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On Friday, March 5, 2004, the members of the Maryland House of Delegates' Health and Government Operations Committee gathered to hear testimony on House Bill 1021. Few committee members could have expected to hear claims that the bill proposed Nazi-like policies, or counterclaims that opposition to the legislation amounted to murderous indifference. Yet that was precisely the vitriolic debate launched that day between two of the most powerful religious lobbies in the state.

"In the early part of the 20th century, Hitler justified horrible scientific experiments on classes of human beings that he decided were not persons," Nancy E. Fortier, a Ph.D. in chemistry, told the committee in representing the Maryland Catholic Conference opposition to HB 1021. "Jewish people, homosexuals, people with disabilities, and the mentally ill were deemed nonpersons; the experiments with and killing of these human beings were explained away as morally acceptable because the information learned from the experiments would benefit mankind." HB 1021, she suggested, proposed to commit no less a crime.

The unmentioned irony of her testimony was that the lead legislative sponsor of...