This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
WASHINGTON - Oregon has an assisted-suicide law and Washington state is talking about one. But for now, how we die is just a Northwest anomaly.
Republican presidential candidates in a battle for anti-abortion votes tout their positions against abortion, funding embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning. Democrats proudly tout abortion rights and vow to end the ban on funding embryonic stem-cell research.
But nobody, Democrat or Republican, in Congress or in the presidential race, is talking about physician-assisted suicide, once a top agenda item of many anti-abortion groups.
Since 1994, when Oregonians first voted to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients, social conservatives have vowed to pass a federal law to prohibit the practice.
But as Democrats took control of both houses of Congress last year and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., vowed to continue blocking any attempts to overturn Oregon's law, the issue has fallen out of the focus of the anti-abortion movement.
For now, Oregon's law appears safe from federal intervention.
''We are breathing fairly easy with regard to Congress,'' said Barbara Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, a group that advocates for the Death With Dignity Act.
Assisted suicide is not mentioned in the platforms of the major presidential candidates, and it does not come up in national debates.
For example, Mitt Romney, who has struggled to build anti-abortion clout after having supported the right to an abortion as Massachusetts governor, delivered a nearly 2,000-word speech to a national anti-abortion group in June. He mentioned abortion, human cloning, embryo farming and abstinence education - but not assisted suicide.
''The Republican caucus has for whatever reason let this issue drop, and we haven't received a call from anyone running for president, Republican or Democrat, on this issue,'' said Josh Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff. ''If I had to guess, they've decided there's no political percentage in talking about Oregon's assisted-suicide law.''
In previous congressional sessions, senators have proposed amending the federal Controlled Substances Act to prevent doctors from prescribing life-ending drugs. Wyden placed a hold on such a bill, the Pain Relief Promotion Act, in 2000. Proponents were never able to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome Wyden's procedural move.
The Bush administration has argued that Oregon's law violates the Controlled Substances Act. The dispute made it to the Supreme Court, which, in a 6-3 vote, upheld the Oregon law in January 2006.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced the Assisted Suicide Prevention Act the following August. The bill never made it out of the Judiciary Committee.
The Democrats' takeover of Congress last year makes a federal law less likely now.
''It's not going to happen in this Congress,'' said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who along with Oregon's four other House members has fought federal attempts to override Oregon's law. ''This leadership is not going to interfere with the rights of states like Oregon.''