Small bits of good news in evil times

By Cathy Keim

It is great to receive good news when the Maryland General Assembly is in session. Too often one opens the morning emails to find a call to arms to fight off the newest horror that our Delegates and Senators are perpetrating on us. So it was with great pleasure that I read this announcement from Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide:

We had to share this exciting news with you as soon as we could. Today, the physician assisted suicide bill, SB418, was withdrawn from consideration by its lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Ron Young. Sen. Young stated that he didn’t believe the bill had enough support in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee to pass, and he’d rather withdraw it than have it voted down.

This bill was cross-filed with HB404, sponsored by Delegate Shane Pendergrass, so there is still a small (but unlikely) possibility that it could proceed from the House side. Sadly, it can be assumed that the bill will be reintroduced again next year since the progressives never, never give up no matter how bad the idea.

In fact, the Washington Post reports that:

Kim Callinan, chief program officer for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, said her organization will continue to push for passage of such legislation in Maryland and elsewhere. “From our experience, it takes multiple times,” she said. “This is not uncommon.”

Compassion and Choices was formerly known as the Hemlock Society. You have to give the progressive groups credit for advancing their cause by changing their language to fit the times.

Nor was this their first bite at the apple. I covered the issue last year when it was called Death with Dignity. This year they tweaked the bill and called it the End of Life Option Act. We will just have to wait and see what new name it appears under next year.

I took the time to watch the committee hearings for the House bill a couple of weeks ago and wanted to mention some thoughts I had on the newest attempt to push the Culture of Death in Maryland. First of all, the many citizens that came to testify against the bill were articulate, compassionate, and informed. They included doctors, nurses, pharmacists, caregivers, social workers, and family members.

Advocates for the disabled made a particularly poignant argument for not passing this bill because people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are already discriminated against by the quality of life argument.

“Not Dead Yet, The Resistance, is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination.” I found them while reading up on the issues. I do not know if they participated in the testimony at the Maryland hearings, but their website is a great resource for information and facts such as:

Although intractable pain has been emphasized as the primary reason for enacting assisted suicide laws, the top five reasons Oregon doctors actually report for issuing lethal prescriptions are the “loss of autonomy” (89.9%), “less able to engage in activities” (87.4%), “loss of dignity” (83.8%), “loss of control of bodily functions” (58.7%) and “feelings of being a burden”(38.3%). (Death With Dignity Act Annual Reports, PDF download) These are disability issues.

Many people are so afraid of being disabled that they would rather kill themselves than suffer the ignominy of being disabled. However, their demand for death puts all disabled people at risk. Once it is deemed acceptable to kill people to end their suffering – since poor quality of life is considered suffering – then all disabled people are one step closer to being denied care and the ultimate form of discrimination: euthanasia.

I have generally thought about life issues in term of Judeo-Christian ethics, which are more than sufficient for me to oppose abortion, suicide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. The concept of Imago Dei, that we are formed in the image of God, which gave us the basis for our Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our whole system of government based on the God-given rights of the individual, is what I base my principles on.

However, in this present age of post-Christian thought, it is not bad to have some principled arguments from others that come alongside the Church to make the stand for life to an unbelieving culture.

One moment of the testimony that I found revealing was when a physician who works with elderly patients and helped craft the Maryland patient rights law told the Delegates that HB404 was poorly crafted and would cause many problems legally and ethically if they passed it. The Delegate who was questioning him declared that they had taken a lot of time and care to write the bill. Despite his testimony pointing out flaws, she was unwilling to admit that there might be problems in the offing should the bill pass.

The hubris of this Delegate was a picture of what we are up against when our politicians get together for ninety days to wreak havoc on our state to please their advocacy groups. Their lack of understanding of the basic issues at hand is readily evident and their lack of concern for what the laws will unleash is disconcerting. Single party dominance of our state has not enhanced our legislative experiences.

The second piece of good news that I saw this week concerns SB868 which would require that all students have three doses of the HPV vaccine prior to entering ninth grade. Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, the sponsor, pulled the bill after receiving more information about the vaccine.

The American Academy of Pediatricians stated in January:

It has recently come to the attention of the College that one of the recommended vaccines could possibly be associated with the very rare but serious condition of premature ovarian failure (POF), also known as premature menopause.

They call for additional testing to be done to ensure the safety of the vaccine.

This bill is also cross filed with HB1178. I called Delegate Angela Angel’s office to inquire if she would pull her bill also. Her office responded that there was discussion between the bill sponsors to decide what to do. The hearing is currently scheduled for March 10, so we will have to continue to watch that bill.

Just a word on the inconsistencies of the human mind. It is in vogue to eat hormone free meat and to avoid all sorts of food that is deemed not healthy, but at the same time we push young women to be on hormonal birth control and try to mandate that all students be vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV).

No one questions whether it is healthy for our girls to be on hormonal birth control for years, but you won’t eat a chicken breast from a chicken that is fed hormones?

Furthermore, while HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that does cause cancer, young people can avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy by not having sex! Perhaps we need to spend more time teaching our youth about the dangers of promiscuous sex rather than subjecting them to hormone manipulation and vaccines which may cause premature menopause.

Editor’s note: In verifying the websites (as I always do to check the links) I read what Cathy sent and then found this from the Patients Rights Action Fund:

Maryland – This week assisted suicide proponents withdrew legislation noting to the Associated Press, “it became clear the measure did not have enough votes…” The bill author further mentioned that it is unlikely a new bill will be reintroduced next year due to the strong opposition. The Maryland Senate includes 35 Democrats and only 12 Republicans, and the House of Delegates holds 98 Democrats and 43 Republicans. (Emphasis mine.)

So we will see if they keep to their word or try it again under yet another name. They could also be saving it to make it an election-year issue in 2018.

The next step in the process

The half-decade or more process of securing a Board of Education in Wicomico County that’s directly elected by the people entered a new chapter late last week with the introduction of the appropriate legislation in the Maryland General Assembly. Senate Bill 145, with Senator Jim Mathias as lead sponsor and Addie Eckardt as co-sponsor, provides for the makeup of the board as well as a three-way referendum to be placed on this November’s ballot. It’s a relatively complex 16-page bill, subdivided into several sections because the sections which would actually become law are dependent on the results of the referendum.

To make a long story short, voters would face three choices in November, from which they can only select one:

  • FOR a Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor;
  • FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large;
  • FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members appointed by County Council.

The method with the most votes wins, regardless of whether it is a majority or plurality.

SB145 was assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee and given a relatively quick hearing date of Wednesday, January 27. The EHEA committee has 10 members and is led by Chair Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City and Vice-Chair Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County. Other Democratic members are Cheryl Kagan of Montgomery County, Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Baltimore County, Jim Rosapepe of Prince George’s County, and Ronald Young of Frederick County, while Republicans Gail Bates of Howard County, Johnny Ray Salling of Baltimore County, Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County, and Steve Waugh of Calvert County also sit on the committee.

At the present time it’s the smallest committee with just 10 members (and a slim 6-4 Democratic advantage) because there’s one vacancy in the Senate. At some point it’s presumed that a Montgomery County Democrat will join the committee to be its eleventh member, but the bill will likely have its hearing and committee vote by then. (Former District 14 Senator Karen Montgomery resigned as of January 1.)

An interesting note regarding the makeup of the committee is that Conway and Simonaire represent counties with appointed boards, while Pinsky, Nathan-Pulliam, Rosapepe, and Salling represent counties with hybrid boards. Moreover, none of these committee members represent the Eastern Shore. It’s worth noting as well that Conway was the chair of EHEA when Caroline County got its hybrid board. It was Senator Conway, who represents a district several counties and a completely different way of life away, that deemed that Caroline County didn’t have sufficient minority representation with a fully-elected board, so if the initial all-elected option is scrubbed for Wicomico it’s likely her doing. (This despite the fact we have one majority-minority County Council district and two others with significant minority populations, out of five.)

So the goal is to make sure this bill gets through without being tampered with, but that will be difficult since we don’t have a local representative on the board. And remember: last year when we had a bill for a hybrid board, their excuse for stopping it was that only one of the two Senators were supporting it. Now both are sponsors, and thanks to the public hearings we know that a lot of support was there for the all-elected option as one of three choices. Anything less is a disservice to the people of Wicomico County.