Every year since 1972 the Catholic Church in the United States has chosen October as Respect Life Month. As recent events have shown, the need to proclaim the sanctity of life at all stages remains the preeminent challenge of our time.
• Regulators at the federal Health and Human Services department chose to trample on the conscience rights of Catholic employers whose health insurance plans will be forced to cover contraception and sterilization for women. Catholic universities, hospitals and social service agencies would not qualify for HHS’s narrow exemption to this morally objectionable and unprecedented regulation, effectively curtailing Catholic and other religious providers from continuing to care for millions of people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

• In Pennsylvania, bills advanced in the legislature that would prohibit public funding for abortion in the state health care exchanges to be set up under last year’s federal health care reform law. Other state bills would hold abortion clinics to the same safety standards as other outpatient surgery facilities. This commonsense legislation would help prevent the kind of chamber-of-horrors abortion clinic that was discovered last year in West Philadelphia.
• The state execution of convicted killer Troy Davis in Georgia Sept. 21 shows that regardless of a case’s particular circumstances, the application of justice should never end in the taking of life.
The theme for this year’s Respect Life Month contradicts the many assaults on human life and dignity in our time: “I came so that all might have life and have it to the full.” Jesus’ words from the Gospel of St. John promise eternal life with our Lord in heaven. But His commandment to love one another by His holy example promises us a richly lived life here and now. Conversely, living in selfishness for one’s own desires without full respect for the other person in every stage of life is a deep poverty.
The Church’s celebration of life this October, and always, points the way to a life rooted in love for all human persons because of their God-given human dignity. And it once again calls on Catholics to promote this foundational principle upon which a good society rests through public action, persuasion and above all, fervent prayer for divine assistance.