Mark Rienzi spoke to the conference via video about McCullen v. Coakley, a case that challenges the 2007 Massachusetts law that requires a thirty-five foot Buffer Zone around abortion facilities. Even though no violent acts had been committed recently at these facilities, the new 2007 law was an "unprecedented" attempt to regulate peaceful speech and a "giant step" away from equal treatment under the law for types of speech. The law exempts pro-aborts from speech restrictions; Planned Parenthood workers may approach women contemplating abortion, pro-lifers may not.
Professor Rienzi asked that if you have experiences witnessing at abortion facilities that you would be willing to talk about, please contact Executive Director Marie Sturgis, who will in turn contact him. Her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dean John Garvey, of the Boston College Law School, said the debate about conscience clause protections is a sign of how much society has changed since 1973. Instead of fighting about whether or not secular hospitals should provide abortions, now the argument is about whether Catholic hospitals, doctors and nurses can be forced to participate in abortions. Court cases have told religious groups to go to legislatures and get exceptions to these laws.
Treatment - The Church agrees with science that pregnancy begins at conception. But in 1969, the American College of Obstetricians/Gynecologists (ACOG) redefined pregnancy as beginning at implantation. Emergency contraception such as Plan B, can act as an abortifacient depending on when (in a woman's menstrual cycle) it's given. In 2005, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law saying that all hospitals must give Plan B.
Advice/Counseling - Doctors advice will differ on whether they consider abortion to be immoral or not. Does a Catholic doctor have to inform a patient that abortion is an option in a difficult pregnancy? The Patient's Bill of Rights says that a patient has a right to informed consent. Common law says that malpractice is negligence about an accepted standard of care. ACOG says that telling women about abortion is accepted standard of care. Catholics will be liable. Catholic hospitals and doctors must comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs).
Currently, Catholic hospitals are exempted under Massachusetts law, but it's unclear whether medical personnel are liable under state law, though they are protected under federal law.
The 2004, Weldon Act (conscience clause), says that states can't get money from Health and Human Services (HHS) if they discriminate against Catholic hospitals, doctors and nurses who won't perform abortions. But are doctors obliged by Massachusetts law to counsel women about abortion options?
The Obama administration has been "thinking" about withdrawing conscience clause protections, but they have not acted yet.
Don Feder said two movies, the Demographic Bomb and Demographic Winter, show why declining birth rates are a pro-life issue. The future of humanity is in doubt.
"Demographic winter is the culmination of societal acceptance of several very bad ideas, ideas which result in pernicious policies, leading to barren wombs and empty cradles.
"There are 6 million fewer children worldwide under the age of 6 than there were in 1990. The UN says by 2050 there will be 248 million fewer children under the age of 5 than there are today.
Why are children disappearing? Ultimately, it's a loss of faith connected with birth rates. Church attendees have more children because they have faith in the future. Traditional religion teaches the centrality of the family, importance of children (procreation is a commandment), supports parental responsibility and authority, all contrary to the ethic of our age
Pat Stewart's book, The Health Care Decision Guide for Catholics, was given to all Conference participants. "A faith-based decision about whether to begin a proposed treatment or to continue treatment that is in progress depends on whether the treatment is reasonable in the circumstances of each case.
To determine the reasonableness of a medical treatment for yourself or someone else, start with the general decision making standards: Who is the patient? What is the medical treatment? What is the expected result? How will the treatment affect the patient and the patient's family?
"Those promoting assisted suicide promised Oregon voters
that it would be used only for extreme pain and suffering.
Yet there has been no documented case of assisted suicide
being used for untreatable pain."
-Dr. Greg Hamilton, Portland psychiatrist
In early spring, Massachusetts residents in Cape Cod and the western part of the state started receiving telephone calls asking for their opinion on "death with dignity." It turned out that Massachusetts residents were being targeted for polling purposes. The Death with Dignity National Center was looking to identify the state most likely to pass a ballot initiative in 2012 to legalize assisted suicide.
A few years earlier, Compassion and Choices and the DDNC identified Washington State by using the same polling strategy. Washington State legalized physician assisted suicide by referendum in 2008.
The Law Worldwide Dan Avila, Associate Director for Policy and Research for the Mass. Catholic Conference, addressed the topic of assisted suicide at the recent MCFL Conference, "Where Do We Go from Here? Worldwide, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg all recognize legalized killing, direct killing as well as assisted suicide. A doctor can provide a lethal injection or give medication for the person to kill himself.
Avila noted a new approach in the courts toward the practice of assisted suicide. In Switzerland, since 1949, prosecutors have been told that they didn't have to prosecute murders if someone killed for "unselfish motives," if the request came from an individual helper with nothing to gain.
In the 1980s and 90s, the organizations Exit and Dignitas increased the number of people wanting to find persons to help them kill themselves. They have helped organize "suicide tours" from Great Britain to the Netherlands and Switzerland.
"In Great Britain, physician assisted suicide (PAS) is illegal but it's up to the prosecutor to decide if he's going to prosecute or not," said Avila. "It's still against the law, but they're not going to go after everybody."
The Law in the United States Referenda to legalize physician assisted suicide were passed in Oregon (1997) and in Washington (2008). In Montana, a district court determined that doctors may assist in suicide and be protected from liability. In 2009, Supreme Court asked to constitutionalize PAS. The court looked at the Montana statues and found in them a right for individuals to help assist in a suicide as long as the person who requested it consented. Using the language from living wills and advance directive law, they found no prohibition in the statutes as currently written. Assisting in a suicide is still a crime, but consent could be raised as a defense.
Massachusetts Although Massachusetts has no statute that prohibits assisted suicide, a series of court cases establishes "common law," where judges have the power to create crimes that the legislature has not. The Courts have issued numerous rulings that assisting in a suicide is a crime. "It is a crime for doctors to assist in a suicide, but it's hard to create a statute for this in Massachusetts right now", said Avila.
In 1996 there was a full scale effort to bring PAS to Massachusetts. After a referendum in Maine was defeated, the pressure in Massachusetts abated until recently.
House Bill 1468, "An Act Relative to Death with Dignity," was filed by Rep. Louis Kafka (D-Sharon) in October 2009 by the request of Albert Lipkind. In Massachusetts, a person can ask a legislator to file a bill on his behalf. Known as "by request" bills, these bills usually go nowhere. A bill lacking a legislator's support has little chance of success. However, Rep. Kafka has said that he was "inspired" by Mr. Lipkind's example and intends to fully support the bill.