by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

For almost 50 years, the Catholic community in the United States has observed October as Respect Life Month and the first Sunday in October as Respect Life Sunday.

As Catholics, we respect each and every human life, no matter the stage of development, age, cognitive or physical abilities, race, ethnicity, economic or social status. Every human life is sacred because it is created in the divine image and every life is of such worth that Jesus Christ gave his life on Calvary for each of us.

Our respect for the dignity of every human life extends to the tiniest embryo as well as the hospice patient approaching death, to the saint and the murderer on death row, to the greatest athlete as well as the physically handicapped, to the genius and those with limited intellectual capacity, to the billionaire as well as the homeless person with no place to sleep at night. 

The bishops of the United States in November of 2019 reaffirmed our conviction that the protection of unborn children and their mothers is the pre-eminent human public policy issue of our time. Why? First of all, because abortion attacks life when it is both most innocent and most vulnerable.

Secondly, because abortion tragically pits the welfare of the mother against the life of her child. Abortion attacks the most sacred and important of human bonds: the relationship of a mother with her child. In so doing, abortion damages the most significant social unit of a society: the family.

Finally, the sheer magnitude of the number of human lives destroyed by abortion (well over 60 million in the United States since 1973) and the emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical scars abortion inflicts on mothers and fathers make it the most catastrophic abuse of human rights in our time.

While our faith helps us recognize the sanctity of every human life, opposition to abortion is not primarily a religious issue. The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights issues. Without this right, no other right matters.

Many years ago, I met the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was one of the founders of what is today NARAL Pro-Choice America. At his New York abortion clinic, Nathanson by his own calculations performed or presided over 75,000 abortions. He aborted two of his own children.

Nathanson became pro-life, not because of a religious conversion, but because of his own study of fetology as well as ultrasound technology that made the humanity of the unborn child undeniable.

Recently, Abby Johnson spoke at a fundraising dinner for the Wyandotte and Olathe Pregnancy Clinics. Abby was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic and was once recognized as the Planned Parenthood employee of the year for her region of Texas.

Abby was skilled at selling abortions to vulnerable women, but became disenchanted with Planned Parenthood because of their constant pressure on clinic directors to increase the number of abortions. The final straw that compelled her to leave the abortion industry occurred when Abby assisted with an ultrasound- guided abortion.

Nathanson and Abby Johnson illustrate that abortion is not primarily a religious issue, but it is a human rights issue. The reality that abortion is a grave injustice is accessible to everyone through reason.

We are at a critical moment for our nation and our culture. It is a time of great opportunity for states to be able to begin to protect the lives of unborn children as well as save women from the mental, emotional and spiritual turmoil that inevitably follows an abortion.

The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions placed all of the responsibility for abortion on women. The abortion regime established by the court basically absolved men from any responsibility for the children they fathered, if the mother “chose” an abortion. This motivated many men to place tremendous pressure on mothers to abort their child.

Both U.S. law and culture promote the fallacy that abortion is no different from having your appendix removed. In this toxic environment in most cases, mothers are the second victim of abortion.

The U.S. Supreme Court in early December will hear oral arguments for a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after the 10th week of pregnancy. There is legitimate hope that the current court will use this case to give states greater authority to protect unborn children and their mothers. This is a moment of great opportunity for the pro-life movement.

However, it is also a moment of great peril. Proponents of legalized abortion are in panic mode. They fear what the U.S. Supreme Court might do. Thus, they have attempted to motivate states with pro-abortion majorities in their legislature to enact laws that codify unlimited legalized abortion. 

On the national level, President Biden has vowed to use the full force of the federal government to keep abortion legal and unfettered from any restrictions. President Biden has included in his budget massive federal funding of abortion, rejecting the former bipartisan consensus not to force taxpayers to fund abortion. Joe Biden has earned the title of the most pro-abortion president in history.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has pushed through the House of Representatives the deceptively titled Women’s Health Protection Act. This bill will impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute.

If passed, it will essentially eliminate state pro-life protections, such as parental notification for minors, informed consent for women and safety requirements for abortion facilities. It also threatens the conscience rights for doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel who conscientiously object to abortion.

It has already passed in the House of Representatives. Our only hope to block passage of this horrific bill is the requirement in the Senate for a super majority to overcome a pro-life filibuster.

In states like Kansas, where abortion advocates do not have the necessary votes to pass legislation protecting the abortion industry, they have attempted to use state supreme courts to issue rulings in which they claim to have discovered a right to abortion in state constitutions.

This is precisely what happened two years ago in Kansas. The absurd claim that there is a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution is laughable, if the consequences were not so deadly.

The only remedy to correct the error of the court is for Kansans to pass the “Value Them Both” amendment to our state constitution that will appear on the August 2022 ballot. The “Value Them Both” amendment simply states that there is no right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution.

If a majority of Kansas voters next August approve the  “Value Them Both” amendment, the citizens of Kansas and their elected representatives will again have the ability to determine public policy regarding protecting children and mothers from abortion.

The “Value Them Both” coalition needs your prayers, your time, your talents and your financial support. The abortion industry has nearly unlimited resources to protect the economic profits they reap from destroying the lives of the most innocent. Contact your parish pro-life committee, your local Knights of Columbus council or our archdiocesan pro-life office for more information on how you can assist and get involved.

At the same time, we need to increase our support for local pregnancy clinics. Abortion is never the right answer for an unplanned pregnancy. The dedicated staff and volunteers at pregnancy clinics are eager to assist pregnant moms so that they and their child cannot only survive, but thrive.

This is a very important moment for our nation. If we fail to defend the weakest and most vulnerable in our society, then there is very little hope that our country will respect other vulnerable lives.

Together, we can defeat the “culture of death” and build a “culture of life.” Together, we can make a difference and renew our society so that every human life will be cherished and loved.

Together, we can build a civilization of love and make abortion unthinkable.