California Pro-Life Advocates Protest Lawmaker’s Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 21, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Pro-Life Advocates Protest Lawmaker’s Assisted Suicide Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 21
, 2007

Eureka, CA ( — Pro-life advocates protested at the district offices of a state legislator who wants to make California the next state to legalize assisted suicide after Oregon voters pushed through a law there. They said assisted suicide brings the elderly and disabled death instead of compassion.

The protest concerned AB 374, a bill that would allow adults who are diagnosed with less than six months to live to ask a physician for the drugs to kill themselves.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, both Democrats, are again behind the measure.

Last year, a state Senate committee narrowly rejected their assisted suicide bill on a 3-2 vote.

Eureka resident Allen Rode was one of the people who attended the protest outside Berg’s local office. He said legalizing assisted suicide would turn physicians into killers instead of healers.

“There are better, more compassionate alternatives to suicide,” he told the Eureka Reporter newspaper. “The medical profession is about healing and the improvement of the quality of life. To assist in (suicide) goes against the whole ethic of the profession.”

“The emphasis should be on pain management care, palliative care … and building a community of support for people,” Rode said.

Duane Ashbach, a Fortuna resident, joined the protest with his family and held a sign declaring, “Suicide does not equal health care."

“We as a society are losing respect for life,” he said. “Are we in a place of judging who lives and who dies? I don’t think we are.”

Connie Stewart, a field representative for Berg, said staff members were at previous meetings and no one was in the office to meet with the protesters. As a result, they went to a nearby busy intersection to tell drivers their feelings.

Under the measure, two doctors would have to declare the patient mentally competent to use the lethal barbiturates and the person would have to submit both an oral and written request for the drugs and undergo a waiting period.

Family members or guardians would not be able to make the decision for a patient and doctors who are opposed to assisted suicide would not be compelled to participate.

Pro-life groups say they will once again join with Catholic organizations, doctors groups and the disability community in defeating the bill.

"Not only are we going to fight it again, but we think we have a strong enough coalition to defeat it again," said Cecelia Cody, a spokeswoman for Right to Life of California. said previously.

However, their job of defeating the measure will be made more difficult because Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez said last week he plans to support it.

"Is it important that the speaker is a joint author? It’s huge. It sends a clear message to all members of the Assembly that this is not only good policy, it’s good politics," Berg told the Oakland Tribune.

More than two dozen lawmakers have already co-sponsored the bill, more than in previous years.

Even if the state legislature signs off on the assisted suicide bill, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he would veto it. He thinks voters in the state should make the decision, not the state legislature.

"I personally think this is a decision probably that should go to the people, like the death penalty and other big issues," the governor said previously. "I don’t think 120 legislators and I should make the decision. I think the people should make the decision, and whatever that is, that is what it ought to be."

Thirteen years ago, California voters disapproved an assisted suicide ballot proposal. Voters rejected Proposition 161 by a 54% to 46% margin.

Nationally, Americans are generally split on the issue of assisted suicide.

An August 2005 Pew Research survey found only 44 percent of people "Favor making it legal for doctors to Assist in suicide."

A May 2005 Gallup Poll found a close 49-42 percent split in favor of assisted suicide and a November 2004 CBS News survey determined that Americans were split 46-45 percent on the issue.

Related web sites:
California state legislature –
Californians Against Assisted Suicide –
California Pro-Life Council –