Facing a lack of Assemblymember support for their physician-assisted
suicide bill, AB 654, co-authors Patty Berg (D-Eureka) and Lloyd Levine
(D-Van Nuys) pulled a parliamentary maneuver, postponing a vote until
later in the legislative session after the Senate has a chance to debate
and vote on the controversial measure opposed by a coalition of religious,
health care and disability rights groups.
“It’s a clear defeat for the bill’s supporters in the
Assembly,” said Tim Rosales, spokesperson for Californians Against
Assisted Suicide. He said there were fewer than 20 backers for the bill,
which required at least 41 votes to pass out of the Assembly.
“I suspect the Senate will have the same or even stronger reaction
than the Assembly,” said Rosales. “It’s a failed issue.”
He refuted recent assertions by Assemblymember Levine that the Catholic
Church is spending millions to defeat the measure and “throwing
lies and scare tactics.”
Rosales said such comments reflect religious intolerance as well as ignorance
of the diversity of opposition which includes over 24 disability rights
groups, 65 Latino organizations, the California Medical Association, and
the California Hospital Association. “They’re throwing spaghetti
at the wall to see what sticks,” Rosales commented.
Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the bishops’ California Catholic
Conference, said the bill’s Assembly vote postponement underscores
the fact that physician-assisted suicide is not acceptable to the general
public. “It’s an extreme proposal to honor the autonomous
wishes of a few people,” said Dolejsi. “We feel confident
we have the opportunity to defeat the bill in the Senate.”
He said coalition members will be lobbying Senators during the summer
before they cast votes on AB 654 later in the legislative session. Dolejsi
called Levine’s comment about the Church spending millions to defeat
AB 654 “a gross exaggeration” since he said expenditures so
far mainly involve paying a portion of CCC lobbyists’ salaries.