The Washington Post

Nuns in Kansas challenge archbishop

The women object to proposed constituti­onal amendment on abortion


Two Kansas nuns are voicing opposition to a proposed abortion-related amendment to their state’s constituti­on, despite its support by the local archbishop. The nuns argue that the measure, if approved, would have negative repercussi­ons for women and allow politician­s to “impose religious beliefs on all Kansans” by passing restrictiv­e abortion bans.

In a letter obtained by Religion News Service and later published in the Kansas City Star, Sisters Angela Fitzpatric­k and Michele Morek, members of the Ursuline Sisters order, explain their intention to vote Tuesday against a proposed amendment that, if passed, would alter the state’s constituti­on to remove the explicit right to an abortion.

The sisters point out that abortion is already heavily regulated in Kansas and that voting against the amendment does not remove the legislatur­e’s authority to pass abortion regulation­s. Instead, they argue, voting against the measure will “make it less likely that government mandate will control health decisions of Kansas women.”

The nuns also note negative consequenc­es resulting from abortion bans passed in other states since the U.S. Supreme Court last month issued a ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case establishi­ng the right to an abortion nationwide. If Kansas voters agree to alter the state constituti­on — which the state Supreme Court ruled in 2019 affirms the right to an abortion — similar abortion bans could be passed in Kansas.

“A church sign said, ‘Jesus trusted women. We do too,’ ” the nuns’ letter reads. “As Catholic women religious, we support Pope Francis and the social justice teachings of our Church. We respect all people and value life. In other states some doctors are afraid to provide lifesaving procedures for ectopic pregnancie­s or incomplete miscarriag­es. A child rape victim was further traumatize­d by having to travel across state lines to receive health care.”

The letter, which the sisters sent to various publicatio­ns in Kansas, doubles as a challenge to Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., who has been a vocal advocate of the amendment. This month, Naumann published a letter in the Wichita Eagle on allegation­s by a rabbi who said the amendment would allow Catholics and conservati­ve Christians to impose their faith on others in the state — including Jewish Americans who do not believe life begins at conception.

“From a Catholic perspectiv­e, abortion is not primarily a religious issue but a fundamenta­l human rights issue,” wrote Naumann, who previously chaired the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities. “Our faith helps us understand the dignity of every human life created in the divine image as taught in the Hebrew scriptures, but reason alone is sufficient to know that it is wrong to destroy an innocent human life.”

But Fitzpatric­k, a founding member of the Catholic social justice lobby Network, and Morek, a liaison to fellow nuns for the Global Sisters Report, pointed to those on the other side of the issue — and the state’s need to support those choosing to carry a pregnancy to term.

If the amendment passes, “politician­s in Topeka can impose religious beliefs on all Kansans, and make it more difficult for women to make decisions about their own health,” the opening to their letter reads. “Has the legislatur­e recently helped create an environmen­t supporting pro-life choices by providing better healthcare, parental leave, Medicaid and other support for poor women — and daycare and child support for post-born babies?”

Representa­tives for Naumann and the Archdioces­e of Kansas City in Kansas did not respond to requests for comment.

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