When an Invitation to the Prom Becomes So Much More

By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director

Ann Marie Lapkowicz is a friend of mine. Her daughter is now an international celebrity.

Mary and Ben

Mary and Ben

The story begins when Ann Marie’s daughter Mary was in 4th grade. As PennLive.com reports, her friend Ben Moser worked hard to make sure that Mary was included in the games the other fourth graders would play. His act of kindness was significant because Mary has Down syndrome. But to Ben, Mary was not a statistic—she was a friend.
Ben informed his mother that, when he was old enough, he would invite Mary to the high school prom.

But Ben and Mary ended up attending different high schools. As fate would have it, their paths crossed one day, and Ben decided to make good on his long-ago promise. As he told PennLive.com, “We got balloons and I wrote ‘prom’ on it. I presented her with the balloons and asked her to go to prom with me.”

But the fairy tale did not end there. News of the quarterback who asked his Down syndrome friend to the prom has gone viral. The pair even appeared on the cable program “Fox & Friends.” Ben told the Fox News anchor, “Mary’s the coolest person ever!” He also said his mother has never been prouder of him.

Mary’s mother, my friend Ann Marie, told me she was wondering if allowing PennLive to publicize the story was the right thing to do. After all, she is protective of her children, and is even reluctant to post pictures of them on Facebook. But she had heard that such positive stories can save the lives of Down syndrome children (It has been estimated that 90 percent of Down syndrome babies are aborted.). If it could save one life, she figured the discomfort of the spotlight would be worth it.

I have watched Mary grow up into a beautiful young woman. I have known her to rise very early to attend church with her family on weekday mornings. She is a very special girl, and it is heartwarming that the world has come to recognize that through the “prom-promise” made by an equally special young man.

Ben and Mary’s friendship should provide a lesson to us all.

Why Disability Rights Groups Oppose Assisted Suicide

The disability rights community is one of the most vocal opponents of assisted suicide.

Many news outlets stereotype opponents of assisted suicide as merely religious; but we who fight to protect people against the threat oPillsf assisted suicide come from diverse backgrounds.

It was refreshing to see the news website The Daily Beast acknowledge that in a recent article, “Why Disability Advocates Say No to Doctor-Assisted Death.”

Many disability rights groups say assisted suicide presents a dangerous double standard about the value of people’s lives.

Reporter Elizabeth Picciuto presented the following situation:

Suppose a good friend of yours says that she wants to kill herself. You, and most people close to her, would probably try to help her so she did not feel that suicide was a viable option. Suicide prevention would be the goal of the medical profession, of family and friends. Not, however, in the case of someone seeking physician-assisted death.

“The difference is your health or disability status. Then suddenly suicide is a rational decision,” Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a disability-rights group that advocates against assisted suicide and euthanasia, told The Daily Beast. “We think equal rights should also mean equal rights to suicide prevention.”

Samantha Crane, director of public policy for the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, said the emphasis should be on offering better care, not death, to people who are suffering.

“People believe that opposition to physician-assisted suicide is a belief that it’s noble to suffer, or that people shouldn’t have the ability to control their care when they are seriously ill,” Crane told Picciuto. “That is not the basis of our beliefs. Our goal is to make everyone happier, and to make sure that they have quality lives and help them have access to everything they need so that they do not want to die.”

The full article is worth reading. However, the reporter’s bias does come through on certain points. For example, Picciuto claims that Americans strongly support doctor-prescribed suicide; but she fails to acknowledge that polls vary widely depending on how the question is asked.

This winter in Pennsylvania, two bills have been proposed to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. Click here to learn more.

Assisted Suicide Is Being Pushed Here in Pa. — Stay Informed

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are no longer distant threats to life. Doctor-prescribed suicide legislation is being discussed in Pennsylvania right now.

BizMatters12-14Compassion and Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, is pushing this deadly legislation across the country; and we in the pro-life community are joining voices with medical and disability rights groups to oppose doctor-prescribed suicide in Pennsylvania.

You may hear it euphemistically called death with dignity or aid in dying, but doctor-prescribed suicide is what it is. And it’s a recipe for abuse.

We know from Oregon, where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, that safeguards don’t work. People who are older or disabled may be pressured into suicide, and others may be denied medical treatment. That’s what happened to Barbara Wagner. In 2008, her Oregon-run insurance plan denied coverage of her chemotherapy treatment. Instead, they offered to cover her assisted suicide.

Josie Byzek of Not Dead Yet Pennsylvania, a disability rights group against assisted suicide, says groups should be advocating for better health care and respect for people of all abilities – not suicide.

“One concern our community has is that people with disabilities, especially life-threatening disabilities, cannot uniformly receive quality health care,” Byzek says. “Therefore, how can these same health professionals, as a matter of policy, possibly make a judgment call about the person’s quality of life?”

To stay informed about this issue, check out recent Pennsylvania media coverage:

  • Central Pa. talk radio show Smart Talk aired a program with disability rights advocates from Not Dead Yet Pennsylvania and assisted suicide advocates. Listen here.
  • In Allentown, the TV show Business Matters interviewed our Executive Director Michael Ciccocioppo and Alan Holdsworth of Not Dead Yet, along with assisted suicide advocates. Watch it here.
  • Lancaster newspapers published two opinion columns for and against doctor-prescribed suicide. Our Legislative Director Maria Gallagher wrote the opposed column. Read it here.