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Some critics are calling social conservatives hypocrites for opposing Roe v. Wade and siding with the federal government in Gonzales v. Oregon, the assisted suicide case heard by the Supreme Court in October. You can't be for states' rights in one case and against them in the other. Or both for and against "judicial activism."

Though we often argue cases using political and legal reasoning, critics need to realize that these are not the central issues for us. We're against Oregon's law because it promotes taking human life, radically demeans personhood, and ultimately and idolatrously deconstructs the image of God that we as humans bear. And we need to be clear about that.

Political Problems


Let's look at the political argument first. Critics point out that Oregon's assisted suicide law was twice endorsed by voters in statewide referendums. When then-Attorney General John Ashcroft declared the use of federally controlled substances in assisted suicide a violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act and not a "legitimate medical purpose," he was violating principles of states' rights and democracy, they say.

The Wall Street Journal was among the critics. Roe v. Wade, it said in an editorial, "substituted the opinion of a handful of jurists for what would have been a contentious, but in the end healthier, open, and democratic debate over where to draw the line on the legality of abortion. … A finding for the attorney general in the Oregon case would repeat that mistake on the question of assisted suicide."

But a finding against Oregon would not be a blow against states' rights. As The Oregonian associate editor David Reinhard noted, "States' rights doesn't mean a state can take over or ignore an established area of ...

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In the Magazine

December 2005

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