Respect lives of all people

From conception to natural death

Every year, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month in October.

“As Catholics, we are called to cherish, defend and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning to the end of their lives, and at every point in between,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared in their 2021 Respect Life Month action guide.

Defending the right to life of all people is the focus of this annual, month-long observance. We’ve even come up with some familiar phrases that help drive home this point: Protecting and defending life, “From the moment of conception to the moment of natural death” and “From the womb to the tomb.”

Sometimes, however, our message can get lost in translation. In other words, we can send mixed messages. Take, for example, the misinformed declaration seen on T-shirts and posters: “My body, my choice.” This has been a long-used rallying cry for the pro-abortion movement, but it’s now been adopted by some right-to-life advocates.

The “my body, my choice” mantra supposedly champions the personal choice of an individual, which Americans so valiantly hold sacred. However, when applied to abortion, this adage does not give consideration to the unborn fetus. There is no “choice” offered in the decision.

For those skeptical about the health dangers of COVID-19, “my body, my choice” is now one response to vaccinations or wearing face masks. 

“(V)accination is your choice,” author Paul Kingor wrote in Crisis Magazine, a Catholic publication, earlier this year. “If Joe Biden and friends come knocking at your door, tell them firmly: ‘My body, my choice.’ This is my body, Joe. Keep your hands off.”

Appropriating this message, which is used to support abortion, to oppose the current health recommendations for ending a pandemic is misguided. This personal choice can expose others to the virus, especially the elderly and others with health problems. Like abortion, “my body, my choice” does not match the outcome.

Another mixed message heard recently is equating supporters of Black Lives Matter with violent mobs. A local pro-life e-newsletter recently cautioned its members that “groups like ANTIFA and BLM are pure opportunists. If they think they can drive a narrative by getting in front of a camera … they will.”

Tell that to Gloria Purvis, a pro-life advocate and Black Catholic radio host. Her radio show, “Morning Glory,” was canceled by EWTN radio after she spoke out against racial violence following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. In an interview with America Magazine, Purvis spoke about the mixed message that people of faith are sending about the dignity of Blacks and standing up for them.

“It’s very interesting to me that some Catholics for some reason — although we are a religion that’s full of nuance in trying to understand things — have fixated on this organization (BLM) as if it has the monopoly on truth,” she said. “This organization has a particular name that is the rallying cry of a global racial justice movement. They want to focus on the organization and what’s wrong with it, rather than focusing on why there is a rallying cry that Black lives matter in the first place. It’s almost as if the organization is a greater evil than the actual injustice of killing Black people unarmed in the streets.”

We as a church have a long way to go in answering the call to respect life, “from the moment of conception to natural death.” While we spend a lot of time focusing on both ends of the life spectrum, the in-between parts need a lot more attention.