Seventy-six Kansas catholic nuns have signed a letter to legislators urging them to pass Medicaid expansion as a desperately needed life-saving benefit for suffering Kansans.


The call to action, dated Tuesday, confronts lawmakers locked in a stalemate over Medicaid expansion and a failed attempt to pass a constitutional amendment on abortion.


The nuns say it is "deeply immoral" for anyone to go without medical care, and "we cannot allow anyone to suffer because of their inability to pay."


"Expansion increases access to high-quality care for those who would otherwise go without health care," they wrote. "We implore you to approve Medicaid expansion because we cannot wait any longer to give Kansans the care they so desperately need."


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.


Medicaid expansion would provide health care access to an estimated 130,000 Kansas adults and their children. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, forged a compromise plan for Medicaid expansion with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly before the start of the session.


After the proposed amendment on abortion failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed in the Kansas House, Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, slammed the brakes on Medicaid expansion. Her allies on a Senate panel revised the Denning-Kelly plan by adding controversial restrictions, then voted it down.


"Health care is a right, and all Kansans deserve access to the care they need," said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Network Lobby. "The work of Gov. Kelly and Sen. Denning to expand Medicaid to low-income residents of the state is critically important. As a Catholic sister, I stand with more than 75 Catholic sisters in Kansas to urge the state Legislature to do what is right for vulnerable families in the state. This is the faithful way forward and should be accomplished now."


The nuns ask lawmakers to pass a Medicaid expansion plan without strings attached. That point of view appears to be in direct conflict with the 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.


The abortion amendment would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision in 2019 that declared the Kansas Constitution contains a right to bodily autonomy, which includes the ability to terminate a pregnancy. The Kansas Catholic Conference and other anti-abortion lobbyists have warned that passage of Medicaid expansion without the amendment will lead to taxpayer-funded abortions.


Legislators who support Medicaid expansion hope to find the 24 senators needed to force a vote without Wagle's approval. The Denning-Kelly plan originally had 22 co-sponsors in a 40-member chamber. If the Senate were to find the necessary votes, the House likely would need 70 of 125 members to concur and send a bill to the governor.