SpeakOut Illinois in Washington D.C.

Illinois Marches

Ann and Annie Scheidler with Mary Widhalm amid the Illinois contingent in the March for Life
[Photo by Eric Scheidler]

As thirty years of legal abortion were commemorated by the nation’s pro-life organizations, SpeakOut Illinois held its annual event in Washington DC, January 22, 2003.

“We decided to join our memorial ceremony to those gathered for the annual March for Life,” said Tommie Romano, coordinator of SpeakOut Illinois, “because we want our legislators to know that Illinois wants the right to life restored to the unborn. The millions of women and babies who have suffered from the Roe v. Wade decision deserve to know that we have not abandoned them. We believe there is a mood shift in America and the pro-life movement is in the forefront.”

Illinois Congressman Philip Crane invited all Illinois residents to a reception in their honor at his office in the Cannon House office Building on January 21, the afternoon before the March for Life. Many who traveled to Washington to attend SpeakOut Illinois went to the reception. Cong. Crane was warm and gracious and presented a bounteous spread of hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

SpeakOut Illinois held a breakfast rally at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, headquarters for the March for Life. Congressman Henry Hyde had been scheduled as the main speaker at the breakfast, but at the last minute had to be out of the country on January 22. The format for the breakfast was quickly shifted to a recognition and celebration of the pro-life leaders of Illinois.

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Cardinal’s Surprise Visit

The Pro-Life Action League’s Joe Scheidler served as M.C. for the event, introducing each of more than twenty-five pro-life leaders from Illinois who were present for the breakfast. As Scheidler was explaining to the audience his reasons for optimism, Cardinal Francis George unexpectedly arrived at the gathering.

Cardinal George

Cardinal George paid a visit to the SpeakOut Illinois breakfast, pictured here holding Sarah Elizabeth Seeman [Photo by Carmeline DeVito]

The cardinal had just celebrated Mass with the other bishops of Illinois at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church and was en route to the airport when he decided to make a brief stop to show his solidarity with Illinois’ pro-life community. He spoke briefly to the breakfast crowd, thanking them for their faithfulness and diligence in working for protection for the unborn. Cardinal George assured those gathered that we will be victorious even if there is further suffering ahead for our country and our movement.

Exposing Abortion’s Victims

Among the pro-life leaders highlighted at the breakfast was Elaine Kindler, executive director of Aid for Women and one of the key organizers of SpeakOut Illinois. Herself a victim of abortion, Elaine brings both passion and hard work to her ministry of helping women who are facing crisis pregnancies. She serves on the planning committee of SpeakOut Illinois and made the initial proposal that for the thirtieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade SpeakOut Illinois should be held in Washington DC.

Mary Anne Hackett, president of Illinois Right to Life and also a member of the SpeakOut Illinois planning committee, was another Illinois leader acknowledged at the breakfast. Under Mary Anne’s leadership Illinois Right to Life has launched a project to expose Planned Parenthood’s involvement in covering up both statutory rape and abuse of minors. Mary Anne has been on the SpeakOut committee since its inception in 1989, and IRLC has handled the daunting task of registration for the event, which is sponsored by over thirty Illinois’ pro-life organizations.

Karen Malec, president of the Abortion Breast Cancer Coalition, spoke about the recent developments in exposing the link between abortion and elevated risk for breast cancer. Ann Scheidler represented the Pro-Life Action League and urged Illinoisans to join Face the Truth tours and prayer vigils at abortion mills. Annie Scheidler introduced the new division of the Pro-Life Action League, Generations for Life, an outreach to teens.

Joe Busy at the March for Life

Joe Scheidler at Speakout Illinois Breakfast

Joe Scheidler was in high demand in the activities surrounding the 2003 March for Life. On January 21 he spoke on pro-life activism to the American Life League forum meeting at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill at the invitation of Patrick Delaney.

On January 22 he spoke at a prayer breakfast held by pro-lifers from Buffalo, NY and addressed Catholic pro-lifers of Rhode Island at the invitation of Joanne McOsker. He was the MC for SpeakOut Illinois and joined other pro-life leaders from around the country on the platform during the rally on the National Mall before the march.

Pro-Life Groups Reaching Out

The newly appointed director of the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Mary-Louise Kurey, shared her vision of working closely with the pro-life organizations of Illinois, and mentioned in particular the intention of the Respect Life Office to work with Annie Scheidler in bringing more young people into the pro-life movement. Mary-Louise is a former Miss Wisconsin and is a well-known speaker and writer on the issue of chastity.

Florence Morrissey spoke on behalf of the African-American Family Association, telling the group about their outreach to teens and presentations on abstinence in Chicago’s high schools. Carol Wright, of Illinois Citizens for Life, updated the group on Glen Ellyn’s struggle to put abortionist Vinod Goyal out of business. Preston Noell, another member of the planning committee and the Illinois representative of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, invited the group to participate in the various projects of TFP.

Carol Walsh, head of Lake County Right to Life and Aid for Women of Northern Lake County, talked about the value of the pregnancy assistance centers and the joy of helping women choose life. Carol’s husband, Joe, serves on the `Choose Life license plate committee. He explained the purpose of the Choose Life plate and invited people to sign a petition to bring the plate to Illinois, and to purchase license plate frames with the Choose Life logo.

Two representatives from Sen. Peter Fitzgerald’s office attended the breakfast and invited everyone from Illinois to a reception hosted by the senator at the conclusion of the March. They brought with them large blue and white “Illinois” buttons and pennants.

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A Heart-Wrenching Testimony

The poignant testimony of Yvonne Florczak Seeman touched everyone’s heart. Yvonne had had five abortions by the time she was twenty years old. She suffered post-abortion syndrome and underwent a conversion. She now heads up Love From Above Ministries, employing single mothers to assemble tiny glass baby bottles that each contain a mustard seed. The message is that with faith the size of a mustard seed miracles can happen.

Yvonne now has two sons and an infant daughter. Her daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, attended the SpeakOut Illinois breakfast, the March for Life, a reception at Phil Crane’s office and another at Sen. Peter Fitzgerald’s office, as well as the Rose Dinner. Yvonne says her little girl bears the perfect name for a pro-life child: Sarah means God’s Princess, while Elizabeth is God’s Promise.

Illinois Joins the March

Following the breakfast, the Illinois pro-lifers each took a red, white and blue SpeakOut Illinois pennant and a blue “Illinois” pennant and headed to 16th and Constitution Avenues to join the March for Life. On the way to the gathering site, the SpeakOut Illinois contingent met a group of seminarians from Illinois who were delighted to take a pennant and join other pro-lifers from their state.

Illinois Marches

Illinois had a very strong showing at the 2003 March for Life
[Photo by Eric Scheidler]

Many non-Illinois marchers picked up the SpeakOut Illinois pennants during the March and cheerfully joined ranks with folks from Illinois. Some had relatives in the Lincoln state, some had grown up in Illinois or had gone to school in Illinois. Some had simply changed planes at O’Hare Airport. The solidarity and friendly competition between pro-lifers from the various states is a fun aspect of the annual March for Life.

At the conclusion of the March from the Washington Monument to the U. S. Supreme Court, Illinois pro-lifers were invited to a reception in Sen. Peter Fitzgerald’s office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Over a hundred Illinois marchers enjoyed hot coffee and doughnuts, a welcome repast after marching for more than two hours in the January cold.

In spite of the pro-abortion make-up of Illinois’ government, the pro-life movement in Illinois is strong and growing.

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