October is Respect Life month in the U.S. Catholic Church.
The worldwide Pro – Life Movement is an organic grassroots rising-up of people appalled that others would advocate the killing of unborn children. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children – founded in England in 1966 was the first pro-life group in the world. This of course also points to the sad distinction that England was leading the way in the killing of unborn babies in the free world (communist countries already had legalized abortion).
In the U.S., the Right to Life League of Southern California, founded in 1969 due to the liberalization of abortion laws there, was the first pro-life group in the U.S.
It wasn’t too long afterwards that the Catholic Church in the U.S. began to develop its “Respect for Life” programs.
We see in each of these names a message and commitment to human life. There is no doubt that in the abortion debate the Pro-Life Movement has taken the (inspired) high moral ground. Our opponents in this life-death struggle have placed themselves on the side of killing and death although they try to characterize their terms of engagement otherwise. Our terms of engagement are: Pro human life, desiring to protect innocent human life*, emphasizing the right-to-life – which in the U.S. was called a “self-evident” truth and an unalienable right (Declaration of Independence) – and promoting respect for human life which points to the dignity of each human being (a concept that is integral to any positive and progressive view of human beings).
Of course God said it first and most emphatically: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life…” (Deut 30:19, and “Thou shall not kill.”)
In the 1990’s Pope John Paul II began pointing to yet another crucial distinction in our terms of engagement: a Culture of Life (as opposed to ‘culture of death’). This term, and the necessity of its realization, addresses the big picture and the long term view for humanity. He offers a cogent and prophetic explanation of the pro-life position in his ground-breaking, life-supporting document THE GOSPEL OF LIFE.
* Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth, (1959 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child).
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