Note: Due to its length and technological limitations of the day, this piece was initially published in three parts. Find it presented below in one.
Scenes from the 2003 Face the Truth tour [Photo by EJS]
Hundreds-of-thousands of Chicago area residents faced the truth about abortion during the Pro-Life Action League’s fourth annual Face the Truth tour, July 9-19. Tour veterans called it our best tour yet, with 40-100 volunteers at each site. As many as twenty babies were saved during our nine-day public witness of the horror of abortion.
Unlike last year’s tour that had many sites in outlying areas, this year we stayed closer to home, with over half the sites in the City of Chicago itself. We began with a three-day downtown blitz. Each morning we met at the Madison Street bridge over the Kennedy Expressway and dispersed to eight different expressway overpasses to display giant eight-foot tall abortion signs to the heavy traffic below.
Marie Smith and Ann Scheidler on Madison Bridge [Photo by Danita Covington]
This was a new strategy for Face the Truth. It took two people to hold each of the giant signs constructed especially for this phase of the tour, depicting the gruesome severed head of a baby killed by a third trimester abortion. With at least two signs on each bridge, one facing northbound traffic and the other southbound, and a hundred cars moving in each direction every minute, at least 100,000 drivers were reached. Positive reactions from drivers outnumbered negative two-to-one, especially among truck drivers. The large signs were so impressive that we continued to use them for the rest of the tour.
During the July 11 stop at the Kennedy overpasses, a cab driver drove up to a tour volunteer, holding a sign on the Monroe Street bridge. He got out of his cab and asked for some literature. He said he supported what we were doing. The cab driver said, “Every day I drive at least one woman over to the clinic. She’s going for an abortion, and I want to be able to give her some literature.” He was referring to the Family Planning Associates, an abortion mill just off the Kennedy.
Tour staff gave him all the fetal development flyers he had and gave him our phone number so he could call for more. Thanks to our presence on the overpasses that day, this pro-life cabdriver may offer hundreds of women the chance to reconsider abortion.[Back to Top]
Bill McIlvaine at Daley Plaza Site [Photo by EJS]
“You Have the Pictures”
After the overpasses, we visited downtown sites for our midday and afternoon stops that afforded contact with pedestrians. It gave us the opportunity to display our Face the Truth 2003 T-shirts, featuring the Uncle Sam logo from our Bring America Back to Life celebration, with “Abortion Stops a Baby’s Heart” on the back.
On July 9 we encircled the Daley Plaza with signs and distributed literature to a receptive lunchtime crowd. A small group of pro-abortion counter-protestors met us there with nearly illegible signs painted on bed sheets. We welcomed their presence. Bearing such slogans as “Abortion on demand and without apology” and surrounded by horrible abortion pictures, their signs unwittingly testified to the moral poverty of the pro-abortion position. As one Chicago police officer commented to us: “You have the pictures.”
“An Eerie Silence”
We ended our first day near the Lyric Opera on Wacker Drive. We lined both sides of Madison Street and faced the throngs of commuters walking to Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center. People were less receptive than at Daley Plaza. An icy indifference was the most common reaction. One man kicked Joe Scheidler’s sign, shouting and cursing.
Pro-Abort counter-protesters at Daley Plaza [Photo by EJS]
Though only a small percentage of passers-by would accept literature, there were so many that halfway through the site we ran out. Without any more flyers to hand out, Annie Scheidler began to move through the crowd, posing as a regular pedestrian and striking up conversations about the graphic pictures at each corner. Her impression was that many households throughout Chicagoland would hold long-overdue conversations about abortion that evening. Despite resistance at this site, we stayed an extra half hour to reach as many people as possible.
The next day a man approached our volunteer Cathy Mieding at St. Peter’s Church in the Loop when she stopped to say a prayer. Recognizing her T-shirt from the Madison and Wacker site, he thanked her for being out there and commented on the effect our presence had: “There was an eerie silence that I have never, ever experienced before, and I’m there every day.”
Our stop on Day Two at the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue was bustling with tourists, students and workers on their lunch break. Our line of signs flanking the landmark lion statues elicited interesting responses. An Art Institute employee complained to Ann Scheidler that we were ruining the peaceful escape museum visitors are seeking. Ann pointed out that the Art Institute is filled with disturbing paintings and sculptures, including the crucifixion.
“Pro-Choice Because Kids Have No Future”
— Pro-abort sign at Art Institute
Most tour participants engaged in lively conversation with passers-by at this site. Annie Scheidler talked to a young couple who used every pro-abortion argument in the book, but finally admitted they only want abortion so they can continue to live in sin. At the end of the stop, some students appeared with a handmade sign reading “Pro-choice because kids have no future.” They were unable to explain what they meant.
We ended the day at Adams and Wacker Drive, reaching evening commuters at that intersection. The crowds at this corner were more indifferent or hostile than at Madison. However, the site was not without its bright spots. One woman called a friend on her cell phone to describe what she was seeing, then stopped to talk to Corrina Gura about fetal development. She had believed the lie that an unborn baby is “just a blob of tissue” and was amazed to learn that a baby’s heart beats as early as 21 days after conception.
Part 2: “Abortion Should Be Banned!”
We offer special thanks to Tom Morrison, a junior high school teacher who has come to work for the League the past several summers during our Face the Truth tour. Tom helped plan the tour, made and repaired signs, and drove the rented cargo van during the entire tour. We couldn’t have done it without him.
Following the Kennedy overpasses on Day Three, we set up on Lake Shore Drive by Buckingham Fountain. At first a Chicago Park District security guard tried to tell us to leave, but he then disappeared. The Chicago police included friendly bicycle cops who policed many downtown stops. At one point another officer appeared to be manipulating the traffic signals to keep traffic moving so drivers wouldn’t have to stop and look at the signs.
We had an outright confrontation with the police at our final stop on Van Buren, near the LaSalle Street Station. A police sergeant insisted we had to stay off a large stretch of sidewalk painted black, saying it was the private property of the owners of the building. Ann Scheidler objected that the public can’t be prohibited from using a sidewalk, but the officer threatened to arrest her if she set foot on the black sidewalk, even without a sign or brochure.
At one point a young man asked me what was on my Baby Malachi sign. I told him it was a baby boy aborted in the second trimester. He was shocked and declared, “Man, abortion should be banned!” and then slapped a stranger on the shoulder, and said, “That’s abortion!”
While half of the Truth tour stayed at the Van Buren site, the other half returned to the Kennedy overpasses to reach the afternoon expressway traffic. Thus ended our three-day downtown blitz.
Holy Spirit on Halsted
After three days in hectic downtown Chicago, we were glad to move to the South Side Saturday, July 12. Our first stop was at 87th Street and Western Avenue near the Marquette Country Club, where our numbers were bolstered by a new wave of volunteers.
Tour on Western at 87th in Chicago [Photo by EJS]
During our midday stop at 79th and Halsted Streets, a young woman approached Margie Manczko of the Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office and Annie Scheidler, and asked if the signs were true. With tears in her eyes she said, “They told me it was just like a tadpole. They never told me what my baby really looked like.” Realizing the distraught young woman had had an abortion, Annie and Margie gave her information on Project Rachel, and prayed for her.
Cathy Reese walked down a couple blocks to a White Castle restaurant looking for a bathroom for her son. Since only customers can use the bathroom, Cathy ordered a hamburger. The woman behind the counter asked Cathy, “Can you talk to her?” pointing to another young woman behind the counter. “She’s going to have an abortion and I want you to talk to her.”
Cathy was surprised but then realized the woman had read her T-shirt: “Abortion Stops a Baby’s Heart.” “I was just telling her not to get an abortion,” the woman said, “and then you walk in here.” Turning to her friend she said, “Isn’t that a coincidence?” Cathy gave the woman considering abortion some literature, and she seemed receptive.
The Quality of Life
Our last stop that day was at 51st Street and Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park. A young African-American man named Craig passing by with his baby son stopped and joined us. Craig and his girlfriend had considered aborting Craig, Jr. but decided against it and got married. They had dedicated themselves to Christ. Craig offered witness to a woman who at first objected to the signs, but then admitted she had had four abortions.
“It’s not for us to judge the quality of another’s life. Murder is never the answer.”
Craig told the woman, “It’s not for us to judge the quality of another’s life. Murder is never the answer. Two years ago my house was burned down. I had a tuxedo and three pairs of jeans, no job, no place to stay. My quality of life was pretty low. But nobody cut me up into little pieces. Nobody came along and said, “Oh poor Craig, he lost everything in the fire, we better kill him.'”
We said a special prayer at the end of this stop for Ron Brock and tour veteran Bob Roethlisberger, who were leaving Chicago to join a tour out East. Ron came from San Diego, CA to drive his anti-abortion truck around the sites during the first week of our tour.
After Sunday and Monday off to recuperate, we were back on the South Side of Chicago Tuesday, July 15, at 95th and Halsted Streets. We were joined by Fr. Peter West of Priests for Life, who has participated with us in past tours. Fr. Peter stayed with us for two days. We used special signs to draw attention to a Planned Parenthood abortion mill at the first site.
At midday we set up at Sibley Boulevard and Torrence Avenue in Calumet City. The owner of the White Castle there complained about our signs, even though we voluntarily moved them away from the restaurant. Many business owners are under the impression they own the public sidewalks.
Stalwarts Scott and Leo Reese at Kedzie and 103rd [Photo by EJS]
A reporter and photographer from the Northwest Indiana Times came to this site. I gave a long interview to the reporter, and almost missed the lunch hosted for us at St. Thomas More Church in Munster, IN. I was disappointed when her article appeared the next day revealing her pro-abortion bias. It was dominated by quotes from a local Planned Parenthood representative who claimed we were “spreading hate.” She had not even seen the tour site.
After the delicious lunch in Munster we ended at 165th Street and Calumet Avenue in Hammond, IN. After this site, a phalanx of activists joined Julie Wheeland at a protest at Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso, where abortions are performed. Julie protests there on a regular basis. The Porter County Times reported on the protest, the first time graphic signs had been used there. Julie’s group has continued to use the signs since. Her protest is finally receiving public notice.
Dave Funovitz distributes literature in Pilsen [Photo by EJS]
Grief and Grace from the Police
The second day of Week Two began at 103rd Street and Kedzie Avenue. We were given a hard time by a Chicago police officer who insisted we had to walk while holding our signs, and that they were too large. Tim Murphy, who works with the police a great deal, kept him talking until his sergeant arrived and diffused the situation.
At 67th Street and Western Avenue, an African-American neighborhood, we were joined by Fr. Gerry O’Reilly of St. Thomas More parish. The Chicago police at this site were respectful and helpful. They gave a deaf ear to furious complaints about our presence by the owner of Gillespie Auto Group on Western Avenue.
“That’s Abortion? We’re not going to do that.”
We included several Spanish signs at our afternoon site at Cermak and Ashland Avenues in Chicago’s heavily Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood. Cathy Reese was passing out literature on Ashland when a Hispanic couple stopped at the light with several children in the car. The wife called out to Cathy, “Tell him (indicating her husband) that’s what abortion is.” She explained to Cathy that he had told her to abort the baby she was pregnant with, their fifth child. He looked at the pictures and said, “That’s abortion? We’re not going to do that.”
Part 3: Weirdos in Yuppytown
Prayer at Fullerton and Ashland [Photo by EJS]
We faced our most hostile public reception on Thursday, July 17 with three upscale sites on the North Side of Chicago that we dubbed “Yuppytown.” It seems to be a rule: the more affluent the area, the more bitter the criticism. And the fewer the children in the neighborhood, the more likely residents complain that children might see the pictures.
We began at North Avenue and Halsted Street, a crossroads intersected by Clybourn, making for an unusual “six corners” site where we couldn’t effectively use our warning signs. Otherwise the layout made for an interesting site, since we had enough volunteers and signs to cover all the streets.
Our next stop at Fullerton and Ashland Avenues was another “six corners” where the devil seemed to set up a franchise. When I offered a wildly tattooed man a brochure, he countered with an offer to slit my throat. I said, “No thanks.” Later this “tough guy” harassed some of the women holding signs on Halsted near a shady bar where he appeared to work as a bouncer. Another man driving by shouted out that abortion is his sacrament and other blasphemies we will not repeat here.
We ended the day at Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street, an area known for its homosexual population. The public at this site was more indifferent than hostile. In the middle of this stop it began to rain and we started to pack up, but then the rain abated and we returned to our posts. This was the only spot of bad weather for the entire two-week tour, an unusually long stretch of blue skies.
The Truth Tour Workout Plan
After we left the last site, it began to rain heavily. I had bicycled to that day’s sites, as I had done for most of the tour, and it rained in sheets for my ten-mile ride home. It took several hours that evening to dry out my camera, radio and other equipment.
Despite the downside of exposure to bad weather, the bike proved a valuable asset during the tour, allowing me to quickly inspect lines of signs, bring water to participants, and take pictures. At several sites I arrived on my bicycle first and scouted out parking spaces for the vans carrying our signs and literature. Over the course of the tour I logged 200 miles on my bike, and lost ten pounds!
Strong Finish for 2003 Tour
The 2003 Face the Truth tour concluded with two days in the suburbs, with over one-hundred participants each day. On Friday, July 18 we lined block after block after block of La Grange Road at Ogden Avenue in La Grange, one of the most visually impressive displays of the tour. We were not allowed to pass out literature on the street, so our literature crew fanned out into the surrounding neighborhoods, leaving Face the Truth brochures at hundreds of homes.
Mary-Louise Kurey leads group prayer after River Forest stop, July 18 [Photo by EJS]
Our next two sites that day were similarly impressive, as the number of participants swelled and we nearly ran out of signs. At midday we lined three blocks in each direction at Harlem and Ogden Avenues in Berwyn, where a prayer group from a local Christian coffee house spontaneously joined us to hold signs and pray for an end to abortion.
Mary-Louise Kurey, Respect Life Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago, joined us for the last site of the day at Harlem and North Avenues in River Forest. One woman at this site typified the schizophrenic response of some of the public. First she stopped several blocks before the graphic signs just to threaten the young woman holding the warning sign with arrest. Then she pulled over in the middle of the display and got out of her car with her young son, and proceeded to complain to Ann Scheidler about her son seeing the signs. She threatened to have us all arrested. If she were really concerned about her son seeing the graphic abortion pictures, she might have turned off at the warning sign. Instead, she stood with him right next to a sign of Baby Malachi. Clearly the real issue wasn’t her child seeing the signs.
“Who Could Abort Children?”
We were met again by pro-abortion counter-protestors on the last day of the tour, starting at Pfingsten and Dundee Roads in Northbrook. They were a comical site with their little, blue “Keep Abortion Legal” signs, as more and more pro-life activists arrived and took up spots along the road. One of the pro-aborts held a hand-made sign that read “Pro-Child, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice,” a slogan made all the more ridiculous by the presence of dozens of pro-life parents and children at this site.
One ten-year-old, Joey Garcia, saw the Truth tour while driving past with his mother. Amazed by the pictures, he made her stop so he could get out and help. He held a sign for the rest of that site, and his family joined him for the midday site at Harlem Ave and Dempster Street in Morton Grove. “Who could abort children? I just don’t understand how anyone could do that,” Joey said.
2003 Face the Truth tour’s final stop on Touhy in Niles, July 19 [Photo by EJS]
In Morton Grove we spanned many blocks with our abortion signs, where again the handful of pro-abortion counter-protestors was reduced to irrelevance. “Where have you been all week?” I asked them. “We missed you.”
Before our last tour stop at Milwaukee and Touhy Avenues in Niles we were treated to lunch at the Evanston home of Mary Higgins. In Niles the pro-aborts were down to two, but there were so many pro-lifers that we ran out of signs. We invited latecomers to sit at the War Memorial fountain at the corner and pray for the end of abortion.
Awakening a Soul
After the final stop, eighty tour participants gathered at the Scheidler home on Chicago’s Northwest Side for a barbecue to celebrate the successful 2003 tour. The party was great fun. This year’s core group—those present for all or most sites—was the largest ever, and there was a marvelous esprit de corps. Great friendships are formed on the front lines of the abortion battle.
During the barbecue, Face the Truth veteran Monica Miller remarked that all the criticisms and insults are worth suffering for the sake of those we are able to touch. Her words are a fitting summary of the significance of a Face the Truth tour: “You are privileged to watch the awakening of a soul to the reality of abortion that they never knew or understood before.”
Links and Related Articles
- Father and Son Rally Troops on MD Tour—Joe and Eric Scheidler join Maryland Face the Truth tour
- 2003 Truth Tour page with full schedule, maps, and links to reports posted during the tour
- Face the Truth Beats the Heat—Article from August 2002 Action News on last year’s tour
- Face the Truth Main Page on this site