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Christian Living

ChurchWatch 08/11/09

The Pro-Life Kennedy

Hailing from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I clearly remember the courageous stand for life taken in 1992 by then-governor Bob Casey, a pro-life PA Democrat. During the Democratic National Convention that nominated Bill Clinton for the presidency, Casey led the way in crafting a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting the Democratic Party's embrace of the pro-abortion agenda.

One of the other courageous people who joined that fight was Eunice Shriver -- sister to President John F. Kennedy -- and along with her husband, Sargent Shriver, one of the most vocal advocates for the rights of the unborn and the handicapped in the last fifty years.

Eunice Kennedy ShriverEunice Kennedy Shriver died this week at the age of 88 at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts, surrounded by her family. Her husband, Sargent Shriver, was the first director of the Peace Corps, and was candidate for Vice President in 1972. Shriver was sister of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. She was the mother of Maria Shriver, the first lady of California.

Eunice Shriver carried on the family's public service tradition by founding the Special Olympics in 1968, and championing the welfare of the mentally disabled.

Her brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, praised his sister: "She understood deeply the lesson our mother and father taught us — much is expected of those to whom much has been given. Throughout her extraordinary life, she touched the lives of millions, and for Eunice that was never enough."

President Barack Obama said Shriver will be remembered "as a champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and as an extraordinary woman who, as much as anyone, taught our nation — and our world — that no physical or mental barrier can restrain the power of the human spirit."

"No one more than Eunice Kennedy Shriver understood better the power held by the most vulnerable in our society," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "She fought for those hidden in the shadows of life, while acknowledging that they teach us far more than we could ever offer them. She was consistent in her championing of every vulnerable human life."

Eunice Shriver was an early supporter of the Susan B. Anthony List and its mission to advance, mobilize and represent pro-life women in the political process. She and her husband also lent their time and talents to the efforts and activities of Democrats for Life of America and Feminists for Life.

On July 14, 1992, Eunice and Sargent Shriver joined Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey and many other influential pro-life leaders in signing a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting the Democratic Party's embrace of the abortion-rights agenda. The ad, titled The New American Compact, called for support of policies that embrace both mother and child. The ad concluded with the following statement:

"We can choose to reaffirm our respect for human life. We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn. We can choose to provide effective care of mothers and children. And if we make those choices, America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring."

"Eunice Kennedy Shriver's heart for the most vulnerable among us will be deeply missed," said Jane Abraham, General Chairman of the Susan B. Anthony List. "She fought for the dignity inherent in every human life, born and unborn. Her legacy will serve as a life-affirming example to young women everywhere, and for that we are so blessed."

It was Shriver who revealed the condition of her sister Rosemary to the nation during her brother's presidency.

"Early in life Rosemary was different," she wrote in a 1962 article for the Saturday Evening Post. "She was slower to crawl, slower to walk and speak. ... Rosemary was mentally retarded." Rosemary Kennedy lived most of her life in an institution in Wisconsin and died in 2005 at age 86.

In part to honor her own disabled sister, in 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver started what would become the world's largest athletic competition for mentally disabled children and adults. Now, more than 1 million athletes in more than 160 countries participate in Special Olympics meets each year.

Harrison Rainie, author of "Growing Up Kennedy," wrote of Eunice Kennedy Shriver in U.S. News & World Report in 1993. "When the full judgment on the Kennedy legacy is made — including JFK's Peace Corps and Alliance for Progress, Robert Kennedy's passion for civil rights and Ted Kennedy's efforts on health care, work place reform and refugees — the changes wrought by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential."

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