Lessons learned from recent successes and failures against assisted suicide.
Family Institute of Connecticut was disappointed to learn that California passed an assisted suicide bill. It is no secret the assisted suicide lobby views California as a great prize because of its influence on legislation across the country and the vast number of people now subject to the new law. After failing in court and during their regular legislative session, the proponents of the bill, with millions of dollars at their disposal, convinced the leadership in California to stack the special session committees (a special session devoted to solving a medical spending crisis) with supporters of assisted suicide. Eliminating democratic protections, such as public hearings and opportunity for debate – the bill passed handily.
But assisted suicide doesn’t have to spread.
Assisted suicide has been defeated over one-hundred times across our country. FIC, along with our allies in the disability community, have employed a successful strategy to defeat assisted suicide in a state that, except with regard to size, is politically similar to California. In the face of being vastly outspent, a media sympathetic to assisted suicide and an electorate that is susceptible to whatever seems to be the next progressive thing, we have nonetheless scored repeated success against assisted suicide. This is how we’ve done it . . .
- Don’t worry about being outspent. Like California, we too have been vastly outspent by Compassion & Choices, an out-of-state organization solely devoted to passing assisted suicide. In fact, our most important ally – Second Thoughts Connecticut – has an annual budget of $0, has no professional staff and relies on the personal finances of their members to pay for photocopying, internet, travel, etc. By not being concerned about the gargantuan budget of our opposition, we are able to highlight their largess for the media, legislators and the public, to our advantage. Make it an issue! . . . http://wtnh.com/2014/02/21/conn-lawmakers-revisit-assisted-suicide-issue/, http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20140221/News/140229843, http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20140222/connecticut-lawmakers-revisit-assisted-suicide-issue
- Use the mostly-free media opportunities you are given. Like California, the media in Connecticut are sympathetic to or in outright support of the agenda of assisted suicide proponents. This is a big difference from 20 years ago when the media took a stance against the dangerous agendas of Dr. Kevorkian and The Hemlock Society (predecessor of Compassion & Choices). To that end, we must use every free and effective tool at our disposal to share our message with opinion and policy makers. Because we are at a financial disadvantage – we must use them more than our opposition! These tools includes training volunteers on the effective use of providing facts and arguments in newspaper comment threads, YouTube, monitoring news reports, correcting inaccurate information in news reports (such as the favored media narrative of religion vs. progressives), tweeting accurate information directly to the news media, defending favorable opinion editorials and letters to the editors, soliciting letters to the editor and opinion editorials, and so much more and often. FIC has provided free training to activists in other states and is happy to provide additional assistance. Just contact us!
- Show your passion! The coalition in Connecticut has focused their limited resources to ensuring that the media and legislators are aware of the large number of people passionate against assisted suicide. As mentioned above, we frequently encourage all our members to be vocal in their opposition by participating in social media, news media comment threads, letter writing, tweeting, and much more – early and often. Unfortunately, one or two e-mails in the hours before an important public hearing will not be enough for people to 1) understand the importance of public participation, 2) know or remember that a public hearing is going to happen, or 3) prepare to participate in a hearing. The leaders against assisted suicide owe it to their constituencies to prepare their followers far in advance about why opposition is important, what the facts are and how to present them, and provide action items and expectations regarding public hearings – such as possible dates, times, signs, presentation, etc. People want to know, and if you give them the information in advance, it is our experience that they will show up in far greater numbers than Compassion & Choices!
- Be proactive and responsive to misinformation immediately and often. Critical to defeating assisted suicide is to loudly correct misinformation in the media about the issue. The media want the truth! Help them by praising accurate reporting and correcting misinformation. Unfortunately, once is not enough. In Connecticut, we provide training to volunteers on where and when misinformation is likely to occur and employ their help. There are free resources for tracking news reports and media accounts. And there are many passionate people who want to help! Common misinformation that must be corrected quickly include: “only religious people oppose assisted suicide”; “there have been no abuses from Oregon”; “there is no slippery slope” and more. The media and our legislators are stretched thin . . we must provide them with the information they need in a clear, quick and effective manner – through social media, mailings and multiple personal meetings. Don’t let our opposition get away with spreading stereotypes and lies which then become part of the regular news cycle.