WASHINGTON (CNS) — Four pro-life veterans, a young up-and-comer and an organization confronting new challenges to life shared $600,000 in prize money awarded Jan. 22 by a foundation established a decade ago by a retired Catholic businessman and his wife.
The Gerard Health Foundation presented the 2009-2010 Norinne A. and Raymond E. Ruddy Memorial Life Prizes to Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America; Marie Smith, founder and director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues; Jeanne Head, who represents pro-life organizations at the United Nations; the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network; Douglas Johnson, director of federal legislation for the National Right to Life Committee; and the Rev. Alveda King, director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life.
The prizes are named for the parents of Raymond B. Ruddy, who established the Gerard Health Foundation in 2001 with his wife, Marilyn.
Radio host Laura Ingraham, who served as mistress of ceremonies for the awards ceremony at Washington’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, said the honorees were “ordinary people doing extraordinary things ... who heard a call that utterly changed their lives, the call of the most helpless of human beings.”
“The pro-life movement is broad and strong and often really young,” Ingraham said. “And its ranks are growing every day.”
As an example she cited Hawkins, a 25-year-old mother of two, including a special-needs child, who has helped Students for Life grow from 180 campus chapters in 2006 to 600 chapters by the end of this academic year.
Speaking to the many young people in the room, Hawkins said, “Today our generation is needed like never before.” She urged them to “take our time and talents and work to abolish abortion.”
In her acceptance speech, Smith thanked “the person who first invited me to become involved in the pro-life movement,” her husband, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. She said the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues now brings together pro-life legislators from 60 countries to discuss topics of common concern.
She said members of the network are working together to “build governments that care for all life, regardless of whether it is planned, perfect or privileged.”
Head, a nurse, said she originally came to New York from Omaha, Neb., to become an actress, “but God planned a different mission for me.” (See the Register In Person interview with her at the link below.)
She said she “accepted with reluctance” when asked in 1987 to represent the National Right to Life Committee and International Right to Life Federation at the United Nations. “I thought there must be others who could do a better job than me,” she said. “But I discovered I could do things I never thought possible.”
Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo, sister of the late Terri Schiavo, accepted the award on behalf of the Life & Hope Network, which she said was dedicated to “defending the life of hundreds of other Terris.”
Schiavo, who became brain-damaged after collapsing at her Florida home in 1990, gained national media attention when her parents, brother and sister clashed with her husband over his plans to withdraw her feeding tube. She died in March 2005 after the feeding tube was removed when the Schindler family exhausted all their legal options.
Mourning Terri’s “cruel and needless death by starvation and dehydration,” Vitadamo said, “The euthanasia battle has begun, and they are coming after the elderly and the disabled.”
Ingraham described Johnson, who has been the National Right to Life Committee’s chief lobbyist in Congress since 1981, as “the indispensable person in every major pro-life battle since Roe v. Wade.”
Johnson said in accepting the award that many pundits “wrote the obituary for the pro-life movement” when President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, but instead Americans have become more pro-life in the years since then.
He said the debate over partial-birth abortion opened people’s eyes to the realities of abortion and the positive effects of that debate “continue to reverberate.”
Ingraham praised Rev. King for raising “the chief civil-rights issue of our time”: the loss of 15 million African-American babies to abortion.
Rev. King, who also has been open about her regret for her own abortions, ended her acceptance speech with a prayer: “Let me live long enough to see this scourge eradicated.”