Life Prizes to honor six pro-life leaders and groups

A boy's choir sings at the 2009 Life Prizes ceremony
A boy's choir sings at the 2009 Life Prizes ceremony

.- The six winners of the Gerard Health Foundation’s annual Life Prizes have been announced. The awards honor leaders who uphold the sanctity of life through their work.

Raymond B. Ruddy, president of the Massachusetts-based Gerard Health Foundation, said the six winners have done some of the “most important work” of the pro-life movement and are an example to follow. The awards will be presented in a Washington, D.C. ceremony on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011, organizers say.

Awardee Dr. Alveda King is a board member of Georgia Right to Life who sees the pro-life movement as the heir to the civil rights work of her father, Rev. A.D. King, and her uncle, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She herself underwent two abortions but was deeply affected by an ultrasound of a child’s beating heart.

Ruddy praised her change of heart as “awe inspiring.”

“She is more than a contribution to pro-life efforts, she is a blessing and an encouragement. We are honored to know her as a fellow laborer for life and to present her with this award.”

King responded to the award with gratitude, saying:

“I had to look at death in abortion to appreciate the life of the unborn child, and my prayer is that Life Prizes will be a beacon to stir those across the nation to celebrate life and recognize the important battle we face to protect it.”

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, was another honoree. Since 2006, her organization has helped double the number of campus pro-life groups in the U.S. and has trained more than 5,000 student activists.

Hawkins said she was “humbled” to receive the award and praised the “trailblazers” of the pro-life movement.

Also taking one of the Life Prizes was Jeanne Head, a former obstetrics nurse, who has served as U.N. Representative for National Right to Life and the International Right to Life Federation. Ruddy praised her international work and her understanding of the “ripple effect” of abortion.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said it was “a great honor” to receive one of the Life Prizes. He said he hoped it draws renewed attention to the NRLC’s work.

The final individual winner for this year, Marie Smith, is the founder and director of the U.S.-based Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues. She has also served as international director at Feminists for Life. According to Ruddy, she helped unify respect for human life at the international levels of government and religious leadership.

“The fruits of her labor have protected countless unborn children and their mothers across the globe and we are thrilled to recognize and award her accomplishments.”

The Life Prizes also awarded the Terri Schaivo Life & Hope Network, founded by the family of the severely disabled woman who died after a Florida court ordered that she be deprived of basic nutrition and hydration. The organization has assisted more than 1,000 families through providing resources, support and medical facilities for those in need.

Ruddy called the group “a godsend” to those at their “weakest, most vulnerable hour.”

The Life Prizes include $600,000 in prize money split among all honorees. They memorialize the pro-life leaders Norinne A. and Raymond E. Ruddy.

The selection committee includes Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Peggy Hartshorn of Heartbeat International; Kay Coles James of the Gloucester Institute; and Jack Willke of Life Issues Institute. The committee chose this year’s winners from 90 nominations.

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