Archdiocese Local

Archbishop speaks out on rights of conscience, pro-life amendments

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann leads a rosary outside of Planned Parenthood in Overland Park in this 2017 photo. The archbishop, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, recently spoke out against the federal government’s refusal to uphold the conscience rights of a nurse forced to participate in an elective abortion. He also addressed the U.S. bishops’ opposition to legislation that excluded 14 pro-life amendments that would, if included, prevent the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Both Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York have, in a recent statement, denounced the federal government’s refusal to uphold the conscience rights of a nurse forced to participate in an elective abortion.

On July 30, the U.S. Department of Justice voluntarily dismissed a case against the University of Vermont Medical Center, brought by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS found that the UVMC deliberately deceived and coerced a nurse into assisting in an abortion.

“The U.S. Department of Justice is acting in dereliction of its duty to enforce the plain meaning of federal law,” said the joint USCCB statement. “It is hard to imagine a more horrific civil rights violation than being forced to take an innocent human life. HHS found that the University of Vermont Medical Center forced a nurse, against her known religious beliefs, to do just that.

“This is not only deeply wrong,” the statement continued, “but a violation of federal law. We call on the [Biden] administration to stand up for the basic dignity of our nation’s health care workers by reopening this case, and on Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act so that doctors and nurses can defend their own rights in court.”

Archbishop Naumann is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty.

Additionally, the two condemned legislation passed in late July by the U.S. House of Representatives as some of the most extreme pro-abortion laws ever proposed by Congress.

Last month, the U.S. House voted to pass H.R. 4502, a group of appropriations bills that excluded 14 pro-life amendments, including the three key, long-standing, bipartisan-supported Hyde, Weldon and Helms amendments. The Hyde Amendment must be reauthorized every year, as it has been since 1976.

Without the pro-life amendments, at least three things will happen: One, taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions; two, health care providers and professionals will be forced to refer for and perform abortions in violation of their conscience rights; and finally, employers and insurers will be forced to pay for and provide coverage for abortions.

Archbishop Naumann and Cardinal Dolan said the House vote was “completely out of step with the will of the American people who overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer-funded abortion.”

“The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives since its enactment,” the statement said. “Without it, millions of poor women in desperate circumstances will make the irrevocable decision to take the government up on its offer to end the life of their child.”

The statement also highlighted a key problem with the legislation — the violation of conscience rights.

“The injustice in H.R. 4502 extends to removing conscience protections and exemptions for health care providers who believe abortion is wrong, or whose faith drives them to serve and heal lives, instead of taking them,” said Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Naumann.

Local pro-life leaders agreed.

The American people do not want to pay for abortions or violate conscience rights, said Deb Niesen, lead consultant for the archdiocesan pro-life office.

“First, the House voted in a way [that is] out of step with the will and desire of the American people, because Americans overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer-funded abortion,” said Niesen. “That includes members of both parties.”

“The second major injustice is that it removes the conscience protections and exemptions for health care providers,” she said. “It’s abominable that [these providers are] being put into this position because of the House.

“And finally, all women deserve resources to care for their babies and to be able to welcome them into a loving and stable environment. Government monies would be better spent supporting women facing challenging pregnancies or struggling new mothers to provide the assistance they need, rather than paying for ending the life of their children.”

Despite the House vote, all is not lost, said Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate, where it’s unlikely there will be enough votes to pass the legislation. Once the Senate modifies the legislation, it must return to the House. That is why Catholics must tell both their representatives and senators that all appropriations legislation must include the pro-life amendments.

“We should tell our Kansas senators to hold strong and don’t vote for the bill without these amendments, but also reach out to [those who voted against the amendments in the House], like Representative Sharice Davids, who will get another bite of the apple. The pressure might be enough from her constituents for her to say OK . . .  I’ll accept Hyde, although I don’t like it, I’ll vote for it.”

Catholics also need to sign the petition sponsored by the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, asking legislators to preserve the Hyde Amendment. To sign it, go online to:

Catholics also need to work on the state level.

“Even if we are able to secure the Hyde and other pro-life amendments on the federal level, unlimited and unregulated abortion — including taxpayer-funded abortion — will be the law of the land until we pass the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment to the Kansas Constitution next year,” said Weber.

“Value Them Both” was introduced to reverse the overreaching April 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, in which the court discovered a “right to abortion” in the 1859 Kansas Constitution. With that ruling, all the pro-life legislation was swept away — and Kansas became the most abortion-friendly state in the union in a legal sense.

“There will be a stateside vote on Aug. 2, 2022, for the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment to the Kansas Constitution,” said Weber. “If it passes, our very reasonable laws and regulations will once again be enforceable, which they are not now under this ruling.”

Additional reporting provided by Julie Asher, Catholic News Service.

Sign the petition

Tell Congress that you want pro-life amendments — including the Hyde Amendment — attached to the current appropriations bills. Go online to:

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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