To the 76 Catholic nuns who signed a letter urging the Kansas Legislature to pass Medicaid expansion, we say, thank you for your courage.
In the letter, the nuns say it is "deeply immoral" for anyone to go without medical care.
"We cannot allow anyone to suffer because of their inability to pay," they wrote.
The Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, a national advocacy group for Catholic sisters, organized the letter. It was signed by nuns from Atchison, Basehor, Concordia, Dodge City, Garden City, Great Bend, Kansas City, Kan., Larned, Leavenworth, Pawnee Rock, Roeland Park and Wichita.
Earlier this year, it appeared Kansas might finally expand Medicaid allowing an estimated 130,000 Kansas adults and their children to obtain access to care. However, when an amendment to the Kansas Constitution regarding abortion failed on the House floor, Senate President Susan Wagle stalled the progress on the proposed expansion.
Wagle used the failed amendment as political capital to stall the expansion claiming it would lead to state-funded abortions.
The nuns are asking that rather than using the threat of abortion to hold expansion hostage, we provide care to needy Kansans. How nuanced. How novel.
The situation clearly creates a moral dilemma for many in the anti-abortion movement, especially Catholics. Essentially two values regarding taking care of others are pitted head to head. It likely took some deep reflection on Catholic social teachings regarding the sanctity of life for these nuns to take a stand. Even more so to go against more powerful groups in Catholic circles.
The Capital-Journal’s Sherman Smith reported Kansas Catholic Conference, which supports Medicaid expansion but has lobbied against passage before the Legislature adopts and Kansas voters approve a constitutional amendment on abortion.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, also opposes expansion because of abortion.
"There was no official support for the program in the absence of guarantees against abortion funding," Naumann said. "Regrettably, advocacy of certain groups led to years of legal and political battles over the issue of life. We must not repeat these mistakes in Kansas."
For these nuns to pen their names to a letter that disagrees with the bishops and primary Catholic lobbying group took required spirit.
We hope the Legislature will demonstrate similar courage and spirit and find a way to bypass Wagle and other gatekeepers to get an expansion to Gov. Kelly’s desk.