VICTORY DAY: 8-1 Supreme Court Decision Ends NOW v. Scheidler

League Staff Prayer of Thanksgiving

The League staff offers a prayer of thanksgiving [Photo by Eric Scheidler]

Wednesday, February 26, began as an ordinary day at the Scheidler home. As we do every day, Joe and I got up at 6:45 and went to 7:30 Mass at Queen of All Saints Basilica, about a mile from our house. Joe is the lector at the Wednesday 7:30 Mass. He read from the Book of Sirach (4:11-19), “Wisdom breathes life into her children. . . . He who loves her loves life.” Sirach talks about putting Wisdom’s children to the test and goes on:

“Then she comes back to bring him happiness and reveal her secrets to him and she will heap upon him treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.”

The psalm response was, “O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.”

"O Lord, great peace have they who love your law."—Ps. 119:165

Following Mass, Joe and I recited our daily prayer to St. Joseph, asking his intercession to draw our family closer to Christ, to grant peace and healing to those who are ill, and to grant us a victory in NOW v. Scheidler.

After Mass we went home for a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. As has become our routine, Joe read the Chicago Sun-Times while I read the Chicago Tribune. Then we switched papers. Just before 9:00 I left for the office, while Joe finished checking the papers for pro-life news. There wasn’t much.

As I walked into the Pro-Life Action League office, Carmeline, Urszula and Annie shouted excitedly. “Have you heard? We won!”

I had no idea what they were talking about. We did not expect a ruling from the Supreme Court until June. How did they get the news?

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Whirlwind of Interviews Begins

Reporter Wes Bleed from Chicago’s WGN radio had called for a reaction to the Supreme Court’s 8-1 ruling in our favor. That was the beginning of a wild and hectic day. While Carm was on the phone with WGN, our attorney Tom Brejcha called to announce the win. Carm called Joe at home to tell him that Wes Bleed was trying to reach him, and that the Court had ruled in our favor.

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When Joe got to the League office we all gathered in the St. Joseph Chapel for morning prayers and a special prayer of thanksgiving for this great victory. We ended with “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” Joe’s favorite hymn. Julie and Anna were sidewalk counseling at American Women’s Medical Center where they had four saves. They found out about the Court ruling when they took women to the Women’s Center for help in continuing their pregnancies.

The WGN interview was followed by a constant barrage of phone calls from reporters and well-wishers. We did over sixty radio and newspaper interviews. Television crews showed up one after another, and took turns setting up equipment in Joe’s office, even while he was live on radio programs across the country. Photographers and reporters came and went. The phones rang non-stop, with all six lines lit up most of the time.

Tom Brejcha, who got the news at his home from attorney Roy Englert who had argued the case before the High Court, came straight to the League office and spent the rest of the day answering media questions and trying to read and digest the text of the Opinion.

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Co-Defendants Share Their Victory

Co-defendant Andy Scholberg stopped by to share the victory and pick up a copy of the Opinion. Co-defendant Tim Murphy arrived to help field media calls. Flowers were delivered from jubilant friends and supporters. One fan brought a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream for a victory toast. Our daughter Sarah, a teacher, came to the office after school, and daughter Cathy came with her three boys, Aaron, Aiden and Noah, and a bottle of champagne. We toasted with champagne and Sprite, depending on age and taste preference.

Between media calls, we tried to reach our other children to let them know the good news. Annie, who heads the League’s Generations for Life division, was the first person in the family to hear the news since she walked into the office just after the WGN call.

The Scheidler Kids Rejoice

Eric, the editor of the League’s Action News and League webmaster, heard the news on NPR. He started shouting for joy in his home office, with his family wondering what on earth had happened.

Joe, Jr., who had attended the oral hearing at the Supreme Court last December was at his office in downtown Chicago, but I only reached his voice mail. He called back a few minutes later, delighted about the outcome. He was not surprised that Justice Stevens was the dissenter, having heard his comments during the hearing.

Peter was teaching his economics class at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, Chicago, so I only reached his voice mail as well. He didn’t get the news until his wife Gina reached him later that afternoon.

Cathy’s scream for joy made one-year-old Noah start to cry.

Annie reached Sarah in her fourth-grade classroom at Sacred Heart School in Winnetka. Sarah had left her cell phone on. When she heard Annie’s voice she was worried that something bad had happened. Sarah was incredulous and thrilled, but tried to maintain a calm demeanor rather than have to explain to twenty fourth graders that her father was no longer a racketeer!

When Annie reached Cathy at her home, Cathy’s scream for joy made one-year-old Noah start to cry. Our son, Matthias, on an ecology mission in New Zealand for spring semester, could only be reached by email, which he can only check once a week. So he remained in the dark for a while longer.

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The Family Celebrates

The Scheidler Home

The Scheidler’s home on Chicago’s northwest side was saved by the 8-1 decision

Cathy then decided to get everyone together to celebrate. All of the kids had been worried about the possibility of losing our Edgebrook home, where they all grew up. They couldn’t imagine a time when it would no longer be “home.” Cathy called everyone and arranged for a family pizza party that evening. They brought flowers and balloons. Nate, Sam, Liza and Clare (four of Eric’s children) came with hand-made cards congratulating grandpa on his victory.

When Peter arrived he said it was a great feeling to come into the house without wondering how much longer he would have that privilege. With his brothers Joe and Eric, he immediately began drawing up plans to give the exterior of the house a much-needed paint job when the weather clears.

The NOW lawsuit was filed in 1986 when Peter was fourteen and Matt was just four. Last summer Matt spent several weeks organizing the files on the case. I asked him if he ever recalled a time when the NOW suit was not a part of his life. “No,” he said. Matt is now twenty-one and a junior in college at the University of Vermont. Four of our children have been married and ten grandchildren have been born during the course of the suit.

The last interview was finished at 11:00 p.m. It was a very good day.

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