Monica Doumit: The year we must fight

A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in Ottawa, Ontario. Photo: CNS
A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in Ottawa, Ontario. Photo: CNS

We always expected that the push to legalise euthanasia would be back on the cards in the next New South Wales parliamentary term, but the threat just got a little greater with the announcement that Senator David Leyonhjelm will resign from federal parliament and seek election in the NSW Legislative Council.

In making the announcement, he said that he wanted to switch to state politics in order to focus on “nanny-state issues,” including assisted suicide.

Senator Leyonhjelm has long been an advocate of euthanasia and assisted suicide. If you remember, he was the Senator who last year introduced a bill into the Senate that would have paved the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide to be legalised in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

The announcement from Senator Leyonhjelm puts into focus just how important each and every vote in the Upper House of parliament is.

His federal bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate (on the Solemnity of the Assumption, no less. Don’t mess with the Blessed Mother!) by a vote of 36 votes to 34. Had just two senators have voted the other way, the outcome would have been much different.

Read related article: Euthanasia: Ripping the fabric of society apart

The close votes aren’t just a feature of the federal Senate.

You might remember that the last vote on euthanasia and assisted suicide in NSW happened in November 2017 on a bill introduced in the Upper House by Nationals MLC Trevor Khan.

The final vote was even closer, with 20 members voting against legalising euthanasia, and 19 in favour. If just one person had voted differently, the bill would have passed.

Every vote counts.

Putting the result into more practical terms, there are two members of the Christian Democratic Party in the Upper House of NSW, Rev. Fred Nile MLC and Paul Green MLC. If Senator Leyonhjelm was there instead of one of these two, then euthanasia would have gone through the Upper House.

I’ll write more about the importance of our Upper House vote in the NSW state election as it draws closer, but we can no longer afford to be complacent.

This year the euthanasia battle is set to rage in other states as well.

Western Australia will push to have euthanasia legalised, following an inquiry held last year that recommended it be done. Photo: Silverhorse/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Western Australia will push to have euthanasia legalised, following an inquiry held last year that recommended it be done. Photo: Silverhorse/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Looking elsewhere in Australia, we know that Victoria will become the first state to start killing the terminally ill, with laws passed last year set to take effect in June.

The government has now confirmed that it has been able to source the lethal drugs from Australia, circumventing any need to import prohibited substances into the country.

Western Australia will push to have euthanasia legalised, following an inquiry held last year that recommended it be done.

The Queensland government, fresh off decriminalising abortion in that state, has announced it will hold an inquiry into legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide as well.

And then, on New Year’s Eve, it was reported that Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman (who previously voted against euthanasia) is now open to it being introduced in the state. Reports also suggest that a private members’ bill will be introduced later this year.

One news outlet reporting on the developments in Tasmania labelled it ‘the Domino effect’ of the Victorian legislation. Now that Victoria has written and passed a law that is in a form that can easily be copied by other states, it could be that we go from one state with legalised euthanasia to five states this year.

That is, unless we fight back.

Read related article: Victoria votes to legalise euthanasia

The same news outlet that described the ‘domino effect’ of the Victorian legislation also quoted the architect of the Northern Territory’s euthanasia laws as saying that he was concerned that the Catholic Church will run an effective political campaign to stop the passage of euthanasia in other states.

Please God, I hope so. I hope his fears are realised, and that the Catholic Church continues to be known as the people who are standing in the way of state-sanctioned suicide. It would be a badge of honour for all of us, and a true act of service to our country.

So often, too often, it is said that the Catholic Church should stay out of issues like euthanasia because religion has no place in this debate. Those who argue this neglect that the Catholic Church is one of the largest providers of health care, particularly palliative care, and so our voice matters a great deal.

Let’s not be bullied into silence this year, and help prove the euthanasia activists right: the Catholic Church is the biggest obstacle to them getting their way.