For weeks now, a hospital in Texas has been insisting it has no choice but to maintain a dead woman's body on an artificial respirator because she was pregnant at the time of her death. 14 weeks pregnant to be exact, which is pre-viability no matter how you calculate viability. A fetus at 14 weeks of development has no possibility of surviving outside the womb. It may have beating heart, but if this last few weeks of discussion about "brain death" have taught us anything, I would sincerely hope it's that life, real true life, requires so much more than just a beating heart.
Too many people are hung up on the idea that a beating heart is all it takes, though. So when Marlise Munoz's brain lost oxygen until heroic measures couldn't save it, that damn hospital kept forcing oxygen through her lungs merely because there was still a fetal heartbeat. Even though that fetus had also been without oxygen for a long time, probably a catastrophic time. (There's also the side point that the law cited by the hospital probably doesn't apply as it prohibits removing "life support" from a terminal patient. Munoz is dead, so there's no life to support and her situation isn't terminal, it's final.)
For weeks, Munoz's family has been trying to get the ventilator turned off so their beloved can be laid to rest already. They have done this to respect her wishes, all while getting vilified by idiots who accuse the grieving husband of wanting to "murder" his child. Their argument all along, though, has been that Marlise is dead, that her body shouldn't be treated as an incubator, that god or nature or whatever has already made its decision about the fate of both Marlise and the fetus. And they have also argued that while there might still be a fetal heartbeat, it is almost unimaginable that the fetus could possibly develop properly and be born alive to any life they would want for it.
So today in news that should be a surprise to no one, we learn through the Munoz family that, indeed, the fetus is "distinctly abnormal." Malformed, or unformed, limbs. Brain swelling. Heart problems. Who knows what else.
Because life requires more than a heartbeat maintained by mechanical respiration. A heart can be made to beat while totally removed from a body. On the flip side, a person can be kept alive, alive as in conscious and talking and maintaining all of those delightful little personality quirks that makes her her, without a heart at all, but rather with a machine doing the work of blood circulation. Life requires a brain, not just a heartbeat. So it stands to reason that when a fetus' development is dependent on the life of the woman carrying it, that development just won't happen right when the woman's brain is dead. No one has succeeded in growing a fetus in an incubator, some soulless machine. This case isn't any different.