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Respect life: Natural conception to natural death, and dignity for all

October marks the 45th year for the observance of Respect Life Month. Catholics are taught that all human life is sacred because life is given by God from the miraculous moment of conception to the natural ending of death and it the Lord alone who has sovereignty over life. The Church also teaches that humans are thus required to respect the dignity of the person and care for the life that God has given. As a result, respecting life involves the fierce protection of the innocent and the moral responsibility to care for all, because all are created in God’s likeness Here is a look at the spectrum of pro-life issues:

contraception

Contraception

What it is:

The deliberate use of artificial meth­ods to prevent pregnancy as a conse­quence of sexual intercourse.

What the Church teaches:

It is intrinsically wrong to use artificial means to prevent new human life from coming into existence. The Catechism states the procreative act must not be separated from the sexual act. (2377).

Why it is important:

Contraception goes against God’s plan for human sexuality and compromises the dignity of both a husband and wife. Church-approved methods of family planning such as natural family planning do not because they affirm the dignity of the human person, according to Kelli Ball, a fertility care practitioner based in Columbia.

“A couple who uses natural family planning considers that possible result and is open to God’s will, while contra­ception separates the procreative aspect from the sexual act,” Ball said.

How to help:

  • Take a class on natural family planning and learn as much about it as possible.
  • Encourage couples to learn about natural family planning before mar­riage and talk about the importance of the method to married couples who say they are using or considering using artificial contraception.


 

abortion

Abortion

What it is:

Any action that takes the life of an unborn child in the mother’s womb.

What the Church teaches:

The Catechism is clear: “Human life must be recognized as having the rights of a person … among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” (2270) “Direct abortion is gravely contrary to moral law.” (2271)

Why it is important:

Since Roe v. Wade was legalized in 1973, it is estimated more than 54 mil­lion abortions have taken place in the United States.

Women of all ages who seek an abortion often consider it their only option, according to Dr. Vera Bailey, executive director of the Pregnancy Center and Clinic of the Low Country in Hilton Head.

“I want them to be cognizant they are carrying a life and considering taking the life of their baby,” Bailey said. “We have to get away from euphemisms. That is what abortion is — taking a life.”

How to help:

  • Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.
  • In your parish or on your own, collect supplies for single mothers and find other ways to help women facing a crisis pregnancy.

 


 

rights-of-disabled

Rights of the disabled

What it is:

The right to a life of dignity for men, women and children with men­tal and physical disabilities.

What the Church teaches:

In a 1978 pastoral statement on people with disabilities, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed that the dignity of their lives must be protected in all aspects, in­cluding full access to health care and medical treatment, and full integra­tion into the life of the Church.

Why it is important:

Disability rights have come more into focus in recent years, according to Jan Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability in Washington, D.C.

“The disabled are threatened all the way through their life spans, from prenatal testing that ‘rule out’ disabil­ities to parents who struggle to get the medical treatment their children need,” she said. Many disabled adults struggle to get needed medical treat­ment, and issues like assisted suicide are especially serious for them.

How to help:

  • Ensure that people with disabilities are included in activities at your parish as much as possible.
  • Find ways to help parents of dis­abled children with basic needs.

 


 

human-trafficking

Human trafficking

What it is:

Illegal movement and captivity of people, usually for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

What the Church teaches:

The Church condemns human traf­ficking in all forms. Pope St. John Paul II said it “constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave vio­lation of fundamental human rights.”

Why it is important:

Human trafficking is an increasing problem around the world and in the United States. The problem includes two main forms: labor trafficking and sex trafficking, where 80 percent of the vic­tims are women and children, according to Vicki Johnson, task force coordinator for Richland County Anti-Human Traf­ficking. Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center has taken more than 1,200 calls related to possible trafficking cases in South Carolina and worked on cases involving more than 500 victims.

How to help:

  • Learn how to spot signs that a person is being trafficked, including not hav­ing free movement, access to their passports and other identification. Learn the warning signs at https://traf­fickingresourcecenter.org.
  • If you suspect trafficking any form, call the national hotline at 888-373-7888.

 


 

child-abuse

Domestic abuse

What it is:

Physical, mental and/or emotion­al abuse of a spouse, child or other family member.

What the Church teaches:

”Violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form — physical, sexual, psychological or verbal is sinful; often, it is a crime as well.” From “When I Call for Help,” released by the USCCB in 2002.

Why it is important:

South Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for domestic violence against women, according to Sara Barber, executive director of the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. The organization received 18,000 hotline calls and sheltered 2,500 adults and children last year.

How to help:

  • Let an abuse victim tell you their story in their own way. You may be the first person they have told about the abuse. Ask them if they are safe and encourage them to call a local domestic violence or­ganization to make a safety plan for them and their family.
  • Find resources for a victim. Contact the coalition at 803-256- 2900 or www.sccadvasa.org

 


 

healthcare

Access to health care

What it is:

The need for all men, women and children to have access to quality health care.

What the Church teaches:

Catholic teaching and tradition affirms health care is a basic right that stems from the essential sanctity and dignity of human life.

Why it is important:

Despite changes to health care laws in recent years, it is still esti­mated that more than 48 million people lack health insurance and millions who live in poverty do not receive the health care they need. The United States Confer­ence of Catholic Bishops has sup­ported access to health care for all and supported the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. South Carolina is one of the states that did not expand eligibility for Medicaid.

How to help:

  • Contact legislators to discuss the importance of health care for all and urge them to pass legislation which improves access.
  • Donate money or supplies to clinics or other organizations which offer health care for those in need.

 


 

death-penalty

Death penalty

What it is:

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a government-sanctioned practice in which a person is put to death by the state or federal government as punishment for a crime.

What the Church teaches:

According to the USCCB’s docu­ment “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death”: “No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.” Pope St. John Paul II called the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary.”

Why it is important:

South Carolina is one of 30 states that still has the death penalty. Putting a person to death, no matter how severe the crime, goes against Church teaching about the sanctity of life and the possibility of redemption. As with all crimes, there is also the possibility of wrongful prosecution in death penalty cases.

How to help:

  • Speak with state legislators about the death penalty and convey Catho­lic teaching on the subject.
  • Work for restorative justice, bet­ter treatment and rehabilitation of inmates currently in prison. Consider volunteering for prison ministry or other help for those who are incar­cerated.

 


 

end-of-life

End-of-life care

What it is:

Care for the terminally ill or others near the end of life.

What the Church teaches:

Adults and children must be provided with basic needs such as food, hydration and basic medical care toward the end of life. Aggressive treatment that would not necessarily extend life is not required, but nothing must be done to hasten the end of life. Euthanasia and assisted suicide go against Church teaching.

Why it is important:

Compassionate end-of-life care is giving way in many places to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Euthanasia is now le­gal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg. Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in five U.S. states, Japan and Canada.

How to help:

  • Urge state and national legislators to oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia.
  • Advocate for loved ones or friends who are dealing with end-of-life issues and make sure that they receive food, hydration and other essential needs.

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