by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
In last week’s column, I concluded with the question: Why was “Value Them Both” defeated in Kansas? After all, Kansas is considered a marriage and family friendly state. The Kansas Legislature has in the past two decades passed many pro-life laws. Why was “Value Them Both” not only defeated, but by such a large margin?
In my estimation, the following are some of the significant reasons that Kansans rejected an amendment that did not ban abortion, but simply allowed the people of Kansas to determine abortion public policy through their elected representatives, rather than by the Kansas Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the most influential group in choosing the members of the Kansas Supreme Court is the Kansas Bar Association — hardly a neutral group regarding abortion.
1) Abortion is a multimillion-dollar industry. The abortion industry poured an extraordinary amount of money into Kansas to protect their business.
2) Kansas was the first state to have the abortion issue on the ballot after the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision that returned to states the ability to regulate abortion.
3) After Dobbs, the national, mainstream, secular media was in panic mode. The media, in the weeks leading up to “Value Them Both” filled the airwaves with misinformation, claiming such things as women with ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages would be denied medical treatment.
4) The anti-”Value Them Both” forces were not constrained by telling the truth. If your business is killing children, it is small potatoes to lie about the harm abortion does — not only to the child in the womb, but to the mother, father, the abortion clinic staff, etc.
5) The secular media not only failed to fact-check the pro-abortion messages, but echoed and even amplified their misinformation.
6) The most significant factor for the defeat of “Value Them Both” was the large turnout of first-time, young voters.
What is the path forward for pro-life efforts, since we cannot protect by law women and babies from abortion?
For more than 50 years, the Catholic Church in the United States has observed October as Respect Life Month. The theme for Respect Life Month 2023 is: “Radical Solidarity.”
Several years ago, the Catholic Church in the United States challenged dioceses and parishes to walk with mothers in need. Walking with Moms is an effort to make our parishes into oases of mercy, where women facing a difficult pregnancy will find a community of love and support.
The first step for our parishes to Walk with Moms is for parish leaders to become more acquainted with the resources available in the local community in order to help mothers experiencing a challenging pregnancy. Most of our parishes cannot become pregnancy resource centers or crisis pregnancy clinics, but they should be able to accompany women with a difficult or an untimely pregnancy, connecting them with the medical, emotional and financial resources that are available. Walking with Moms parishes are an example of what is meant by radical solidarity.
Our pregnancy resource centers are doing amazing ministry surrounding mothers with a community of love and practical support — not just through the pregnancy, but for as many months or years it takes so that mother and child thrive. The archdiocese partners with pregnancy resource centers providing funding for their beautiful work. Parishes need to partner with nearby crisis pregnancy centers, providing them with volunteers and material assistance.
Women are the second victims of abortion. Many post- abortive women felt that they had no other choice. According to a Vitae Foundation study, most postabortive women share that if just one person had given them encouragement to give birth, they would not have aborted their child.
Many of these women were abandoned by the father of the child or felt pressured by him to get an abortion. The death of a child is one of the most difficult and traumatic experiences of life. Jesus does not desire for postabortive mothers or fathers to be stuck in guilt and grief. I encourage anyone who had an abortion or participated in an abortion, to reach out to Project Rachel for women or Project Joseph for men.
God wants to bring mercy, healing and hope to the hearts of postabortive parents. His mercy is greater than any sin and his grace alone can heal the wounds of our hearts. Radical solidarity is helping postabortive women and men find healing and reconciliation.
Radical solidarity also involves caring deeply about children in foster care and seeking to provide loving and nurturing homes for them. It is about communities of faith surrounding foster parents with material, emotional and spiritual support for their heroic choices to welcome another child into their family and home.
Radical solidarity has a special concern and care for children with disabilities and their families. Recently, I was at a wonderful event supporting the Embrace Foundation that seeks to help equip our Catholic schools to be able to welcome and serve well children with disabilities and different styles of learning.
Radical solidarity requires accompanying adults with serious physical or intellectual disabilities. It means working hard to celebrate their gifts and equip them to be able to not only provide for themselves but contribute to society.
Radical solidarity includes all of the efforts of our Catholic Charities staff and volunteers, who serve the poor by providing dignified housing, food, clothing and other necessities of life. Radical solidarity creates employment opportunities, connects the sick with quality health care, liberates individuals from predatory loans, teaches financial literacy and makes available career training. Radical solidarity gives men and women the dignity of meaningful work that makes it possible to allow them to provide for themselves and their family. Radical solidarity accompanies refugees and immigrants, helping them enculturate and make the American Dream a possibility.
Radical solidarity includes ministries like Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, which opens up the opportunity for higher education for individuals who are the first in their family to receive a college degree. It includes the beautiful work of the Catholic Education Foundation providing scholarships in order to make our Catholic schools financially accessible to every student and every family.
Radical solidarity includes the ministry of Villa St. Francis, which provides the highest-quality, skilled nursing for the elderly, no matter their ability to pay. It includes Catholic Hospice, which accompanies individuals on the threshold of death, providing for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It means supporting families when a loved one is in the dying process as well as caring for those mourning the recent death of a loved one.
Radical solidarity includes ministry to those who are imprisoned, bringing them the love of Jesus and being eager to help them succeed when they re-enter society.
The next time someone tells you that the church or the pro-life community only cares about the baby in the womb, share with them how the church lives everyday radical solidarity, making the love of Jesus real and tangible for others, especially those on the peripheries of society.
As the archbishop, I have the opportunity to see how the church respects human life from the womb to the tomb. I wish each one of you had the opportunity every day to see what I see. It makes me proud to be a Catholic.
I am very disappointed that “Value Them Both” failed to pass. At the same time, I am very proud that so many worked hard and selflessly for its passage. Our Respect Life efforts continue — and even intensify — as we strive to remind the world that every life is sacred and every human life has dignity.
If you have not already, you should soon receive a letter from me inviting you to make a sacrificial gift to our Respect Life fund, which enables us to continue and even expand our efforts to rescue with love the children and women we are unable to protect by law.
“Value Them Both” actually received enough votes to have won in any previous Kansas August primary election. What motivated millennials to vote in such record numbers to keep abortion legal? Next week, I will complete this trilogy on the aftermath of the defeat of “Value Them Both” and share some thoughts about how we can inspire millennials to respect life and to live a life of radical solidarity.