Texas Bill Would Provide Legal Representation for an Unborn Child

protect Life - AP Peter Morrison
AP PHOTO/Peter Morrison

A bill in the Texas Legislature proposed by two pro-life state legislators would, under limited circumstances, provide for legal representation of an unborn child. The bill, if approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, would provide for the appointment of an ad litem attorney by the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to represent an unborn child in the event the mother is declared brain dead.

The bill, HB 1901, pertains to section 166.049 of the Texas Health and Safety Code which deals with withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatments from a pregnant woman. Representatives Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) and Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) authored the bill. The bill was referred to the House State Affairs Committee earlier this month. A public hearing on the bill has not yet been scheduled. It is coauthored by Representatives Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Scott Sanford (R-McKinney), Scott Turner (R-Frisco) and Bill Zedler (R-Arlington).

“Current Texas law states that life-sustaining treatment may not be removed from a pregnant patient,” Krause said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Should a family desire to remove their unconscious, pregnant family member from life support they must first go to court and get permission from a judge.”

“H.B. 1901 amends the law so that even if it appears that the mother is brain dead, as long as the unborn child is maturing and developing, life-sustaining treatment may not be removed,” Krause explained. “The appointed guardian ad litem’s job is to look after the interest of the unborn child and ensure that the judge has the best information possible on the condition of the child when making their ruling.”

The bill calls for the OAG to appoint an ad litem attorney for the unborn child after the office is notified that there is a pregnant woman being kept alive after the cessation of brain activity. For this requirement to take effect, the life-sustaining efforts must be enabling the unborn child to mature.

“The Unborn Child Due Process Act will ensure there is a voice for the interests of all persons involved in these cases,” said Emily Kebodeaux, General Counsel of Texas Right to Life in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Having an added voice in court will better equip families in making informed decisions regarding irreversible medical decisions that affect both patients.”

Operation Rescue’s Texas legal counsel Briscoe Cain discussed the origins of the proposed bill when he was having lunch with Krause in Austin. “We were meeting the same day baby Muñoz lost his life because the plug was pulled on his mother,” Cain said. “At the lunch, we were racking our brains about what we legally could do to save the baby.”

“Without standing,” Cain explained, “we could do nothing. This bill is that solution. HB 1901, and the concept behind it is revolutionary. Never before has a law been passed that gives an unborn child this type of due process.”

“H.B. 1901 doesn’t force a family to go to court,” Krause explained. “It only ensures that an unborn child’s voice is heard. “Our Constitution clearly states that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law. I will continue to defend that unalienable right for the voiceless.”

In an interview earlier this month on NBCDFW’s Lone Star Politics, the Texas Representative said that normally he would not favor intruding in a family’s personal medical decisions. “In this situation there’s an extra life that comes into play which kind of changes the whole dimension and whole dynamic of the situation,” Krause stated. “And, that’s why we’re looking to give that unborn child representation.”

In response to a question about how giving a fetus legal representation could affect abortion rights, Krause said, “You can never say for sure what’s going to happen. But this is such a rare, an extremely rare circumstance that I don’t think there’s that danger there that it’s going to create a whole new class of rights.”

NARAL, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, called the bill an “anti-choice bill.”

Three Texas Democrats and one Republican have filed a bill that would facilitate the removal of life support from a pregnant woman. State Representative Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) introduced HB 3183, to allow advance directive and do-not-resuscitate laws to be applied to a pregnant patient. The bill would completely remove the section that Krause’s bill is amending to provide additional protection to the unborn child.

The opposing bills came about after Judge R.H. Wallace, Jr. (R-Tarrant County) ordered the removal of life support from Marlise Muñoz. She had been being kept alive for about eight weeks after being declared brain-dead. Her husband had found her unconscious after she had suffered a pulmonary embolism.

Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman said in an earlier article on Breitbart Texas, “We are appalled by Judge Wallace’s order to terminate life support for Marlise Muñoz and her baby. The order is the equivalent of signing a death sentence for Baby Muñoz. We utterly reject the false notion that Marlise’s body is a rotting corpse, which is impossible since a decaying body cannot support the life of a baby for weeks, as Marlise has.”

“Killing people because they are disabled is wrong,” Wallace continued, “and dangerously devalues all life. We condemn in the strongest terms this order to fatally discriminate against this disabled mother and her baby, especially in light of the fact that there are people standing by to adopt the baby knowing that the child will have special needs.”

HB 3183 was also referred to the State Affairs Committee but it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. The bill was authored by Representatives Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin), Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) and Sarah Davis (R-West University Place).

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.


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