LOS ANGELES — The California Legislature has abandoned efforts to pass a measure that would legalize physician-assisted suicide — for now.
Sponsors of S.B. 128 said on July 7 that they didn’t have the votes to pass the bill out of the Assembly Health Committee. Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a broad coalition of disability-rights groups, physicians, palliative and hospice-care agencies, as well as the California Catholic Conference, has strongly opposed the measure.
“We are very pleased at the outcome and grateful for the hard work done by the assembled coalition at Californians Against Assisted Suicide,” said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.
“The physicians, health-care workers, disabled advocates, religious groups and others who came together to oppose the bill were key to the success of the campaign, and we are proud to have played a role in that long-standing coalition,” he said.
Andrew Rivas, director of government and community relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Archbishop José Gomez’s letter to members of the state legislature changed a lot of minds.
“It was very pastoral and very compelling,” Rivas said of the letter.
“Death will always be a mystery, and death will never be easy — for those who are dying or for those who love them. But we can make death less painful, less frightening, and we can even make it a time of beauty, mercy and reconciliation,” the archbishop wrote.
“Once we start down this path — once we establish in law that some lives are not as valuable as others, not worth ‘paying for’ — there will be no turning back. The logic of doctor-assisted suicide does not stop with the terminally ill.”
Many faith leaders — including Rev. Charles Blake, the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, a 6-million member, predominantly African-American denomination in the Pentecostal-Holiness tradition — rallied against S.B. 128.
Assisted suicide has been passed in three states: Oregon, Washington and Vermont. In 2015, assisted-suicide legislation was defeated in several states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, Maine, Delaware and Nevada. Similar legislation is currently stalled in New York and New Jersey.
If the measure fails in January, Rivas expects it to come back as a voter initiative in 2016.
“It was pulled so that it wouldn’t lose,” he explained. “It will be back in January. We need to continue to educate people about what we know is bad for the poor and the community.”