The Medical Aid in Dying bill (HB 5898) once again didn’t make it out of committee this year. Be that as it may, I was appalled to learn from State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, quoted in this publication that, “strongly held” religious beliefs among lawmakers, coupled with concerns from people with disabilities, prevented the bill from advancing to the House floor.”
Let’s be frank and parse these out. How dare any state legislator push their “strongly held” religious beliefs on anyone in Connecticut by using it to decide legislative or policy issues? This is not Mississippi. A national poll in 2016 by PEW Research found that Connecticut is the 47th most religious state in the country. That puts us damn near the bottom (pun intended). And in 2018, GALLUP found that Connecticut is 42 percent non-religious, far above the 35 percent that claim to be Catholic. The remainder of Connecticut is a smattering of Protestant, Mormon, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Unitarian, etc.
Again, I ask how dare any state legislator use their singular strongly held religious belief to impose their will on the people of Connecticut who by a clear two-to-one margin want this legislation?
Speaking of Catholics, news story after news story has come out about how the Catholic Church is a global pedophile ring spending nearly $4 billion of its tax-free tithes on payments to its victims. As such, it has given up its claim to be the moral arbiter in any social debate and should have zero influence over this topic or any substantive policy debate from here on out. In any case at all, religion has no right to impose its views on others who don’t follow that religion.
Switching to the disability rights community’s argument, it has always been one of fear and misinformation. The fear is understandable. The misinformation is unforgivable. However, in no other state where Medical Aid in Dying is legal, have any of the potential horror stories they use to sway committee votes come true. Medical Aid in Dying is legal in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Colorado, Vermont, and Washington D.C. with a combined population of nearly 61 million people. If the disabled were being systematically killed off, don’t you think we would have heard about it by now?
Finally, in years past, there was one other group opposed to Medical Aid in Dying in Connecticut and that was the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS). But as intelligent people are oft to do when confronted with new information, they changed their “minds.” After much considered debate late last year, the CSMS changed its official stance from “against” to “neutral”… signaling its members that they should consider Medical Aid in Dying as option for the treatment of suffering terminally ill patients.
In closing I would like to remind all state legislators that they should check their “strongly held religious beliefs” at the door of the CGA when they are performing their duties and as intelligent people, change their minds.
Patrick McCann is Chair of the Secular Coalition for Connecticut and Assistant State Director of the American Atheists.
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