Life Prizes to Inspire Pro-Life Heroes

Rewards can motivate people to do some incredible things.  Many scientific breakthroughs have resulted from the pursuit of prizes and honors.  Newt Gingrich proposed a whole series of multi-million dollar prizes for developments in space and other branches of science. 

Life Prizes is a new program designed to reward a broad range of pro-life movers and shakers by providing $600,000 in prize money split between up to six winners annually.

The Gerard Health Foundation, which sponsors the contest, unveiled its project Tuesday and opened the door for nominations by individuals and organizations specifically chosen to seek out worthy competitors.

“We want to reward outstanding achievement in preserving the sanctity of life and promoting a culture of life,” said Executive Director of Life Prizes Cathy Ruse.

Ruse has worked for pro-life legislation and policy in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as a Chief Spokesperson and as Chief Counsel of the Constitution Sub-committee in the House Judiciary Committee, where most pro-life legislation goes. Ruse jumped at the opportunity to head up what she called an “inspiring” and “encouraging” program.

With many individuals working behind the scenes to promote the life agenda, GHF and others, including pro-life philanthropist Raymond B. Ruddy, noticed the lack of praise and acknowledgement for such important jobs.

The first award, scheduled to be presented in January 2009, is slated as the Norinne A. and Raymond E. Ruddy Memorial Pro-Life Prize in dedication to Raymond B. Ruddy’s parents, who worked tirelessly for pro-life causes.

The pro-life movement spans an extensive collaboration, ranging from a child participating  marches and local rallies to a science researcher to those working in Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the nation. Recently, a college student in California proved the illegal inner workings of a local Planned Parenthood by posing as an underage girl seeking an abortion. Clinic workers blatantly told her to lie about her age in order to receive the procedure. Such activism, disclosure, public policy, charity, and outreach actions are all possible ways to be considered for a Life Prize.

“We are all about inspiring the next generation of heroes,” Ruse told HUMAN EVENTS. “This is a great way…by highlighting the heroes of today by rewarding them.”

Ruse noted the many “unsung heroes” who deserve exposure for their work in “preserving the culture of life.”

Life Prizes has been praised already by high profile pro-life and pro-family leaders like Dr. Jack Willke, President of the Life Issues Institute and former president of the National Right to Life Committee. Willke said the program would “elevate” the pro-life commitment to a new level.

“[It] demonstrates that there are many fruits to be harvested by the next generation in carrying the pro-life torch and taking the movement to a new level,” Willke said.

After 20 finalists are narrowed to six or less by a panel of prominent judges, an awards ceremony will be held (simultaneously with the Students for Life of America’s annual conference), just after the March for Life in Washington, DC. Up to six individuals may win the prize but one outstanding person could win the entire $600,000 if the judges don’t find others worthy of sharing it.

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, said the Life Prizes can “transform that momentum into inspiration for today’s teenagers, college students and young professionals.”

This prize system brings a sense of urgency and motivation to the often narrowly defined actions of the pro life movement. Ruse said the prizes were “unprecedented” and therefore, this could be foundational for the next generation of workers.

“The pro life movement is notoriously outgunned and underfunded in all its efforts so this is a little ray of sunshine…a beautiful award for a sacrificial cause,” Ruse said.

Though the program is being introduced in the thick of a hot election year battle, Ruse said the timing is coincidental, especially since the award won’t be presented until 2009.

The GHF is a non profit organization leading the way internationally on pro-life initiatives via HIV/AIDS prevention work, starting up pregnancy resource centers, promoting abstinence education, youth outreach and judicial reform. Life Prizes is their latest project.