Sacramento, Calif. — Expressing disappointment in a failed effort to secure enough signatures in a referendum attempt on California's physician-assisted suicide law, the president of the state's bishops' conference called for continued vigilance to protect the dignity of human life at all stages.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, in a statement issued Jan. 5, said that the bishops were heartened by the tens of thousands of Californians who "are demanding to have a voice in one of the most dangerous public policies ever enacted" in the state.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure legalizing physician-assisted suicide in October despite staunch opposition from doctors, religious leaders and advocates of disability rights.
At the time, Brown, who is Catholic, said he considered the theological and religious perspectives about the "deliberate shortening of one's life" and discussed the issue with a Catholic bishop, his own doctors, former classmates and friends before signing the legislation.
Facing a 90-day window, opponents of the law immediately set out on a referendum drive, but fell short of gaining the 365,880 signatures needed to place their proposal on the November 2016 ballot.
The California Catholic Conference offered its support for the campaign after it was announced in October.
Soto commended those who spearheaded the effort in the statement.
"Advocates for the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged, physicians and other health care providers as well as many others understand the long-term menace of this law. They already appreciate the sweeping societal implications and the fundamental rupture to the physician-patient relationship this new law will have," Bishop Soto said.
The bishop pledged to continue working the law's opponents "to explore ways of protecting the most vulnerable Californians from the pressure created by this new policy."
He chided emerging societal trends that find "individual autonomy as the ultimate measure of public policies."
"We will continue to question this misguided libertarian push to make personal autonomy the ultimate arbitrator," the statement said. "We must help each other."
The state's bishops, Soto said, remain committed to "expanding our efforts to explain the richness and love embodied in Catholic teaching surrounding end-of-life. We will work with Catholic health care to further cultivate this tradition among the faithful in the coming years."