LIFE DIGEST: Calif. opens back door to assisted suicide, critics say; ...

WASHINGTON (BP)--Supporters of physician-assisted suicide may have found a roundabout way to legalize the procedure in another state.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, signed into law a measure that requires doctors and other health-care providers to give patients with a terminal illness, or who are believed to have a year or less to live, information about "legal end-of-life options" at the patients' request, according to Cybercast News Service (CNS). Under the law, doctors must tell such patients about "withholding or withdrawal" of even food and water, CNS reported.

The new law is "a backdoor way" of legalizing assisted suicide in the state, said Randy Thomasson, president of the Sacramento-based Campaign for Children and Families, according to CNS. Terminally ill patients could be sedated into unconsciousness and die from dehydration several days later, he said.

Kathi Hamlon of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide said she believes the goal of the legislation is "to push the assisted suicide agenda."

"Now what will happen is that after this bill is established as practice in California, [organizations supporting assisted suicide] will argue, 'Hey look, it's far more humane to do what Oregon does instead of having to wait 12 to 16 days watching a loved one suffer without food and water. It's far more humane to offer them a legal prescription,'" Hamlon said after the bill was signed Sept. 30, CNS reported.

Oregon is the only state that has legalized physician-assisted suicide. That state's law permits doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminal patients. Oregon has recorded 341 deaths by assisted suicide since its Death With Dignity Act took effect in late 1997.

Voters in the state of Washington will consider an Oregon-like assisted-suicide initiative on the ballot Nov. 4.

PARENTAL LAWS SHRINK ABORTIONS -- State parental involvement laws have played a significant role in a nearly 50 percent decline in abortions on underage girls, according to a new study.

The analysis of abortion information for minors shows the abortion rate shrinks by an average of 13.6 percent when a state approves a law requiring parental notification or consent before a female under 18 may undergo the procedure.

The rate falls even more dramatically when the law is more protective in its requirements, the study found. If a state requires parental consent, the abortion rate falls by about 19 percent. If a state mandates the involvement of both parents instead of just one, the rate declines by about 31 percent.

Michael New, the study's author and a professor at the University of Alabama, said, "The overwhelming evidence in support of parental involvement laws should be a boon to legislators everywhere."

The study was done with abortion data from nearly all 50 states from 1985 to 1999.

ABORTION THREATENS RUSSIA -- More than 64 percent of all pregnancies in Russia result in abortion, and that astonishing rate reportedly is behind the growing infertility among women of the former communist country.

The number of infertile Russian women is increasing by 200,000 to 250,000 every year, with complications from abortion the primary cause, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology said Sept. 29, according to The St. Petersburg (Russia) Times. Marina Tarasova, deputy head of the St. Petersburg Research Institute for Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said there were more than 5.5 million Russian couples who were infertile at the end of 2007.

Russian citizens may receive abortions without charge at government-sponsored clinics, The Times reported. It has been recommended that abortions be made costly to obtain in order to reduce the rate.

The staggering rate of abortion brings into question the future of Russia, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"What country can live with aborting 64 percent of its babies? How can such a nation survive?" Mohler wrote in his weblog Oct. 6.

"Once a nation takes the Culture of Death into its heart, what rescue is possible?"

SILENT PROTEST SET -- Hundreds of thousands of students in the United States and other countries are expected to fulfill a vow of silence Oct. 21 in solidarity with the victims of abortion.

On that date, the Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity will be observed for the fifth year. Students will wear red duct tape on their mouths and/or red armbands. They will have informational handouts available to give those who ask about their actions.

Last year, students on more than 4,600 campuses in 19 countries took part in the event, according to Stand True Ministries, which sponsors the annual protest.

"The students are speaking loud and clear; they want an end to legalized child killing," Stand True President Bryan Kemper said in a written release.

Information on the event is available online at www.silentday.org.

STERILIZATION PROPOSAL DECRIED -- Louisiana Rep. John LaBruzzo, R.-Metairie, received an onslaught of criticism for seeking to address the problem of "generational welfare" by recommending poor women be paid $1,000 apiece to undergo sterilizations voluntarily, Cybercast News Service (CNS) reported Oct. 6.

Alveda King, niece of the late Martin Luther King Jr. and a spokeswoman for Priests for Life, was among those who decried the state lawmaker's proposal as a form of eugenics.

"Sterilizing the poor is fighting economic poverty with moral bankruptcy," King, a post-abortive woman, said in a written statement.

BILL WOULD BAN ABORTIONS BY RACE, SEX -– U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., has introduced legislation to prevent abortions based on race and sex.

The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, H.R. 7016, would outlaw the performance of race- and sex-based abortions, coercion to produce such procedures and the acceptance of funds to underwrite such abortions. The punishment would be a maximum of five years in prison, plus a possible fine.


Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.

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