On April 29, the National Right to Life Committee Educational Trust held its annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, honouring three celebrities for their commitment to defending the unborn.
This year’s recipients were television and movie personality Ben Stein, theatre actress Margaret Colin and actress Jennifer O’Neill.
Stein, host of Win Ben Stein’s Money and is most famous for playing the monotoned teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is usually the master of ceremonies for the event, but ceded those duties this year to receive a Proudly Pro-Life Award.
Stein told the audience of 700 that the pro-life side is winning. He said that both politically and culturally, the tide is changing. To prove his point anecdotally, Stein noted a part of a standard speech he gives to university groups: “Value life when it is old, infirm, when it comes in different colours, different religions, different ethncities and when it born and unborn.” He said that the line used to get jeers, but in recent years has been applauded. He noted that represents part of a new phenomenon.
He congratulated pro-lifers for their commitment to the cause and vowed he would continue to speak up for the unborn. He also said that he didn’t choose to be pro-life “because it was the winning side or the easy side,” but because “it is the right side to be on for this issue.”
Colin, currently starring in the Broadway production of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, left the dinner early because she was to appear on stage later that night.
With her husband and two young children in the audience, Colin said that her pro-life views play a part in which projects she decides to take on. She said she tries to take life-affirming roles and ones in which motherhood is presented as a noble and life-affirming option for women. Recently, she played a pro-life woman in the made-for-TV movie Swing Vote, about an abortion case that makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court. And A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Colin said, is at its core about “which life is valuable and how much you sacrifice for others.”
She has been pro-life since Grade 8, crediting the example her parents for her strongly held beliefs. She said the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade turned her mother into a pro-life activist and that Colin and her four siblings were dragged out to marches and rallies and encouraged to write their congressmen on the issue. “My parents deserve this award,” she averred.
After dinner, the evening ended with a final award for Jennifer O’Neill, star of The Summer of ’42 and a Cover Girl cosmetics spokeswoman for 30 years. Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee, introduced O’Neill and showed a clip of the actress’s appearance on The View, where she was hectored by two of the show’s hosts due to her pro-life views. Monsignor James Lisante, the event’s master of ceremonies, said that after viewing the clip, O’Neill was not just proudly pro-life but courageously so.
O’Neill, spokeswoman for Silent No More, a group that aids women suffering emotionally and spiritually from their abortions, shared her own heart-wrenching story. When she was a young actress, she had an abortion after the doctor told her that it was not a baby she was eliminating, but just a blob of cells. If she could have seen the baby, as many women are capable of doing today with ultrasound technology, “I would have chosen life,” she said.
Retelling her very personal story had both the former movie star and audience in tears several times. To illustrate the emotional suffering that she feels, she concluded by telling the story of having to put down a family pet when she was young. Methodically detailing how the family obtained and cared for the cat, she concluded that she deferred to her father’s wishes to have the cat “put asleep” once the animal became too much for the family to care for. She said that she still feels guilty about doing it “and that’s a cat.” “Imagine,” she said, “what women are feeling after killing their babies.”
O’Neill said that as many as 25 million American women are suffering in silence because of the choice they made.
The dinner, the National Right to Life Committee’s 10th annual, benefits the group’s Educational Trust Fund.