Whose life is it anyway?

By Patty Berg

Here’s an alarming little tidbit that should make you spill your latte all over the New York Times on the front seat of your Volvo:
The Religious Right is poised for a victory in Sacramento.
That’s right. With the help of conservative doctors and nervous politicians, the muscle and money behind the right-to-life movement is orchestrating an anti-choice victory on Death With Dignity in Sacramento.
Amazing as it may seem, the Right is just a few votes away from stopping a bill that has support of 70 percent of the state’s voters. We’re talking about the California Compassionate Choices Act, AB 374, which would give terminally ill patients the right to use medication to control their dying, just like the Death With Dignity Act allows Oregonians to make that choice.
If you think California should be immune to the anti-choice message, you’d be right. But that’s what makes this play so unnerving. Anti-choice organizers are keeping the zealots in the closet, and cloaking themselves as protectors of the underclass. In short, they’re using our progressive ideology against progressives.
They’ve managed to convince some Democrats who should know better that giving people a choice could end up hurting the poor. They’re trying to get good solid Demcrats to ignore the strong support of the ACLU, MALDEF, NOW, AFSCME, every major state Senior Citizen group and CAPG, the California Association of Physician Groups,one of the state’s largest physician organizations. Heck, the Speaker of the Assembly is one of the authors of the bill — when was the last time he did anything to hurt the poor?
They’re also using Astroturf politics, making something look like it’s a grass-roots movement when, in fact ,it’s being orchestrated by long-time campaign operatives. The Catholic Church hierarchy, in conjunction with a well-greased Republican machine, has unleashed a flood of e-mails, letters and phone calls, all designed to convince fence-sitting Democrats that there’s a price to pay at the polls for anyone who supports choice at the end of life.
Never mind that statewide polling consistently shows that 70 percent of California voters support choice at the end of life. Never mind that support among Democrats is closer to 80 percent. Never mind that the Democratic Caucus’ most trusted private pollster says there is no way anyone could be hurt politically by this vote – the anti-choice campaign is nonetheless gaining traction. We must stop this misleading campaign now!
We should know this week whether California is run by progressive thinkers, or whether a well-run conservative campaign can actually send progressives running. AB 374 should be heading toward a vote of the full Assembly in the next few days. We need your help right now!
Let’s insist that our end of life decisions belong to each of us, and not to strangers.
If you want to support AB 374 sign our action alert!.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg represents the 1st District, which includes a third of the California coast, from Bodega Bay to the Oregon Border. She is a joint author of AB 374.