Assisted suicide: next frontier for U.S. Supreme Court
by Kathy Ostrowski
Kansas pro-lifers have become acutely aware of how legislation they support is under threat from courts acting like legislatures. Kansas has a host of excellent pro-life laws (see here) and that includes assisted suicide as a felony crime.
In the National Right to Life News Today, the role of the 2016 elections and the next nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is examined with respect to assisted suicide and even, involuntary euthanasia. Jennifer Popik, J.D. and Burke Balch, J.D. are the experts at the National Right to Life’s medical ethics division and they have authored a sobering look at the issue. Here are some excerpts:
-While the Supreme Court does indeed exercise judicial functions in a number of cases with low-ideological content – settling contract and patent issues, for example—when it comes to making “constitutional” rulings the body has gradually come to act more and more like a “Supreme Legislature.”
-Whereas in past decades presidential candidates often eschewed so-called “litmus tests” [for the U.S. Supreme Court] for how their appointees would vote on specific issues, instead talking generally about “judicial philosophy,” today those in both parties talk openly about a laundry list of positions anyone they’d nominate would have to take.
-For example, it is clear as daylight that if the Scalia vacancy is filled by a President Obama, Clinton or Sanders, there will be five votes on the 9-member body to strike down essentially all limits on or regulations of abortion, ranging from the Hyde Amendment through informed consent and parental involvement laws to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg contends that any law touching abortion differently than, say, prostate surgery invalidly constitutes “sex discrimination.”
-Less widely discussed is that the issue of assisting suicide will almost inevitably again come before the High Court. So while you might not live in one of the states where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, if more states join the ranks of California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont—and above all if 2016 sees the election of a president and Senate likely to use the next Supreme Court vacancy to nominate and confirm a justice sympathetic to euthanasia –there is the real risk the U.S. Supreme Court might well follow the Supreme Court of Canada recent decision holding there is a federal constitutional right to assist suicide.
-Whether in one sweeping decision or through a carefully paced step-by-step series, an ideologically committed Supreme Court majority might well echo the Canadian court in ultimately stripping states of their legislative discretion.They would no longer be able to protect those with Alzheimer’s disease or other judgment-impairing mental disabilities from being killed at the direction of their relatives, guardians, or perhaps “ethics committees” at health care facilities presently often empowered to cut off treatment and assisted feeding for those under their care who have no one to speak for them.”