The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights; it is this principle that leads Catholics to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace. In the context of persons with disabilities, the right to life is a matter of particular importance, due to the fact that the presence of a handicapping condition is frequently used as a rationale for medical decisions that prematurely end life. (In the United States, examples of these unfortunate decisions include abortion and the denial of otherwise-ordinary medical procedures; in other countries, it includes active euthanasia). Additionally, the Church calls for the defense of other rights “that enable individuals with disabilities to achieve the fullest measure of personal development [possible]”: examples include equal opportunities in education, employment, housing, and access to public accommodations that foster the creation of a stronger and more integrated support system.
The Respect for Life Department and Social and Economic Justice Department jointly work to advocate for policies that uphold the right to life, provide equitable medical treatment, and enable members of the disability community to achieve the fullest measure of personal development possible.