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Anna Núñez, Communications Coordinator, ACLU of Texas, 713.942.8146 ext. 110, media@aclutx.org

AUSTIN – Today, the Texas House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on HB 3183, or “Marlise’s Law,” a bill introduced by Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) and co-sponsored by Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) designed to give pregnant women and their families the same rights as every other Texan. Marlise’s Law would remove the pregnancy exclusions from Chapter 166 of the Health and Safety Code, which outlines the rights and procedures for end-of-life decision-making.

In 2013, 33 year-old Marlise Muñoz suffered a pulmonary embolism and was declared brain-dead by a Fort Worth hospital. Her family immediately requested removal of life support and the doctors refused, citing her 14-week pregnancy and the state health code.

“State law should never come between a patient and her doctor or restrict medical professionals from providing care that is consistent with their ethical and professional obligations,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. “Marlise’s Law will repeal the harmful pregnancy exclusion and ensure no family suffers the unspeakable horror that Marlise and her family endured.”

"Being pregnant should not prohibit a woman from having her personal decision respected. The law should reflect the consideration a woman puts into planning the treatment she wishes to receive, or not receive, when she is no longer able to express herself," said Rep. Naishtat. "Planning for end-of-life care is a deeply personal decision-making process for all persons, including those who may be pregnant."

Marlise, a paramedic, had made it clear to her family that she wanted to forego medical intervention in a circumstance like hers. Instead, she was kept on machines and subjected to medical interventions against the family’s wishes for two months, until the family obtained a court order directing the hospital to cease treatment.

“I don’t want to tell any family what to do in such a difficult time with such a private decision,” said Erick Muñoz, Marlise’s spouse. “I just want every family to have the right to make the best decision for them without interference from the government.”

“The state not only tied our hands, but forced the doctors to play politics instead of practicing medicine,” said Lynne Machado, mother of Marlise. “What should have been a profoundly private and personal moment for our family became a political debate.”

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