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LIFE DIGEST: Cardinal, speaker tangle over California assisted suicide bill; …

WASHINGTON (BP)–Two high-profile Roman Catholics in California are clashing over legislation that a bioethics specialist says would bar nursing homes from preventing physician-assisted suicides from occurring on their premises.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the country’s largest archdiocese in Los Angeles, rebuked California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez during an April 2 mass for his endorsement of the bill. The measure, Assembly Bill 374, is similar to an Oregon law that permits doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients.

“What really, really saddens me, and troubles me, and confuses me, is why Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has added his name as (a) sponsor to this legislation,” Mahony said at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, according to The Sacramento Bee.

“We should be troubled that Fabian Nunez, who has worshipped here in this cathedral as a Catholic, somehow has not understood and grasped the culture of life, but has allowed himself to get (swept) into this other direction, the culture of death.”

A spokesman for Nunez, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said the Assembly speaker respected Mahony’s position but disagrees with it. “This is another issue of individual choice where the overwhelming majority of Catholics have a different perspective than the official position of the church,” Steve Maviglio, Nunez’s deputy chief of staff, said in a written statement, according to The Bee.

Mahony urged Catholics to ask their legislators to oppose the measure, which was approved by the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee in late March.

Unlike the Oregon law, the California bill would not enable nursing homes, hospices or other institutions to stop assisted suicides from occurring in their facilities, even if they have objections as religious organizations, bioethics specialist Wesley Smith said. Only acute care hospitals would be able to prevent the procedure, he said.

“We shouldn’t be surprised,” Smith wrote Feb. 26 in the online edition of the journal First Things. “Assisted-suicide advocates are a voracious lot. They claim that their policy goals are modest, a mere tweaking, if you will, of medical ethics and protocols. Being zealots, however, they often try to sneak coercive provisions into their various legalization proposals. A.B. 374 … is an attempt to force most medical and nursing facilities to cooperate in the assisted-suicide regime.”

If the bill is enacted, “Catholic and other religiously oriented nursing homes will be forced to choose between shutting down, selling, or cooperating in assisted suicide,” said Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. “That this could cause untold misery for thousands of helpless sick and elderly people matters to its authors not a whit. The culture of death brooks no dissent.”

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has said he believes voters should make the decision on assisted suicide, but one news report indicated he has not ruled out signing the measure.

Like Oregon’s law, the California bill allows patients who are considered to be in the last six months of their lives to request prescriptions for drugs by which they can take their own lives.

Oregon, the only state to have legalized assisted suicide, has received reports of 292 people dying under the Death With Dignity Act that took effect in 1997.

NEW ULTRASOUND LAW — The number of states enabling abortion-minded women to see ultrasound images of their unborn babies continues to mount.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, signed into law March 27 a bill that requires doctors to offer ultrasound viewings to women before they have abortions. Idaho became the ninth state to enact such legislation. The other states are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

In addition, the Georgia House of Representatives approved similar legislation in March, while the South Carolina House also passed last month a bill that would require women to view ultrasounds of their babies before they have abortions.

Increasingly, crisis pregnancy centers in the United States are adding ultrasound machines to serve women considering abortion.

“Women deserve all of the facts about abortion, including its effects on their developing unborn children,” Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC’s state legislative director, said in a written release.

“If women are truly given all the facts about the effects of abortion and the development of their unborn child, they are far less likely to have an abortion. Ultrasound technology, which provides a remarkable window to the womb, is a wonderful tool that allows women to see their unborn children in real time.”

HIT ON UNBORN BLOCKED -– A Washington state teenager has been sentenced to six years in prison after confessing to seeking to hire a hit man to kill his unborn child by beating his pregnant former girlfriend.

Charles Young, 18, of Suncrest, Wash., pleaded guilty April 3 to solicitation to commit first-degree manslaughter, according to The Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Acting on a tip from a friend of Young, a Stevens County detective posed as a hit man, The Spokesman-Review reported. Young met the undercover detective in October and said he wanted him to beat his former girlfriend in order to kill the unborn baby. He said it did not matter if the child’s mother lived or died. Young was arrested when he provided about half of the agreed upon price of $3,250 for the hit.

After the sentencing, John Troberg, the county’s chief deputy prosecutor, told the newspaper Young “apologized to the girl, the girl’s family and his own family for everything he put them through.”

Bevan Maxey, Young’s lawyer, said, according to the newspaper, “Both families appear to be good people who unfortunately got caught in the middle of this horrendous event. Now, (Young) appreciates he is missing out on a wonderful opportunity in his life -– to enjoy this child.