top of page

Letter 9: Respect for (Unborn) Life Month

For those unaware, the Catholic Church has named October as "Respect Life Month." This Sunday, as the first Sunday in October, is considered "Respect Life Sunday." The Pro-Life committee of the USCCB states on the "Pro-Life Activities" page,

"We proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God; that each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self and others; and that society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence."

On that same page is a request to sign a petition to "Tell Congress not to take innocent lives!" This call to action is under the eye-catching "NO TAXPAYER ABORTION", followed by the statement, "Congress is trying to force Americans to pay for abortion."

Farther down the page is a carousel of five (5) images with accompanying captions:

As you may or may not have expected, Respect Life Month quickly devolved into Respect Fetal Life and Only Fetal Life Month. Sure enough, when you click "See more" on the Welcome to USCCB Respect Life image, the list of resources provided is entirely focused on anti-abortion actions. A bit shallow and one-dimensional for something supposed to be "serving the U.S. Bishops' goal of building a culture of life "from womb to tomb.""

Not only is there a conspicuous lack of naming any life other than fetal, but there is also a palpable sense of attempting to differentiate between an "innocent" life and "not innocent" life. Look no further than the images reproduced above that literally say, "protect the innocent" and "save innocent lives!" This is equally concerning as having a singular focus. To once again use the Conference's own words, Respect Life is "to life and share Christ's Gospel of Life." The facets of life that Christ really drove home are areas completely untouched by the Respect Life committee and Respect for Life Month - poverty, hunger, imprisonment. Further, Jesus did not cater to those who he deemed to be "innocent" nor is it the Gospel message to prioritize "innocent" life over "not innocent" life. Quite the contrary.

The innocence of the unborn makes fetal life an easy and convenient cause to champion for many. Nothing about what Jesus of Nazareth preached was easy or convenient, though. It is extrauterine life that poses the real challenges of forgiveness and love contained in the Gospel and what Respect for Life Month should uplift in both prayer and action. Encapsulated in the "womb to tomb" timeline are painful realities that can be brushed aside as "inconvenient," but which we as Christians are called to address. What are these areas of life between the womb and the tomb?

Maternal mortality *

Food deserts

Unaffordable healthcare

Police brutality *

Toxic water supplies

Unaffordable housing

Minimum wages below a livable wage

Inhumane jails and prisons

Domestic Violence

Refusal to get vaccinations

Refusal to wear a mask to protect the spread of COVID-19

Climate change

Solitary confinement

Elder abuse

Capital punishment

Structural racism throughout the U.S.

* which are symptoms of the pervasive racism in America which continues to not only disrespect but kill people everyday.

It was almost a year ago that I sat in a pew during Mass and nearly broke my partner's hand, squeezing it out of anger at the homily being delivered. Our pastor spoke about how it was Respect for Life month, how our society has drifted so far that "we need an entire month to remind us to respect life." I was consciously fighting the urge to stand up and vocally dissent against his homily. Never before had I cried during Mass; unfortunately, my tears streamed from hot rage. Anger. Frustration. Deep sadness. As he spoke, each word stung of insensitivity and shortsightedness. My cloth face mask absorbed my tears and covered my clenched jaw. How dare he, I fumed, speak to the women in the congregation like this. How dare he speak without knowing who in the congregation may have faced the difficult decision of whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy. How dare he lecture and condemn when he will never, ever be faced with such a situation.

I was physically upset for the remainder of Mass; I don't think I ever completely stopped crying. During communion, I told myself I would change lines or not accept the host if the pastor was ministering communion in my line. He wasn't. Sitting through Mass was never as difficult as that evening.

I cried to my partner in the car ride home that night. I texted my sister-in-law to vent. I tried to think of how to process what I had just experienced, as a person with a uterus who has never been pregnant and who believes in a God and who sees all the realities of the world that culminate in why a person may elect an abortive procedure.

Since I have never been pregnant, I have never had to consider the viability of a pregnancy - be it the medical viability, financial viability, viability amidst an unsafe partnership... - yet the emotional effect of this homily (if you can call it a homily) has stuck with me for a year. Clung to me like mold at the base of well. I can only imagine how this would have affected me had I been through an abortion myself.

This Respect Life Month, I ask and pray that you spend time advocating and bringing attention to the harsh realities of post-birth life. Continue praying for an end to abortion if you wish, but remember that is only a sliver of the world around us. Instead of just praying to end abortion, look at why people consider abortion or why abortions are sometimes medically necessary (yes, even after 20 weeks).

Life is imperfect and is everything but innocent. To hide behind the show pony that is the pro-life (read: anti-abortion) movement is to deny the fullness of the Gospel message; shrink from our responsibility to respect, care for, and love all life; and turn a willfully blind eye to raw, human realities that could be eased by confronting them with a compassionate ear.

I now humbly invite you to leave a prayer intention in the comments below, or in the comments on social media, for an aspect of life that has been neglected by the Church.

O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others Open my ears that I may hear their cries; Open my heart so that they need not be without succor; Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich. Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, And use me to bring them to those places. And so open my eyes and my ears That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.

- Alan Paton

In service,


48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page