Eunice Kennedy Shriver Hailed as Pro-Life Champion

As the nation pays final tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver as a rights activist and humanitarian, several conservative groups have lifted her up as a pro-life champion.

Shriver, who died Tuesday at the age of 88, was the founder of the Special Olympics. At a time when those with mental disabilities would be institutionalized or kept out of society, she championed a new view of the mentally disabled, calling them "our special friends."

Today, more than 3 million people with mental disabilities participate in the Special Olympics in 170 nations.

"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."

Shriver's advocacy was inspired by her older sister Rosemary who was mentally retarded.

But beyond her well-known contributions to the life of the disabled, she was also a pro-life advocate.

In 1992, along with her husband R. Sargent Shriver, former Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and other pro-life leaders, she signed a full-page ad in the New York Times opposing the Democratic Party's embrace of the abortion-rights agenda.

The ad called for policies that would "respect" human life and care for both mother and child.

"We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn," a line from the ad read.

Susan B. Anthony List President Dannenfelser praised Shriver as a "consistent" champion for "every vulnerable human life."

The pro-life group's general chairman, Jane Abraham, lauded Shriver as someone who "fought for the dignity inherent in every human life, born and unborn."

Shriver was an early supporter of the Susan B. Anthony List, and she and her husband supported Democrats for Life of America and Feminists for Life. She also formed the Community of Care to help care for teenage mothers and their children.

Shriver is the sister of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. She is the mother of Maria Shriver, first lady of California.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, to Shriver for her efforts in raising the standard of life for the mentally disabled in America.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commented, "At a time when, tragically, the vast majority of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted, Mrs. Shriver affirmed the worth of their lives as children created in the image of God."

"Our prayers and our thanks go out to the Kennedy and Shriver families for the life of this extraordinary woman," Perkins said.