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In Munoz Case, CBS’ O’Donnell Lone Media Voice for Life

Anchor defends unborn baby in tragic case of brain dead mother.

In bioethical matters of life and death, the liberal media can generally be counted on to come down on the side of death. But once in a while, exceptions arise.

CBS’s Norah O’Donnell joined a panel with her “This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose and legal analyst Jack Ford on Jan. 6 to discuss the heated controversy of brain dead Marlise Munoz, a Texas woman who remains on life support because of her unborn baby. Predictably, many liberals believe Munoz should be taken off life support and allowed to die – along with her now 18-week-old unborn infant. 

But O’Donnell argued for the baby, noting, “But in this case, it involves another life. It involves a baby. She’s pregnant, and now that baby is 18 weeks old and, you know, eight weeks maybe, less before viability.” Continues after video.

But O’Donnell was alone. Online media bewailed the continued life support for the 33-year-old Munoz, whose husband found her lying on the floor. The outlets disregarded her (then 14-week-old) unborn baby – except as an obstacle to Munoz’s “peaceful” death. Due to her pregnancy, Texas law prevented family from taking Munoz off life support. 

Begging sympathy only for the woman “forced” to live, the front page of The New York Times blasted, “Pregnant, and Forced to Stay on Life Support” on Jan. 8. The message went viral via lefty sites as Slate’s Amanda Marcotte announced, “Brain-Dead Woman Forced to Stay on Life Support Because She’s Pregnant” while Feministing’s Lori Adelman agreed, “All She is is a Host for a Fetus”: Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Forced to Stay on Life Support in Texas. Salon’s Katie McDonough chimed in, “Texas Family Describes “Pure Hell” of Being Forced to Keep their Loved One on Life Support.” 

Other sites compared Munoz to a robot (what’s that, feminism?). Jezebel’s Doug Barry lamented, “Texas Will Keep a Dead Woman on Life Support Just to Incubate Her Fetus” while The Huffington Post (UK) complained, “Marlise Munoz, Brain-Dead Texan Woman, Kept Alive To Incubate Unborn Baby” Think Progress’ Tara Culp-Ressler summarized, “Texas Family Outlawed From Removing Brain Dead Woman From Life Support Because She’s Pregnant.” 

Even the big name media outlets focused solely on the mother. The Guardian’s Tom Dart wrote “Texas Hospital to Keep Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman On Life Support” as his title, while ABC’s Susan Donaldson James’ report read, “Husband Wants Pregnant Wife Off Life Support.” CBS’ Ryan Jaslow similarly focused on how “Texas Life Support Battle Pits State Law Against Pregnant Woman’s Earlier Wishes.” 

Excepting the pleasant surprise from O’Donnell, the networks danced with censorship in the past when it came to life, from covering last year’s March for Life in a mere 17 seconds to popularizing the word “fetus” versus “baby.” 

The secular left howled back in 1995 when Pope John Paul II described a “culture of death” that had grown in Western society. The fact that O’Donnell is the sole media voice urging mercy for Marlise Munoz’s baby proves the pontiff’s case, and shows how far we’ve gone down the road he described: “Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable."

— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.