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Celsius 179?

Fri 11 Nov 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

As I predicted, the euthanasia debate is fast overtaking LGBTI concerns as the other pole of Christian Right activism when it comes to their equally vehement opposition to abortion. What is generating this? As might be obvious, the euthanasia debate has become considerably more high profile over the last year or so. As a consequence, Right to Life New Zealand, Family Life International and Family First have all had to spend increased amounts of activist time trying to forestall the introduction of euthanasia 'reform' into New Zealand. If they thought that that situation would cool down after the tragic death of Lecretia Seales last year, that plainly has not happened. Instead, ACT MP David Seymour has placed an End of Life Choices Bill in the private members bill box ballot, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society has circulated a nine thousand member petition and the Health Select Committee is hearing submissions on the subject of assisted dying. The situation is such that some members of the anti-euthanasia movement are impatient with what they see as useless, diversionary and peripheral issues, which may include any further opposition to LGBT rights. The Care Alliance, Maxim Institute and Euthanasia-Free New Zealand are all focused on that single issue, possibly for that reason. Amongst some anti-euthanasia activists, there is some feeling that 'broad spectrum' New Zealand Christian Right groups have 'neglected' the issue of voluntary euthanasia/physician assisted suicide and may 'still' be doing so. This may be why Family First has broken off its own anti-LGBTI 'news' coverage and is concentrating attention on anti-euthanasia content. Even Bob McCoskrie seems to have finally gotten the message. Meanwhile, back at the legislative and judicial arena, the temperature has risen somewhat after the New Zealand Police visited the homes of several activists from EXIT, a more radical anti-euthanasia group which advocates taking the means of death into one's own hands, and importing Nembutal from either Mexico or the United States to stockpile in case of a threatening incapacitating or severe medical condition which impairs their independence. The elderly women involved were subjected to police visitation because they might have been importing drugs (ie Nembutal) illlegally, although news reports seem to indicate that the Police were under the erroneous impression that suicide was illegal in New Zealand. That has not been the case since the early sixties. While Section 179 of the Crimes Act 1961 does not prohibit someone from taking their own life, it does prevent other individuals from assisting, aiding or abetting suicide. It is understood that one of the elderly women is now in custody. There are predictable responses from either side of the debate. Family First and Right to Life New Zealand congratulated the New Zealand Police for exercising their moral imperative and duty to prevent suicide in this context through confiscating the Nembutal drug cache. However, the single-issue Maxim Institute, Nathaniel Centre, Care Alliance and Euthanasia-Free New Zealand kept silent and did not issue media releases. This may be because they are concerned that the possible trial of the possible Nembutal recipient may end up turning the woman at the centre of the trial into a 'martyr' for the pro-euthanasia cause. The pro-euthanasia movement has also declared its outrage at what happened to its members, given the deceptive nature of police surveillance and the claimed chilling effect on civil liberties and free speech that the police raid on EXIT members homes has had. It may have resulted in galvanised backlash against the anti-euthanasia cause and may ironically end up assisting mass mobilisation against Section 179. This heavy handed act of authoritarian moralism is reminiscent of the human rights and civil liberties nadir of the Muldoon era in New Zealand, they argue. One clear sign that the religious social conservative arguments against assisted suicide arenotworking comes from the Proposition 106 assisted suicide referendum result in Colorado. Proposition 106 was a referendum intended to introduce assisted suicide within the state. Colorado is the headquarters of several major US Christian Right pressure groups, and some observers may have assumed that it would therefore vote down efforts to decriminalise physician assisted suicide. As it turned out, that wasn't the case at all. Proposition 106 passed with two-thirds of state referendum voter support, not exactly a close margin. Of course, not all opponents of assisted suicide use overtly religious arguments against it- the Nathaniel Centre and Care Alliance don't, but then they're single-issue, focused anti-euthanasia groups. Disability rights groups also have distinctive anti-euthanasia arguments that situate the push for assisted suicide in the context of rightist neoliberal attacks on "dependency," the comprehensive welfare state and social citizenship, attacking the basis of interdependency that enables their full citizenship and social participation. It is no accident that amidst a neoliberal ideological ascendancy, assisted suicide should have become such a prominent issue, they argue. (Several medicinal and recreational cannabis referenda also passed in California, Nevada and Massachusetts.) The issue isn't going away, either. South Australia is about to debate its own euthanasia law reform bill, with bipartisan support from legislators and party leaders. Even the Turnbull administration has stated that unlike the subordinate Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, whose legislation can be vetoed by the federal Coalition, state assisted suicide legislation would be a matter for its own legislature. It would therefore do nothing to halt such legislation. For the New Zealand Christian Right, the choice is starkly clear. Either it risks inadequate preparation against assisted suicide supporters and mobilisation on an issue it has 'neglected' and pays the price against a galvanised, unified and determined euthanasia 'reform' movement, or it continues its futile chase against LGBTI rights- and continues to lose against us, because we are forewarned and ready for them. What happened in Colorado should serve as a wake-up call for them. Recommended: Voluntary Euthanasia Society: End of Life Choices Bill:http://www.endoflifechoices. Blair Miller: "Colorado voters approve Proposition 106, right to die ballot measure"Denver Channel: 08.11.2016:http://www. local-news/colorado-voters- approve-proposition-106-right- to-die-ballot-measure "South Australia poised to consider euthanasia bill"SBS News: 16.10.2016: 16/sa-poised-consider- euthanasia-bill Craig Young - 11th November 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 11th November 2016 - 2:01pm

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