Mark Pickup


January 25, 2016

The Life Issues Office for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., asked me to speak to the Adult and Family Rally and Mass just prior to the 2016 U.S. national March for Life on Jan. 22. I will speak at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.

It is a privilege to be invited to speak again in the U.S. capital. It marks a highlight in my pro-life advocacy that has spanned more than 30 years.

I will begin my presentation with those towering words from America's foundational Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

I put forth the notion that the collective wisdom of America's founding fathers intentionally put the right to life first because they understood that all other rights depend on the right to life. (It's a simple truth ignored or denied by many current political leaders on both sides of the 49th parallel.)

Since abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973, more than 58 million children have been aborted . . . with no end in sight. Now assisted suicide is being introduced to state legislatures across America. Oregon, Washington, California and Vermont have already legalized physician-assisted suicide.

Students hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the 2015 U.S. national March for Life.


Students hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the 2015 U.S. national March for Life.

Maryland and the District of Columbia are also considering bills to legalize assisted suicide. A stinging irony struck me as I prepared to address the American audience: My own country of Canada is also preparing to embark down a dark and dangerous road of assisted suicide for sick and disabled people.

A year ago our Supreme Court struck down Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide. In the high court's low decision, it told Parliament to put in place assisted suicide mechanisms for Canadians in what the judges called: "a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability)."

Although advocates for so-called death with dignity have long promoted assisted suicide for the terminally ill, Canada's Supreme Court ruling does not confine assisted suicide to end-of-life scenarios; it brings about the end-of-life and can be applied to people without terminal conditions. They won't even have to undergo treatments.

The rally organizers wanted to know why Canada would take such an extreme position opening the door wide open for assisted suicide? Good question. Perhaps many Canadians have forgotten the country's Judeo-Christian heritage that upholds the sanctity of human life.


Perhaps it's because our liberal judges and policy-makers believe in unfettered personal autonomy over interdependent community. Whatever the reasons, it is a horrible direction for my nation to take.

I do not want America to go down a similar path; the poison of assisted suicide is already present and must be stopped. The madness must end, but I fear our countries are in for dark days ahead. The self-centeredness of personal autonomy has trumped community. We are choosing independence over interdependence.

That may be the way of the world but it is not God's way. His people must reflect a higher calling where every life is loved and defended. I told the audience this. Suicide (whether assisted or not) is contrary to Church teaching.

Suicide contradicts natural inclinations of self-preservation. The Catechism states that suicide "offends love of neighbour because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations" (2281).


Let me illustrate: If I choose assisted suicide because of my multiple sclerosis, it will not impact only me. It will impact my wife, children and grandchildren. It will impact my doctor because I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. It will also impact my nation by helping to entrench the notion that there are lives unworthy to be lived. I must not do that.

The Catechism says, "Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law" (2282). St. Augustine said, "God's command, 'Thou shalt not kill' is to be taken as forbidding self-destruction." Shortly thereafter he wrote, "Anyone who kills a human being, himself or another, is guilty of murder" (City of God, chs. 21, 22.)

We are in a battle of eternal proportions, and Canada is on the wrong side. Regardless of how dark the days ahead become, we must soldier on in the holy cause of defending life.