Catholic legislators take stand against physician-assisted suicide

.- California’s physician-assisted suicide bill, the California Compassionate Choice Act (AB 654), passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a one-vote margin April 12. But two Catholic Democratic Assemblywomen have come out against it, reported The Tidings.

Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez (D-San Fernando), 31, broke rank with five other Democrats when she sided with the committee's three Republicans in voting against the bill. That same day, Nicole Parra, (D-Hanford), 35, issued a statement saying: "Doctor assisted suicide is immoral and wrong."

"I believe that allowing the state to sanction a death in this fashion erodes the sanctity of life," said Montañez in an April 12 statement. "While I understand and sympathize with all the reasons supporters of AB 654 have given me, they still do not outweigh my belief that life is too precious and that we, as a governmental entity, should not be a party to assisted suicide."

In a telephone interview April 19, Montañez told the Los Angeles diocesan newspaper that she had received at least 2,000 letters against the bill compared to several hundred letters of support.

Montañez said the issue cuts across different faiths and ideologies.  She added that the majority of religious leaders she consulted, including San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, were against the bill.

Parra also received many calls backing her position and believes there may be a momentum toward a "lessening of support" for the bill among her fellow legislators.

Carol Hogan, lobbyist with the California Catholic Conference of bishops, is pleased these two Democratic women are against the bill. The conference has joined with several other organizations to form the Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a grassroots coalition that is advocating against the bill.

The bill is now headed for the Appropriations Committee. But it could end up in the suspense file if 10-12 more assemblymembers come out against it, Hogan told The Tidings.

If it does pass the Assembly, it still has to get through the Senate. Hogan predicted that if it doesn't get through legislature proponents would go through the initiative process, as they did with the 1992 "Death With Dignity Act" initiative, which was rejected by California voters.

Hogan said one of the problems with physician-assisted suicide is that terminally ill people may be influenced to choose it to relieve their exhausted caregivers. As well, with more than six million medically uninsured people, physician-assisted suicide may be considered “economically advisable.”

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