Pro-Life Group Worries Kagan Could Push Supreme Court on Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 9, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Group Worries Kagan Could Push Supreme Court on Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 9
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — A memo the Clinton presidential library turned out last week showing Elena Kagan opposed a ban on assisted suicide gave pro-life groups even more reason to oppose her nomination. Now, a pro-life legal organization says it worries Kagan could push the Supreme Court on the issue.

As reported, the issue of assisted suicide came up in the Clinton administration following a vote by Oregon voters to make the state the first in the nation to legalize the practice.

Clinton officials were considering issuing a ruling saying Oregon doctors who prescribe federally controlled drugs to kill patients in assisted suicides were not violating federal law in doing so.

Kagan penned a hand-written note about whether the Justice Department ruling should be accompanied by legislation — such as a ban on assisted suicide — and called it "a fairly terrible idea."

Kagan asked other members of the Administration whether they needed to “run some kind of policy process” on the issue.

In a legal memo released today, attorneys at Americans United for Life noted there are no additional memoranda, emails, or notations in the collection of documents released by the Clinton library which indicate why Kagan thought a federal assisted suicide ban was a “terrible idea.”

Since that time, Washington voters and the Montana Supreme Court allowed assisted suicides in those states and several other states including California, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Connecticut and others have defeated legal or legislative attempts to bring the practice to their states.

For AUL, the concern is that activity will ultimate make its way to the Supreme Court, where a Justice Kagan could push the court to take a new look at its previous case law.

In Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, the high court held that there was no right under the U.S. Constitution to assisted suicide.

"If physician assisted suicide becomes legal in more states, legislatively or through state courts, activist U.S. Supreme Court justices might determine that ‘societal changes’ of a new ‘social consensus’ require revisiting the Court’s decisions," AUL said.

"Therefore it is critical that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee ask Kagan to explain her view that a national ban is a ‘fairly terrible idea,’" AUL continued. "What reasons led her to such a conclusion?"

"Also, Senators should ask whether she believes national limitations on assisted suicide are constitutionally impermissible. Further, Kagan needs to say whether, as a Justice, she will respect United States Supreme Court precedent that assisted suicide is not a constitutional right," AU: attorneys write in their new memo.

The questions are important for the pro-life group because assisted suicide advocates continue to push for expanding it to other states and, potentially, nationwide.

"Assisted suicide proponents tout the practice as a compassionate choice for seriously ill individuals, the reality is much darker," AUL says. "The most frequently cited concerns of terminally-ill patients in Oregon, for example, are the loss of personal autonomy and bodily function and the decreased ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable. Fear of becoming a burden to family and friends is also cited."

It concludes, "Americans need care for emotional and physical pain, not death."

Related web sites:
Americans United for Life –
Petition Against Kagan –
Facebook: Stop Kagan


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