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Physician-Assisted Suicide, Catholic Advocacy Day

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March 27, 2015

Emotional Testimony, Not Facts, Propels Passage of Assisted Suicide Bill in Senate Committee

On March 25, in a packed hearing room at the state Capitol, the Senate Health Committee voted 6 to 2 in favor of SB 128, California’s doctor-prescribed suicide bill. Democrats voted in favor, with the two Republicans opposed. Senator Richard Pan, a Democrat from Sacramento and a physician, abstained. 

"Today's action by the Senate Health Committee to advance SB 128 is sad and disappointing,” said Edward “Ned” Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.

"We understand and share the concern for the dying expressed at today's hearing,” he said.  “It is a natural impulse for human beings.  But when someone asks for assistance in killing themselves, it is really a call for help, care and compassion during the dying process.  California law already allows for patients to refuse extraordinary care, but that is a far cry from aiding a patient in actively ending his or her life.” (Read the full statement here.)

The vote followed well-orchestrated, emotionally charged testimony on behalf of the bill organized by Compassion and Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, the national organization promoting assisted suicide. Hundreds of people attended to voice their opinion, both for and against the measure.

SB 128, the End of Life Option Act would allow mentally competent adults, who have a terminal illness and less than six months to live, to request a lethal prescription to end their lives. The bill was introduced by Senators Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Bill Monning (D-Carmel). 

The hearing began with testimony from Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Bay Area woman with terminal brain cancer, who moved to Oregon, which allows assisted suicide, to take medications to help her die.

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Catholic Advocacy Day 2015

On April 28 more than a hundred Catholic delegates from around the state will gather at the Capitol to advocate for a variety of bills that promote life, support families and better their communities. The annual event will highlight specific bills that include: tax credits for teachers and lower income families, enacting an earned income tax credit to reduce poverty, limiting solitary confinement for juveniles, raising the minimum wage and strong opposition to doctor-prescribed suicide.

Statewide measures meet two criteria for selection; they reflect Catholic principles and the likelihood of advancement through the legislative process.  Delegates may also add local issues to discuss with their lawmakers.

Delegates are currently being trained and briefed in each diocese in preparation for their meetings with legislators during Catholic Advocacy Day.

For more information on the bills, please visit our Catholic Day Advocacy 2015 page or contact your local social action director and learn more about how you can become involved.

Court to Rule on Little Sisters of the Poor’s Fight Against Contraception Mandate

A case that could impact Catholic and other religious institutions and non-profit organizations in California and throughout the country is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver.  Oral arguments were heard on Dec. 8, 2014.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, who serve the elderly and dying, is suing the Obama administration over the U.S. Department. of Health and Human Services contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.  The mandate requires employer health insurance plans to provide free access to all FDA-approved contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization – practices that violate the sisters’ religious beliefs. 

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court granted an injunction halting implementation of the mandate against the Little Sisters pending appeal.

The Little Sisters run homes for the elderly and dying in 31 countries, including 30 in the U.S., such as St. Anne’s Home in San Francisco and the Jeanne Jugan Residence in San Pedro.  The order has operated in the U.S. for more than a century. 

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Public Policy Insights will not be published next week, April 3, because it is Good Friday.  Have a spirit-filled and blessed Easter.  Thank you for all you do to promote life and dignity in California.

The California State Legislature is in recess beginning today.  Lawmakers will return on Monday, April 6, when the number of bills – and Action Alerts – will start to increase dramatically.

March 27, 2015, Vol. 8, No. 13, En Español