by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
On Jan. 11, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”
This affirmation of the rights of unborn children occurred in a case that involved two women charged with chemical endangerment because they had ingested illegal drugs during pregnancy. One woman’s baby tested positive for cocaine and the other woman’s baby was born prematurely and died shortly after birth as a result of “acute methamphetamine intoxication.”
Both women had been convicted in lower courts, but their lawyers appealed, claiming the word, “child” did not apply to a fetus.
The Alabama Supreme Court rejected this argument, stating: “The decision of this court today is in keeping with the widespread legal recognition that unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law. Today, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe,” a reference to the Supreme Court decision handed down 40 years ago this past Tuesday that deprived states of the ability to protect unborn children from abortion.
The Alabama Supreme Court also said: “The decision in the present case is consistent with the Declaration of Rights in the Alabama Constitution, which states that all men are equally free and independent; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that amongst these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Just this past Saturday, I participated in the 39th annual Snow Ball, which raised $1.8 million for Catholic Charities in Northeast Kansas. The proceeds of the Snow Ball help provide some of the necessary resources enabling Catholic Charities to assist annually more than 80,000 individuals, the majority of whom are not Catholic.
According to the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandates created by President Obama’s administration, the fact that Catholic Charities — like so many other ministries of our church — assists those in need, no matter their creed, disqualifies it from being considered a religiously exempt organization. Unless the courts strike down the HHS mandates, many Catholic ministries will no longer be able to offer their employees health insurance, or will be forced to change dramatically the scope of those whom they serve.
Many Catholic employers have already been confronted by the oppressive nature of the HHS mandates. At the time of the annual renewal of their employee health plan, Catholic employers are facing the dilemma to choose to either no longer provide their employees with health insurance and face government fines or to include coverage for morally offensive abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. Many Catholic and non-Catholic employers are challenging in court the HHS mandates as a violation of their conscience rights.
In response to these two urgent public policy challenges — the defense of innocent human life and the protection of religious liberty and conscience rights — the bishops of the United States are urging Catholics to send postcard messages to U.S. senators and members of Congress. I have informed our pastors that it is my desire for every parish (sometime in February or early March) to participate in this postcard campaign.
The wording on the postcards that you will be invited to sign and send to your two U.S. senators and congressional representative is as follows:
“The new Congress should come together to respect life and religious freedom. Please support and strengthen laws that 1) prevent federal funding and promotion of abortion, and 2) protect the rights of conscience in health care. Government must not force Americans to violate their religious and moral beliefs on respect for life when they provide health care or sponsor or purchase health coverage. As your constituent, I would appreciate a written response telling me how you will vote on these matters.”
With the elections behind us, many people have asked me: What can I do to defend the life of the unborn and to protect religious liberty? In concert with my brother bishops, my first request has been to fast and pray for the protection of life, liberty and marriage. I encourage all Catholics to resume the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays throughout the year for these intentions. For this purpose, I also encourage you to pray the rosary, individually or as a family.
Signing and sending these postcards to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is another very concrete way that you can do something for the good of our nation. Throughout American history, there have been important and unique challenges to the freedoms and rights that the founders of this nation fought to acquire for their descendants. Now it is our moment to protect the precious freedoms that have been given to us because of the significant sacrifices of those who have gone before us. Let us not be found wanting in defending what has been purchased for us at such a dear price.