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'Life Prizes' Honors Pro-life Heroes

Thursday, 11 Dec 2008 02:13 PM

By Cathy Ruse

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It’s Nobel Week once again. This time each year, all eyes turn to Stockholm and Oslo as the Nobel Peace Prize Foundation honors individuals for their heroic strides toward peace.

The Gerard Health Foundation this year established its own humanitarian awards program, Life Prizes, to recognize heroes in what Pope John Paul II called the greatest civil rights battle of our day — the battle to protect the lives of the unborn.

Life Prizes winners share up to $600,000 for their outstanding efforts to awaken the conscience of America to the sanctity of human life through public advocacy, scientific research, outreach and public disclosure activities, legal action, and other noteworthy achievements.

Gerard Health Foundation is the private charity foundation of Raymond and Marilyn Ruddy, both long-time pro-life philanthropists.

This year's prize of $600,000 is being shared by six deserving recipients from different backgrounds, professions, and age groups. All of the winners are accomplished in a variety of ways, but unlike some other prize programs, these winners have accomplished great things for the unborn in the face of a culture that permits the heinous act of abortion.

Jill Stanek was a registered nurse in the Labor and Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., when she discovered babies were being aborted alive to die without medical care. When hospital leaders said that they would not stop, Jill went public and was terminated from her position as a result.

She was publicly thanked by President Bush at the signing of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act for her help on this important legislation and World magazine named her one of the 30 most prominent pro-life leaders in the movement over the past 30 years.

Lila Rose is the youngest prize recipient. She is a student at UCLA who, through her undercover sting operations, has exposed Planned Parenthood’s abhorrent practices of covering up statutory rape and the abuse of young girls. Her efforts have garnered national attention. Lila will be an inspiration to many young people.

Members of the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) put their careers and professional reputations on the line every day by fighting back against the strong voices of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) who espouse elective abortion on demand as the standard care for unwanted pregnancies.

Ever vigilant, those at AAPLOG constantly reaffirm the humanity and worth of the individual human life in all that they do, reminding their colleagues of their professional duty to both mother and unborn child. These efforts have been met with anger and resentment from physicians and others who recklessly promote abortion.

Other winners have contributed their own special efforts to building a culture of life.

Life Prizes winner Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, has been involved in almost every major pro-life legislative initiative since 1980, contributing behind the scenes to all major pro-life statements from the Catholic bishops during the last quarter century.

Peggy Hartshorn is president of Heartbeat International, a worldwide network of more than 1,000 pregnancy resource centers that has directly saved the lives of countless unborn children and their mothers from abortion through vital pregnancy support.

Kay Coles James has worked to advance pro-life cause for three decades as an advocate in the highest levels of government, including the Reagan and both Bush presidential administrations.

She and her husband Charles are founders of a pregnancy resource center and also of Black Americans for Life, and most recently have founded The Gloucester Institute, an outreach and education initiative for young African-Americans focused on developing solutions for the challenges facing communities today.

They utilize lessons learned from the civil rights movement, including a recognition that the first civil right is life itself.

Americans celebrate advances in science, medicine, and politics, granting awards to those who find new ways to promote and advance the betterment of society, the longevity of life, and the end of disease.

It is only fitting that, in the company of these great celebrations, there is a new award to honor advances in protecting that first civil right — the right to life.

Cathy Ruse is executive director of Life Prizes. To find out more about these awards and the winners, visit www.lifeprizes.org.

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