Archbishop Naumann: Abortion Is a ‘Human-Rights Issue’ More Than a Religious Issue

‘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,’ the Kansas City shepherd explained in a recent op-ed.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann
Archbishop Joseph Naumann (photo: CNA file photo / EWTN)

Responding to claims that Kansas Catholics are seeking to impose their religion on their neighbors by voting to exclude a right to abortion from the state’s constitution, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, says “reason alone is sufficient to know that it is wrong to destroy an innocent human life.”

Kansas is set to become the first state to place abortion policy on the ballot after the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Currently, Kansas restricts abortion after 22 weeks, but Kansas state lawmakers are generally prohibited from passing any type of new abortion restriction because of a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that found that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s “right” to abortion. 

The “Value Them Both” amendment, if approved by voters on Aug. 2, would enable state lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate or restrict abortion. The amendment would not itself change the legality of abortion in the state, but would, among other things, ensure a ban on state taxpayer-funded abortion. 

Writing in The Wichita Eagle July 8, Archbishop Naumann responded to claims made in a recent op-ed by a Kansas rabbi, Mark Levin, who argued that the amendment amounted to an effort to enshrine Catholic doctrine into Kansas law. Levin wrote that Catholics encouraging their neighbors to vote for the amendment are seeking to “compel all Kansans to conform to their religious idea of the origin of individual lives [conception], and to enshrine that belief in law.”

“Our neighbors have, sadly and tragically, declared a quiet and cold war against our religions, attempting to coerce the behavior of all other Kansans according to their personal religious faith, through minority rule,” Levin argued. 

Archbishop Naumann took issue with Levin’s characterization of opposition to abortion as solely a religious issue. 

“From a Catholic perspective, abortion is not primarily a religious issue but a fundamental human rights issue,” he wrote. “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.”

Moreover, “The mere fact that a law coincides with religious beliefs does not mean it is an impermissible imposition of religion,” Archbishop Naumann pointed out. 

“Value Them Both is not a Catholic issue. Preserving current laws and reclaiming the authority of the people of Kansas to determine public policy on such an important societal issue is something every Kansan should be eager to support,” the archbishop concluded. 

Archbishop Naumann also related the story of former abortion doctor Bernard Nathanson, an ethnically Jewish man who identified as an atheist. Nathanson personally performed thousands of abortions and was politically active in pushing for the legal protection of abortion. However, Nathanson’s reverence for science eventually helped to change his heart, as he eventually recognized the humanity of unborn children when he saw them using ultrasound technology. Nathanson became a pro-life advocate and later admitted that when he had advocated for abortion he used a strategy of appealing to anti-Catholicism and promoting the views of pro-abortion Catholics.

Archbishop Naumann asserted that Levin had used similar tactics in his op-ed. 

“The rabbi accuses me of trying to deprive Kansans of personal choice regarding their destinies. Yet, this is exactly what the Kansas Supreme Court did by making the outlandish claim that a right to abortion exists in the Kansas Constitution, taking abortion policy out of the hands of the people and their duly elected representatives and putting it in the hands of the court,” Archbishop Naumann wrote. 

“Several months ago, I made an appeal to every Catholic in the archdiocese to donate to a special Respect Life Fund to provide additional support for abortion alternatives, post-abortion healing ministry, the expansion of our efforts to help children in foster care, and support for the Value Them Both amendment. I am proud of the generous response of our Catholic people,” Archbishop Naumann continued.

“I am also very proud that the Value Them Both coalition includes many other faith-based and secular leaders and organizations, including the Lutheran Missouri Synod, the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, James Dobson, the Family Research Council, Democrats for Life, 200-plus Kansas medical and mental health professionals, Concerned Women for America of Kansas and Kansas Family Voice.”