch your language! We’ve got a delicate one here.

          • CBJ_Uno

            Fuck you cunt stain.

            Happy?

          • Ella Warnock

            So what’s your problem with *language*, then?

          • CBJ_Uno

            I thought it added a lot to her argument. It was really, ya know, necessary for her point.

            Isn’t that right you dumb twat shit-eating fuck face?

          • Ella Warnock

            So, it’s necessary to get *your* point across. But not necessary for anyone else. I see. Well, that’s . . . interesting.

          • CBJ_Uno

            Clearly you don’t understand irony or sarcasm. Now, that’s….interesting.

          • Ella Warnock

            If you were employing any, I’m sure someone would have noticed.

          • CBJ_Uno

            You didn’t.

          • Ella Warnock

            Can’t notice what’s not there. Work on it, though. You can no doubt do better.

          • CBJ_Uno

            Your lack of being able to understand context is not my problem.

          • Ella Warnock

            You’re here to get your point across, aren’t you? Being understood is, indeed, your problem. Of course, what needs to be understood is the question. You’re not here to be understood; you’re here to be a jerk – which is also your problem only. I am sorry, however, that you feel that approach is effective.

          • CBJ_Uno

            Aww…..don’t be so delicate. We wouldn’t want your feelings to get hurt.

          • Ella Warnock

            I’m afraid the only one here getting its feelings hurt is you. You’re quite emotional and seem very angry. That’s unfortunate.

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            Your inability to use the English language effectively IS your problem. Poor thing.

          • CBJ_Uno

            Oh, did you have a hard time comprehending as well?

            That’s a shame.

          • Jennifer Starr

            I really don’t think he can do any better.

          • Ella Warnock

            Obviously not. I like to remain positive, though. ;- >

          • Arekushieru

            And, even if it were sarcasm, he WAS employing it to get his point across. Oops, guess you were right, after all, Ella!

            Also, notice how the reply he was responding to didn’t use misogynistic OR misandrist language?

          • Ella Warnock

            Was there ever any doubt? (tongue planted firmly in cheek)

          • Arekushieru

            NOPE! :D

        • expect_resistance

          Read the case. Do you understand what happened when they removed the machines that were artificially keeping her dead body “functioning?” She was dead and decomposing when the doctors were attempting to keep here body functioning when she was dead. Her body was used against her will. And for what? To keep a fetus alive? A fetus that died with her.

          After they disconnected the machines from Marlise’s body the fetus died with her. The fetus was never viable after Marlise died. Sometimes death happens, that’s life.

        • Arekushieru

          You have proof that a fetus is dismembered during abortion or just speculation?

          Yeah, imagine, the only ‘life’ kept going was that of the fetus. If it was the woman’s you wouldn’t care. You just LOVE the fact that she was being used as a container for the fetus, like you think ALL women should be, misogynistic hypocrite.

          • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

            Would that not be the ideal world for a “pro lifer”? Dead women acting as incubators until they invent some machine that takes care of all 40 weeks? They are sick beyond words.

          • Ella Warnock

            I think they’d find it more expedient to just use dead women as incubators, if they could figure out how to do it successfully. Why should they go to the trouble of inventing a machine?

          • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

            In that way the could clear the world of women entirely – which is their ultimate goal, those sick evil people.

        • Mindy McIndy

          The medical report done on her prior to her being taken off of the life-sustaining equipment showed a fetus that had no lower half, with indeterminate gender, a fatal heart defect, and hydrocephalus. It was not compatible with life. Munoz was without oxygen for over an hour when she was found, and that had dire effects on her fetus. Just keeping her body alive via a ventilator and feeding tube did no favors for the already damaged fetus while she was clinically brain dead. It was 14 weeks old and not viable at that point anyway, and when they finally pulled the plug, it was shown that there was no way in hell that it was ever going to be viable.

    • lady_black

      After you’re dead, keeping your life going is just a contradiction in terms. When I die, I do not want my “life” kept going, and if you try it, my family has orders to shoot you.

    • Ivy Mike

      They kept a dead woman’s body functioning solely to act as an incubator for a fetus that was totally brain-damaged and deformed. They did this against her and her family’s wishes.

      Anyone who thinks this was somehow a good and “noble” thing to do is a twisted, fanatical psychopath.

      • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

        Or an average catholic…

        • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

          I am incensed that Catholics created this atrocity.

          • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

            But hardly surprised?

          • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

            Hell no. I am a Catholic baptized and confirmed. I have had a front row seat at the dysfunction.

        • BJ Survivor

          Isn’t that just sad!?

    • lady_black

      By the way, time for you to go and get a new sock. We’re going to ban these two.

      • CBJ_Uno

        Hey, good job. It took people over at Atlantic a full week to realize this account was a sock puppet account. I mean, I really tried hard to keep it a secret with the same picture and all.

    • BJ Survivor

      Flagged for lying and for basically calling fertile females just so much breeding livestock. Go fuck yourself, panty-sniffer. And tell your sky daddy to get fucked, too.

      • CBJ_Uno

        Stay classy.

        • Ella Warnock

          Oh dear, didn’t take long for the pearl-clutchers to show up. Let’s get the smelling salts and the fainting couches ready. Histrionics ahead!

          • goatini

            You mean, the sock-clutchers. The two CBJs are two socks of the same troll.

          • Ella Warnock

            I don’t think clutching is the only thing it’s doing with socks.

          • goatini

            How many lives were snuffed out in those socks?

          • Ella Warnock

            Augghhh, the humanity!

        • Arekushieru

          Typical patronizing bullshit directed at keeping the ‘little women’ in line, and that they can never get angry about anything. Only the studly manly MENZ are allowed to do THAT, after all.

      • expect_resistance

        Nicely said!