Media Obits Whitewash Eunice Kennedy Shriver's Uncompromising Pro-Life Stance

August 17th, 2009 5:10 PM

If you only read the Associated Press, New York Times, and Washington Post obituaries of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died last Tuesday at age 88, you would have no idea that she was one of the last of the old Guard, pro-life Democrats who went down fighting in 1992.

That was when the party's presidential nomination of Bill Clinton moved the party firmly into the pro-abort camp, a position from which it has never returned. Barack Obama's presence in the White House virtually guarantees that Democrats in most quarter will either condone, support, and in some cases even celebrate the 1,000,000-plus unborn infants who perish each year.

That was not where Ms. Shriver stood, as many prolife publications noted shortly after she died. The Catholic News Agency obituary called her "distinctively Catholic," recounting that she was "an early supporter of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. She and her husband also supported Democrats for Life of America and Feminists for Life."

Life News recounted three key moments when Shriver demonstrated her pro-life commitment:

In 1972, one year before the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, Shrive told a Birthright convention that abortions could be reduced if more maternity homes could be established and more adoptive mothers found. Later, she proposed a campaign called "One Million for Life" to recruit one million people to adopt unwanted children.

"How do you equate the life of an unborn infant with the social well-being of a mother, a father or a family?" Shriver asked in 1977. "If it is thought that the social well-being of the mother outweighs the rights of fetuses with congenital abnormalities, we do well to remember that more than 99 percent of abortions are done on normal fetuses."

In 1992, Eunice and Sargent Shriver joined Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey 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 pro-abortion agenda.

'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," the ad said.

The July 14, 1992 full-page ad can be viewed here (2mb JPG). It makes some of the most powerful pro-life observations and arguments ever made, and is worth reading in its entirety, as is the list of signers. The fact that the alleged party of compassion that year became virtually unanimous in supporting real death panels and death chambers, and for all practical purposes hasn't budged an inch since, is a true American tragedy.

Another overlooked item of historical significance is Shriver's May 13, 1990 letter to the New York Times. In it, she took great exception to the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) using the legacy of President John F. Kennedy in an attempt to intimidate Catholic bishops into silence, and in the process became the most credible witness available supporting the idea that JFK would have been pro-life had he lived to see the idea of killing pre-born babies come under consideration:

One of the bills my brother was proudest of established the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He wanted this institute to study problems of pregnancy and early childhood development so that infants who were lost because of birth problems and lack of research on fetal life could survive. So his interest in the fetus and in children was positive and comprehensive, reflecting his moral values. Do we not understand that religious beliefs and moral values are not the same?

The right to life of a newly conceived fetus is a value held by many people who are not Catholic. This is a moral value that deserves debate, and the bishops have a right to advance this view in all of the channels of communication that are available.

I would similarly defend the rights of the abortion rights league to advance its views in these same channels. Why then do such groups object so violently when church leaders organize to communicate their values of respect for human life from its inception? This is not religious doctrine like a belief in the virgin birth, or even the sacredness of Jesus.

President Kennedy believed and practiced the value that America should offer a free marketplace for all views, even those of Catholic bishops. He would have resented his words being distorted to confuse and obscure that value. His family resents it, too.

Of course, that wasn't in the AP, NYT, or WaPo obits either. In fact, only the WaPo's write-up noted that she was Catholic.

Cross-posted at