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Court Defends Doctors’ Religious Liberty In Case Against CA Assisted Suicide Law

In a victory for religious liberty, a California court blocked the enforcement of an assisted suicide law that infringes upon the First Amendment and forces religious physicians to violate their deeply held beliefs.  

In October 2021, Gov. Newsom signed SB 380, which states that a doctor’s participation in assisted suicide remains “voluntary,” but requires physicians who refuse to participate to refer patients to someone who is willing to perform the procedure. 

“This bill would require a health care provider who is unable or unwilling to participate under the act to inform the individual seeking an aid-in-dying medication that they do not participate, document the date of the individual’s request and the provider’s notice of their objection, and transfer their relevant medical record upon request,” reads the bill.

In the original assisted suicide law passed in 2015,, doctors could opt out of participating in the practice and were not required to inform a patient about his or her “right” to assisted suicide or refer the patient to anyone who supported it.

In a lawsuit filled on behalf of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) and Dr. Leslee Cochrane, Alliance Defending Freedom argued that SB 380 defines “participation” so narrowly that it essentially compels participation. The bill mandates that doctors take certain statutorily required steps to help the patient undergo assisted suicide, and excludes those steps from its definition of “participation.” 

“Over 90% of CMDA members would rather stop practicing medicine than be forced to participate in assisted suicide or other practices in violation of their consciences…It forces religiously objecting California physicians, including CMDA members and Dr. Cochrane, to choose between abandoning their livelihoods or obeying government commands that violate their religious conscience and compel them to speak and act in ways that contravene their religious faith,” argued ADF.

Fortunately, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California blocked the enforcement of the law last Friday. ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot noted that the court’s ruling aligned with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, which clarified that First Amendment protections extend to religious medical professionals.

LifeSite News notes that this ruling represents a major victory for religious liberty and medical ethics, but the battle for physicians’ rights is still far from over. The Biden administration is attempting to roll back federal regulations that protect the conscience rights of professionals who do not want to participate in “abortion, sterilization, and certain other health services,” “assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing,” and for “managed care organizations with moral or religious objections to counseling or referral for certain services.” 

At the core of human dignity is one’s ability to live in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.

No American should have to choose between their job and their moral convictions. They should neither have to participate in a practice or help a patient obtain an immoral treatment in any way. Thankfully, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California agrees. Now it’s time to elect leaders throughout California who will fight for conscience rights and stand up against the Biden administration’s gross overreach of power.

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