Pubdate: Sun, 22 Jan 2006
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.


Would someone please tell the Bush administration that conservatives
believe in states' rights and minimal government intrusion into the
personal lives of the citizens?

The Supreme Court, with a 6-3 majority, told the administration as
much Tuesday, but it isn't clear that anyone was listening.

The high court ruled that, under current law, assisted suicide is a
matter between a citizen and his doctor, and one best regulated by
state government. No constitutional or federal statutory authority
existed in 2001 for Bush's attorney general, or any other federal
agency, to get involved.

At issue was the Oregon assisted-suicide law that has twice been
approved by Oregon voters. But that was not enough for former Attorney
General John Ashcroft. He tried to stop the practice, citing federal
laws written for entirely different purposes. When he stuck his nose
into Oregon's business, the federal courts at every level said he had
no right to do so. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority,
reaffirmed that Ashcroft acted as a lone ranger, without authority and
outside of his own expertise, on the matter.

That doesn't close the matter, however. The Supreme Court decision
left wide open the possibility that Congress could amend the law that
Ashcroft tried to use to stop Oregonians from practicing assisted
suicide. Or, Congress could come right out and pass a law banning the
practice. Both options proceed on the assumption, however, that the
currently rudderless Congress could pass any law.

For a supposedly conservative president, Bush has been very willing to
interfere with states' rights when it comes to matters of life and
death. In the Terri Schiavo case last year, Bush interfered with
Florida's prerogatives. In this case, he's doing the same thing. The
Republican Congress went along with the president last year, playing
to the religious right. But, in the process, both the Congress and the
president got slapped with a great deal of negative public reaction.
The American people obviously prefer that issues such as the end of
life support, or doctor-assisted suicide, be decided by families and
doctors - not politicians.

This is, of course, one more instance of the religious right trying to
push its views down the throats of the rest of America. It's no
different from its stands on abortion and the teaching of intelligent
design and creationism in the public schools. But this time, the
Supreme Court stood up for the rest of Americans who say they want the
federal government to stay out of personal matters of life and death.

As the administration licks its wounds from the high court's rebuff,
the far right is no doubt looking for a new approach to stymie the
will of Oregon voters. Let's hope that Bush and congressional leaders
remember that conservatives believe in individual choice and states'
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin