By Chris Haring

Medical aid in dying advocates are raising concerns over a federal spending proposal that would repeal Washington D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act of 2016

A recently-introduced federal spending proposal has raised significant concerns regarding the future of Washington D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act. The bill, outlined in a summary by the Republican House Appropriations Committee released on Wednesday, June 21, includes policy riders that specifically target various District policies.

Of particular concern is the potential repeal of the District’s Death with Dignity Act, which has been regarded as an essential provision for those seeking compassionate and dignified choices during their final moments since the law went into effect in 2017. Advocates for end-of-life options fear the impact of this measure on the rights of terminally ill individuals and their families.

In a recent article by Mariel Carbone for D.C. News Now, district resident Elizabeth Mitchell expressed her distress at the potential consequences of the proposal. “One of the reasons I continue to live here in D.C. is because death with dignity is really important to me,” she said. “Anyone who has sat by someone’s bedside while they’re making that final passage, that law is extremely important and it’s rare.”

The bill’s provisions extend beyond the Death with Dignity Act, encompassing other contentious measures, including potential employer discrimination against women using contraception. These provisions have drawn criticism for their potential to erode the progress made in reproductive rights and healthcare.

In response to this proposed bill, advocates emphasize the urgency of D.C. Statehood, as it would provide the necessary autonomy to protect local policies and ensure residents have a voice in shaping their own laws. Mitchell agreed, saying “[I]t’s the same thing we see time and time again. I’m angry.”

(Disclaimer: As it appears in the following story, the term “assisted suicide” is problematic and inaccurate. Correct, appropriate terms include “medical aid in dying” or “physician-assisted dying/death.” Additionally, in jurisdictions with codified Death with Dignity laws, each specifies that medical aid in dying is in fact, not suicide, nor a means to assist in suicide, so to call it otherwise is technically and legally inaccurate.)

Read the full article below:

Proposed GOP spending bill targets DC laws, policies

By Mariel Carbone | Wednesday, June 21, 2023, 9:17 p.m.

WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A newly proposed federal spending bill is targeting nearly a dozen District policies.

The Republican House Appropriations Committee released a summary of its 2024 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill on Wednesday, June 21.

In it, the committee lists several policy riders, which prohibit or enforce a policy, specific to the District of Columbia.

Those are as follows:

  • Retains the conscience clause on any D.C. contraceptive requirement.
  • Prohibits funding for D.C. to carry out the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act (RHNDA) of 2014.
  • Includes a new reporting requirement to oversee D.C.’s enforcement of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.
  • Retains the ban on federal and local funds to legalize marijuana in D.C.
  • Retains the ban on D.C.’s needle exchange program.
  • Repeals D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act of 2016.
  • Rejects the President’s unrealistic compliance proposal intended to prevent D.C. private schools from participating in the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act.
  • Reverses a D.C. exemption for public charter schools from Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) Law, so that pro-life protestors are treated fairly and equally under D.C. laws.
  • Prevents D.C. from prohibiting motorists from making right turns on red.
  • Prevents D.C. from carrying out automated traffic enforcement (ATE).

“It just feels like the same old playbook with some new twists and turns,” said District resident Elizabeth Mitchell. “I was not shocked, I was not surprised, it’s the same thing we see time and time again. I’m angry.”

Mitchell said one of the most upsetting things is to see the attempt to repeal the District’s “Dignity Act of 2016,” which allows for physician assisted suicide.

“One of the reasons I continue to live here in D.C. is because death with dignity is really important to me,” she said. “Anyone who has sat by someone’s bedside while they’re making that final passage, that law is extremely important and it’s rare.”

She also believes the riders will make D.C. a less welcoming place for families and women.

“There’s even a provision in there that would allow an employer to discriminate against a woman for using contraception,” she said.

“My first reaction was breathtaking and not in a good way at all,” said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Mendelson said the cuts and riders harm D.C. in terms of public safety, public health and fiscally.

“They are reinstating prohibition of needle exchange, which when they did that in the 1990’s the District led the country in HIV AIDS infections,” Mendelson said. “This is not good for public health but this is some pet peeve for someone in Congress so they’re going to step in.”

The Chairman said the riders are looked at in a piecemeal way and don’t address policies as a whole.

“They’re prohibiting any automated camera enforcement. That means it’s easier for people to run red lights,” Mendelson said. “Why is that a good thing?”

He also said if this passes through both the House and Senate, it will be devastating to the budget as a whole. ATE alone adds millions to the District’s budget.

“The cuts that they proposed will cost the District tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Mendelson. “I’ll have to call an emergency meeting of the council to balance our budget and it will be difficult. We’ll have to cut a lot programs.”

“It’s not just one particular thing, it’s the audacity of all of the things that have me upset,” said Rev. Wendy Hamilton, an ANC Commissioner in Ward 8 and an advocate for DC Statehood.

Hamilton said the need to approve D.C. Statehood is greater than ever.

“It started with the criminal code,” she said. “Now here we are to traffic lights and they slid abortion rights in there. We see what they’re doing and we’re not going to turn a blind eye with it.”

The committee meets Thursday, June 22 at 8:30 a.m.