On being “viable”

At what point would having a disability render me “unviable”?

Along with countless other people paying attention to news reports, I grieve for a Texas family coping with a terrible situation. Marlise Muñoz was reportedly declared “brain dead” last November following a pulmonary embolism. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time. Quoting from this weekend’s Wall Street Journal: “Her husband, Erick Muñoz, had requested for weeks that she be removed from life support, but the hospital has maintained that it was required to continue medical service under a Texas law that restricts removing life support from pregnant patients, a measure designed to protect unborn children.”

A judge has just okayed removal of Mrs. Muñoz’s ventilator. Her situation will soon be settled, if not resolved. So will her child’s.

According to the family attorney who is serving as spokeswoman, the fetus has exhibited  abnormalities and is no longer viable. Scans of the fetus reportedly show lack of development of the lower body.

That brought me up short.

No longer viable? Did she mean this 22-week preborn child used to be viable, which is supposed to mean able to survive outside the mother’s body?

I don’t know. What I do know is that the hair on the back of my neck stood up when that lawyer mentioned “abnormalities” and “viability” together. A sign of the times, I guess. I get uneasy at the thought that any of us, born or preborn, has to be considered normal before being considered worth protecting.

Perhaps I’m reading the worst into the situation. Pregnant women die every day, and their children die with them. It’s just that the juxtaposition of abnormalities with viability gets to me.

I pray for the Muñoz family, and for the doctors and attorneys who are working with them. I pray everyone’s being well-served by the professionals in this case.