Not too many weeks ago, we welcomed to Oklahoma City thousands of people from New Orleans in advance of a hurricane. They had left their homes, cars and most of what they possessed. But they had life! In fact, that was the only thing that really mattered. They were told to evacuate, otherwise they might suffer worse or even die. They quickly responded with one concern — to remain alive. In a similar, more recent catastrophe, thousands of people fled Galveston Island in the path of Hurricane Ike. Again, it was a matter of survival, a matter of life. The authorities knew that and so did the evacuees. Their lives were much more important than houses, cars, property or possessions. In both instances and in other tragic events, most people seem to recognize and to seek one goal — the reality of staying alive. Without life, everything else is useless. Life itself is first and most fundamental and trumps everything else. In 1776, when our nation was in the throes of seeking independence, it was clearly recognized and proclaimed that life is an inalienable right. Life is a gift from God. Human life, which begins at conception, is the first and most fundamental of all rights. It is given us by God to be cherished and respected always. Human life, since it reflects God, is most important and very beautiful. Every human life therefore must be respected and protected. As a national election is now only weeks away, all citizens should be reminded of the natural, God-given right to life. All citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, should reflect on the nature and destiny of the human person. All citizens should be challenged to recognize the absolute need we all have to protect, to nurture and to assist human life. We do this every time there is a catastrophe. When storms or floods or fires threaten human lives, rightly do we expend great efforts and amounts of money to evacuate, to resettle, to help and save human lives. The only tragedy that does not receive a priority for life is the tragedy of abortion. Abortion kills a living child in the womb. It is a violent action against both the mother and the child. It is a serious failure of a father to protect his own child. Those performing the abortion act unjustly and with violence. How then can any politician support the evil of abortion? How can any citizen vote for a politician who is pro-abortion? I pray that we and our fellow citizens will uphold the first and most fundamental human right, the right to life itself. There is no other issue more important. All other issues are moot if the right to life is not respected and protected. Beltran is archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designated today as Respect Life Sunday.