The Maryland Catholic Conference is urging Catholics throughout the state to call their legislators and voice their opposition to the “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End-of-Life Option Act,” which is expected to be voted on by the House Health and Government Operations Committee and the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, March 1. If the bill passes out of the committee vote, the Maryland Catholic Conference believes it is likely to pass in the entire House of Delegates.

The End-of-Life Option Act (House Bill 399) would make it legal for adults deemed mentally capable and who have a prognosis of six months or less to receive a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs to end their life. While proponents of the bill have called it a compassionate way to end someone’s suffering, opponents of the bill have many concerns, such as the bill’s disregard for the dignity of life, the establishment of suicide a societal norm, the potential for the lethal drugs to be disposed of improperly, and the possibility of vulnerable people to be coerced into taking their own life.

In their written testimony in opposition to the bill, the Maryland Catholic Conference wrote, “we wish to convey our deep dismay about the message this legislation sends to those who might feel that their illness and the care they require is nothing more than a burden to their families and the rest of society.”

“At the heart of our ministry to the sick, the disabled, the elderly, and those without access to adequate medical care is recognition of the Gospel call to embrace the lives of those most in need of our love, care, and compassion,” they wrote. “There is no life that we consider not worth living, no person who does not deserve to be valued.  While some may view this legislation as a response to the understandable fears about pain and loss of ‘dignity’ that someone diagnosed with a terminal illness might face, we insist firmly that the answer to those fears should be a demand for medical treatment that provides adequate pain management and excellent palliative or hospice care.”

This vote comes just days after Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch announced he would withdraw his proposed legislation to allow voters in 2020 to decide whether or not to add an amendment to the Maryland state constitution enshrining the right to an abortion. This was a victory for pro-life Marylanders, but according to the Washington Post, Busch still hopes the proposed amendment will make it onto the ballot in 2020.

The state of Maryland already has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the country, which opponents of Busch’s bill cited as a reason why passing a constitutional amendment is unnecessary. Under Maryland’s current law, women are allowed to seek abortions if a fetus is not viable outside of the womb. Even after that point, a woman may choose to have an abortion if the fetus has a “genetic defect or serious anomaly” or to “to protect the life or health of the woman," which is the same language used in the recent controversial abortion bill passed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Washington Post also reported that a large part of the reason for the bill’s withdrawal is a lack of support from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Catholic Democrat serving District 27 who has been Maryland's State Senate president for 33 years.

Catholics who wish to stay up to date with news from the Maryland General Assembly can sign up for the Maryland Catholic Conference's Catholic Advocacy Network. A list of legislators to call in regards to the End-of-Life Option Act can be found here.