Casey at the Bar

Last week I told BreakPoint listeners about the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to overturn Washington State’s ban on assisted suicide. Well, since then I've had a chance to read the entire 109-page decision and I'm horrified. This decision not only provides a license for assisted suicide, but opens the floodgates to euthanasia as well. This is the most far-reaching and dangerous decision any American court has ever rendered. It was written by Judge Steven Reinhardt, a long-time liberal activist and champion of homosexual rights. Reinhardt claims that his decision is providing for assisted suicide as a constitutional right. But in fact it does much more. It gives third parties the right to end other people’s lives. For example, if you happen to be comatose and can't tell the doctor that you want him to give you a lethal injection, your relatives can do it for you. If your relatives aren't around, maybe an intern can make the decision. Or perhaps the person signing your "suicide request" will be a hospital accountant who decides that keeping you alive is just too expensive. Clearly, this case isn't about "compassion in dying." It's about actively killing other people. And it doesn’t stop there. Judge Reinhardt reviewed all the Supreme Court's decisions involving the defense of individual liberty. And then strangely, or so it seems, Judge Rinehardt pointed out that the Supreme Court ruling of Bowers v. Hardwicke was an exception to a long string of decisions supporting individual liberty. But Bowers had nothing to do with assisted suicide. It was a decision upholding Georgia's statute prohibiting sodomy. Now, why in the world would Judge Reinhardt make a point of stating that the Supreme Court was in effect wrong on Georgia’s sodomy law? I think he was setting up the Supreme Court. Judge Reinhardt was daring the Supreme Court to decide in favor of assisted suicide, and at the same time legalize sodomy. If the Supreme Court now upholds the Compassion in Dying decision, the door will be opened to strike down any state statutes that restrict the rights of homosexuals. In one breath-taking move, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has opened the floodgates. The Supreme Court will doubtless uphold Judge Reinhardt’s decision, because he based it entirely upon the language of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. At the same time, it will make euthanasia practically feasible and legally defensible. And it will undoubtedly force the court to recognize gay marriages. As Catholic University philosopher Russell Hittinger argues, this decision will make it impossible for moral conservatives to win any future cultural cases before the Supreme Court. When the Casey decision was originally handed down, most Christians didn't see that something much greater than abortion was at stake. But it's now obvious that the Casey abortion decision was used to pry the door open. If the Supreme Court upholds Judge Reinhardt's decision, it will represent the triumph of moral autonomy over moral virtue, and will signal the death knell of the rule of law as we know it. And then Christians will have to soberly reassess their role in a culture that has become lawless.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary