Tim Murphy (left) and Jerry McCarthy retrieve aborted babies’ bodies from the garbage behind the Michigan Avenue abortion clinic
In January 1988, an employee of Vital-Med pathology laboratory in suburban Chicago contacted Conrad Wojnar, director of the Women’s Centers, to alert the pro-life movement that when the lab did pathology work on aborted babies, their mangled bodies were placed in 50-gallon drums and left on the loading dock.
Corporal Work of Mercy
Wojnar called on the League’s Tim Murphy, who mobilized a small group of pro-lifers to go to the lab for several months to retrieve the bodies of the aborted babies. Tim found various places to store the aborted babies while arrangements were made for a decent burial.
I asked Chicago’s Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to preside over a Mass and burial ceremony for these babies. Bernardin, who was then head of the U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat, agreed to preside at the Mass and burial ceremony at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. The Archdiocese of Chicago absorbed the expenses of the funeral home, two white caskets and burial services. The ceremony was heavily attended by the press. The Cardinal told the media he was simply performing a corporal work of mercy—burying the dead.
Cardinal Bernardin (left) prays at the burial of aborted babies at Queen of Heaven Cemetery with Archdiocesan Respect Life Coordinator, Fr. Roger Coughlin (right)
The National Organization for Women latched onto the burial of the aborted babies and used the act of charity to add new charges and new defendants to its lawsuit against me, which had been filed two years before. Vital-Med lab was sued, as well as Randall Terry, Operation Rescue, Monica Migliorino, Andrew Scholberg, Tim Murphy and Conrad Wojnar. NOW’s Molly Yard claimed there were “up to a million unnamed co-conspirators” plotting to shut down the abortion industry.
Public Interest Intensifies
The media was interested in the pro-life movement in 1989. Nola Jones, founder of Victims of Choice, visited Chicago and appeared with me on WMBI radio. Garry Wills of Time magazine visited me at the League offices and accompanied me to Sacramento, CA for a talk at a rescue rally. The following day I was arrested for standing on a sidewalk speaking to Wills and spent most of the day in jail.
In a follow-up to our successful Meet the Abortion Providers conference in 1987, the League hosted Meet the Abortion Providers II on February 18, 1989 at the Marriott O’Hare. Dr. McArthur Hill, Dr. David Brewer and Dr. Beverly McMillan testified to their involvement in performing abortions and their awakening to the reality of what they were doing. Each underwent a Christian conversion as he began to doubt whether it was ethical for a doctor to perform abortions.
Nita Whitten and Kathy Sparks told of their work in abortion clinics, encouraging women who called to ask about what an abortion entails to make an appointment, assuring them that the procedure was quick and easy and that it was their right as women. Both also revealed that there were shady financial dealings at the clinics where they worked.
In March 1989 I began a series of college debates with Bill Baird, who likes to take credit for the legalization of abortion. It was Baird who brought the 1972 contraception lawsuit, Baird v. Eisenstadt, the precedent for the right to privacy cited in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Battling the Radical Feminists
In April, Tommie Romano, Penny Kleiner, Ann and I traveled to Washington D.C. to observe and counter the much-publicized NOW March for Women’s Rights. We joined a press conference covered by C-Span and CNN. Pro-lifers held stop abortion now signs—the League’s new protest signs hand-made in our office. These appeared in a color photo in Time magazine’s May 1 issue.
Molly Yard (center), president of the National Organization for Women when RICO charges were added to the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit
Tommie and Penny attended the NOW meetings in conjunction with the Rally. The sessions included a “how-to” film on do-it-yourself abortions and training sessions in manipulating the media to enable NOW to claim the “pro-life” title and in infiltrating the churches.
The Pro-Life Action League held its ninth annual Awards Brunch at the Marriott O’Hare. The guest speaker, Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, attracted the attention of local abortion advocates. His talk was interrupted by an invasion of the “Janes,” a group of women who performed illegal abortions prior to Roe v. Wade. They waved coat hangers and blew whistles until they were ushered out of the banquet hall.
Continuing Legal Battles
I was named in a second RICO lawsuit filed by the town of West Hartford, CT in June 1989. Perhaps emboldened by NOW’s outrageous and ever-growing NOW v. Scheidler RICO suit, West Hartford enlisted the assistance of NOW’s attorneys in an attempt to apply the racketeering laws to pro-life rescuers. I had never been to West Hartford, CT, but was nonetheless at the center of the new suit.
In early July 1989 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, permitting the first restrictions on abortion since Roe v. Wade. The ruling approved Missouri’s law barring public employees from assisting in abortions and prohibiting abortions in state hospitals. The Missouri law also required doctors to conduct viability tests on fetuses believed to be twenty weeks or older.
In the wake of the Webster decision, the League launched a massive campaign to educate Illinois priests and enlist their help in mobilizing Catholic parishioners in the fight against abortion, in the hope of placing restrictions on abortions in Illinois. Each priest in Illinois received a letter and collection of photographs of the aborted babies retrieved from a garbage dumpster behind a Michigan Avenue abortion facility. We asked the priests to preach on abortion and to encourage their congregations to demand that public officials protect human life.
Members of the League staff joined the audience at the Oprah Winfrey Show in July when her guests were Judie Brown, Dr. Beverly McMillan, NOW President Molly Yard and abortion advocate Judith Widdicombe. The League’s Tommie Romano was able to give an emotional testimony that women are lied to by abortion providers.
Confronting the Abortionists
Faye Wattleton, head of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, visited Chicago in September to speak to one of the group’s local affiliates. The League was on hand to greet Wattleton, carrying placards with life-sized pictures of her face and statements of what Planned Parenthood stands for: teen sex clinics, teen pregnancy epidemic, black genocide, planned barrenhood. The September 13 Southtown Economist featured a photo of the demonstrators with the Wattleton placards on the front page.
In the fall of 1989 the League learned that Edward Allred, owner of California-based Family Planning Associates, had purchased Chicago’s Albany abortion facility and opened another downtown, as well as referral offices in Schaumburg, IL and across from Bogan High School on Chicago’s South Side. Tim Murphy alerted South Side pro-lifers and the president of the bank that leased the office space to Allred. We brought enough pressure to bear that the bank evicted Allred. Two Chicago aldermen introduced an ordinance to prohibit abortion facilities and referral offices in close proximity to schools.
In response to a pro-abortion alderman’s outburst about pro-lifers trying to legislate morality, I uttered my now-famous comment: “For those who say I can’t impose my morality on others, I say, just watch me.” With the Allred clinics operating in Chicago, the League stepped up its sidewalk counseling activities.
The League’s lawyers had deposed Molly Yard when NOW expanded its lawsuit against me and the League. In November we took an aggressive stance and sued Yard and NOW for defamation of character. (Yard and NOW’s then vice-president Patricia Ireland had called me an “arsonist” and a “bomber” at a press conference in 1988.)
An Expanding Mission
I spent 120 days on the road in 1989, speaking in over forty cities, spreading the League’s approach to pro-life activism across the U. S. and Canada, emphasizing the Chicago Method of sidewalk counseling. As the year drew to a close the League released our blockbuster video, Meet the Abortion Providers, a documentary on the testimonies of former abortion providers who told their stories at the League’s Abortion Providers conferences.
Jerry Horn, a pro-life activist from Appleton, WI, joined the Pro-Life Action League staff in 1990. Jerry had organized Walk America for Life, along with his colleague and pastor, Norm Stone, and Melody Green of Last Days Ministries. The Walk presented “Baby Choice,” an 18-week aborted baby, to the American people as Jerry arranged for rallies and talks all across the country.
While in New York for a meeting with Cardinal John O’Connor, I learned that abortion proponents were holding a “Rejoice for Choice” service at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church on January 19. Three other pro-life activists and I infiltrated the congregation.
After listening to praise for women who had had the moral courage to have an abortion, as the group stood to sing “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” we pro-lifers stood up and held large photographs of aborted children. We were quickly ushered out of the church by New York City police officers. The pastor decided not to press charges.
In March the League held its first national seminar on sidewalk counseling, featuring Andrew Scholberg, Jeannie Hill of Denver and Frances Shipley, who worked with Msgr. Philip Reilly of Brooklyn to found the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. The League’s Jerry Horn, who is also a master chef, provided a gourmet lunch for the attendees.
Dr. Jack Willke and the National Right to Life Committee decided to hold a huge pro-life march in Washington DC during Cherry Blossom season. The rally featured Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dr. James Dobson and Rep. Henry Hyde. NRLC picked up on the League’s trademark stop signs and distributed thousands of red and white stop abortion now signs to marchers.
Exposing Fay’s Lies
The League was notified by Glen Ellyn residents that Fay Clayton, pro-abortion attorney in the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit, was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the DuPage County Chapter of NOW on June 19 at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. I attended the talk with forty pro-lifers, including Jerry Horn, Andy Scholberg and Tim and Bea Murphy.
When Clayton lauded the Roe v. Wade ruling which created the right to abortion, Horn called out, “Not for long!” Clayton assumed the comment came from me and asked me to keep my comments to myself. When I advised her that it was Jerry Horn who had spoken, Clayton replied, “Jerry Horn. You’re next,” referring to the fact that she planned to depose Horn in the NOW case.
Clayton was challenged by Tim Murphy when she referred to his retrieval of the aborted babies’ remains as “theft,” and by Bea Murphy when she claimed that unborn children are not persons. I led chants of “Life Yes, Abortion No,” which prompted Clayton to pick up her briefcase and walk out of the church.
In connection with the NOW v. Scheidler RICO suit, NOW’s attorneys released a list of 207 “co-conspirators,” including some people neither I nor any other pro-life activist had ever heard of. The League published the list and encouraged those on it to contact the NOW attorneys and ask why they were included.
Mobilizing the Nation
On June 25, 1990 members of the League joined representatives of several other pro-life organizations in New York to confront media censorship and distortion, distributing packets of materials to those attending the national convention of the Newspaper Guild. The League used New York as the launching point for its Truth in Media Caravan, visiting other cities around the country to highlight the media’s role in promoting abortion.
The Pro-Life Action League brings its 1990 Truth in Media campaign to the Chicago Tribune headquarters on Michigan Avenue
In late June 1990 the American Life League hosted United ’90, a national pro-life conference and TV rally. The League’s assistant director Jerry Horn took a brief leave of absence from the League to help coordinate Unity ’90.
The League led more than 500 pro-lifers in the annual Independence Day Parade in Des Plaines, IL in response to the announcement that the local NOW chapter would be marching. NOW managed to recruit only twenty-seven participants.
A legal victory was won on October 10 when Judge Daniel Mahoney of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the West Hartford, CT multi-million dollar RICO lawsuit filed against me and nineteen other pro-lifers.
In October Ann was invited to participate in a pro-life conference in Paris. While there she met with Senator Bernard Seillier, the leading pro-life member of the French Senate. She also met with nurse and pro-life activist Francoise Robin, who coordinated demonstrations at a hospital where abortions were performed. Robin and pro-life doctor Brigitte Guglielmena were very interested in the League’s Chicago Method of sidewalk counseling and in the video, Meet the Abortion Providers, which had been translated into French by Patrick Bray of Tours, France.
Pro-life press conference in Paris, 1990 (from left): Michel Raoult, Ann Scheidler and Patrick Bray
Ann, who speaks French, made a presentation at a press conference organized by the largest pro-life organization in France, the Association for Conscientious Objection to all Participation in Abortion (AOCPA), and spoke at the national meeting of pro-life representatives from the provinces of France. It was clear that French pro-lifers are relying on the pro-life movement in the United States to provide guidance in the international battle against abortion.
At the Abortion Centers
Early in 1991, Chicago pro-lifers were happy to learn that the Park Medical Center, an abortion facility on Chicago’s North Side which had been the site of many anti-abortion demonstrations, a lock-and-block rescue, a car rescue and weekly sidewalk counseling, had closed. Calls to Park Med were forwarded to Allred’s nearby Albany abortion clinic, but at least there was one less killing center in the city.
In February 1991 a Pro-Life Action League sidewalk counselor spoke with a young woman scheduled for an abortion at Family Planning Associates, who had conducted a pregnancy test and reported to the woman that she was pregnant. The sidewalk counselor accompanied her to Aid for Women, a pregnancy resource center, for counseling and another pregnancy test.
This test came out negative, so Aid for Women did the test again. Once again, negative. Later that day the woman took yet another pregnancy test at a public health clinic, and it, too, was negative. The young woman was grateful that she was saved by the sidewalk counselor from undergoing an abortion procedure when she was not even pregnant. The League had been alerted by several former abortion clinic workers that it is routine to do “abortions” on non-pregnant patients and pocket their money.
Rescue at Park Medical Center, Mother’s Day 1989
More than 150 demonstrators picketed the Albany abortion clinic on February 23 to highlight the racist leanings of Albany’s owner, Dr. Edward Allred. Sidewalk counselors regularly distribute copies of a San Diego Union article in which Allred speaks enthusiastically about aborting Hispanic and black babies. They also distribute summaries of the malpractice lawsuits that have been filed against Albany and Allred himself.
Two days prior to the large Saturday protest, Pastor Danny Maynard of High Praises Church led a rescue at Albany so police were on hand as soon as the picketers arrived. Pastor Maynard brought a busload of demonstrators from High Praises and strolled onto the clinic parking lot to talk with police. Although the clinic administrator was clearly unhappy to see Maynard back at her clinic, she did not order him off the parking lot or demand that he be arrested.
I spoke at several banquets in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan in mid-February and addressed students at the University of Saskatchewan and two high schools. During a picket of a hospital in Saskatoon, I led the twenty-five picketers right into the hospital lobby. While we were praying for the babies aborted there each week, a security guard grabbed me by the collar and tried to shove me down the stairs, an action caught on camera and aired on local TV news.
The League’s 11th annual Awards Brunch March 3 at Drury Lane Oakbrook honored Bishop Rene Gracida of Corpus Christi, TX. Bishop Gracida earned the respect of the pro-life movement when he excommunicated an abortionist and two abortion clinic directors after warning them of the evil of their activities.
I was presented with an honorary professorship by the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara at an international pro-life conference in Guadalajara. And Ann was invited to return to Paris for a conference sponsored by Laissez Les Vivres, where she spoke on activism in the United States and inadvertently discovered that the French word for activism actually translated to “terrorism”!
While in Paris Ann met David Logan who asked the League to participate in an international appeal to the Catholic Cardinals meeting in Rome in April that they step up their efforts to restore protection to the unborn. The League received many positive responses from its mailing to the world’s then 142 cardinals. The Cardinals requested that John Paul II issue a statement on abortion that would reaffirm the sacredness of human life. In 1995 the Pope issued his encyclical Evangelium Vitae.
Joe meets Pope John Paul II at a 1991 meeting of pro-life leaders in Rome
In November 1991 I attended a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council on the Family in Rome. During the course of the conference the attendees attended a Papal audience. Pope John Paul II welcomed the pro-life leaders and greeted them individually. I had the opportunity to present the Pope with a copy of my book CLOSED and to give him a petition asking for the public excommunication of public office holders who claim to be Catholic and yet support abortion. When I told the pope I was from Chicago, John Paul II remarked, “Chicago, a very pro-life city.” The Pope asked the pro-life leaders for input on the document he was preparing on the value and dignity of human life.
While in Rome, Steve Wood, Bogomir Kuhar and I picketed a Rome hospital where abortions were performed, holding signs reading aborto no! vita si!
The first SpeakOut Illinois breakfast and rally was coordinated by the League’s Tommie Romano on January 22, 1992. Tommie organized the event with the cooperation and sponsorship of thirty-four Illinois pro-life organizations. Over five hundred guests attended a breakfast at the Bismarck Hotel.
Talk show host Jerry Rose served as master of ceremonies and Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was the main speaker. Cardinal Bernardin’s appearance also drew the attention of the local media resulting in excellent news coverage of the memorial event.
I debated abortion advocate Bernie Koenig of the Canadian Abortion Rights League at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON on February 3. To the chagrin of the spokesman for the abortion side, the majority of the audience was pro-life, and the president of Ontario Students for Life explained that the audience was representative of the attitudes on campus. While in London, I also led an abortion protest and spoke to seminarians at St. Peter’s Seminary.
In February, NOW v. Scheidler headed to the Federal Appellate Court in Chicago after being dismissed by Judge James Holderman in May, 1991.
Chicago pro-lifers joined in solidarity with their counterparts in Ireland on March 3 as they demonstrated outside the Irish Consulate in support of Ireland’s ban on abortion. The international media had been pressuring Ireland to ease their restrictions on abortion, using a highly publicized story about a young Irish girl who they claimed was raped and wanted to travel to England for an abortion. It was widely believed among pro-lifers that the entire situation was a set-up to challenge Ireland’s law.
The Pro-Life Action League joined forces with other pro-life organizations to defeat the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) supported by NARAL, NOW and Planned Parenthood. At Tommie Romano’s suggestion, the League gathered hundreds of thousands of petitions asking Congress to oppose FOCA.
In April, 1992 the National Women’s Coalition for Life, representing 1.5 million women, called a press conference in Washington, D.C. at which the petitions were presented. Participating groups included Concerned Women for America, Feminists for Life, the International Black Women’s Network, the Life After Assault League, the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses, the National Council of Catholic Women, Victims of Choice and many others.
Following the National Women’s Coalition for Life press conference, the Pro-Life Action League held another press conference at the Rayburn House Office Building where the quarter-of-a-million signatures were presented as evidence to the members of Congress that the Freedom of Choice Act must be defeated.
“The Zeal of Ahab”
While in Washington the pro-life contingent countered a NOW rally at Union Station. I joined a rescue at the Hillcrest Clinic, Tim Murphy helped set up the Cemetery of the Innocents— including symbolic tombstones representing women who have died from legal abortion—and several of us cut across the NOW “We Won’t Go Back” march carrying Stop Abortion Now signs.
The pro-lifers sensed an attitude of defeat among the pro-abortion marchers, some of whom resorted to vicious attacks. A group of clinic escorts began beating up on me, but I was fortunately rescued by Bobby Sullivan, a young man I had met at a pro-life breakfast that morning.
The April 27 issue of Newsweek magazine singled me out among pro-life activists whom Newsweek credits with the anticipated downfall of Roe v. Wade. Newsweek’s John McCormick wrote that “the people who fought abortion in this country fought it with a holy fervor, in the spirit of Joseph Scheidler, a former Benedictine monk who persecutes abortionists with the righteous zeal of Ahab.”
The Newsweek article unwittingly brought out the fact that activists, led by the Pro-Life Action League, have kept the abortion issue in the forefront, generating the controversy that merits media coverage and drawing public attention to the abortion debate.
Pro-abortion extremists vandalized the Chicago office building where the Pro-Life Action League is headquartered in mid-June 1992, repeating an incident sixth months previous when unidentified persons spray-painted graffiti on the windows and parking lot of the building.
Various anarchist groups picketed our home in Chicago in the summer of 1992. I learned of plans for the first picket on June 29 while listening to the radio. I was interviewed by several Chicago reporters and then notified the Chicago police that pro-aborts planned to picket my home on June 30. I went to 7:30 Mass as usual and arrived home shortly after 8:00 to find the members of the Emergency Clinic Defense Coalition shouting in front of my home.
One demonstrator lay on the sidewalk pretending to be a woman who died because she could not get an abortion. The lawn sprinkler happened to be in place on the front lawn and my daughter Annie, then 17 years old, decided it was a good time to water the lawn. (The woman on the sidewalk just happened to be in the path of the water.)
In July someone left a stack of bibles on the front step of our home, all of them marked with obscenities or nonsense phrases. In September our home was vandalized by members of Refuse and Resist who painted slogans and taped posters all over the front and back of the house while we were out of town. We returned to discover that local television stations had filmed the vandalism, but police had not been called.
These attacks were a sign of the desperate measures the abortion forces were willing to take to stop our life-saving work. We were soon to see how far they were willing to go in court.
When Faye Wattleton announced her resignation as head of Planned Parenthood in early 1992, she planned to take a position as host of a talk show produced by Tribune Entertainment. The Pro-Life Action League launched a campaign to block the production and keep Wattleton off the air. We contacted forty pro-life organizations nationwide to join in the campaign. When Wattleton came to Chicago on August 28 to film the pilot program, we were there to protest, with placards identifying Wattleton with abortion and featuring photos of aborted babies. No more was heard about the potential talk show.
League pickets CBS over proposed Fay Wattleton talk show Aug. 28, 1992
The primary election season of 1992 saw a new approach to campaigning as Mike Bailey of southern Indiana won a landslide victory for his district’s seat in Congress. Bailey decided to run for Congress on a strictly pro-life platform. A former advertising consultant, Bailey learned that federal law requires that television stations provide airtime at their lowest rate for congressional candidates. He contacted the Pro-Life Action League to get graphic video clips for his television ads. The tactic was so unusual that just a week before the May 5 primary, Bailey and I were featured on the Jerry Springer Show. Once the ads began running, Bailey received dozens of calls from other pro-life politicians eager to expose abortion.
I was invited to testify May 6 before the U. S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice regarding the proposed Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). I reminded the committee members that there were already ample laws against trespass in every state and that purveyors of abortion had used anti-trust laws and the RICO law against pro-lifers, so there was no need for another federal law simply to protect the abortionists and restrict the rights of pro-lifers. FACE was ultimately signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 26, 1994.
Bringing Activism to Russia
As 1993 dawned, I accompanied Bill Grutzmacher to Moscow. Bill had overcome the city of Chicago’s roadblocks to erect a Nativity scene in Daley Plaza and decided he would do the same in Red Square now that the Iron Curtain had been raised in Russia. I went along in order to meet with pro-life activists in Russia.
Dr. Igor Ivanovich Guzov, head of Moscow’s Support for Motherhood, was eager to learn everything he could about pro-life activism in the United States. He gathered the Moscow activists together to meet with me and compare notes. Abortion has been legal in Russia since 1920 and serves as the principal method of birth control. According to Dr. Guzov the average Russian woman had had six abortions, and that it was not uncommon to have had thirty.
The second annual SpeakOut Illinois was held at the Bismarck Hotel in Chicago on January 21. The League distributed 25,000 copies of a newspaper insert, “America Must Decide,” for attendees to take to their own neighborhoods to deliver door to door. The League sponsored a bus trip directly from SpeakOut to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. The bus trip itself was fraught with mishaps, late arrivals and missing passengers, but the Illinois pro-lifers marched with hundreds of thousands of fellow supporters of life and met with their elected representatives during the whirlwind three-day trip.
More Testimony from Abortion Insiders
Former abortion providiers (from left) Marian Johnston-Loehner, Luhra Tivis, Judith Feltrow and Joan Appleton with Joe at Providers III
We continued our Meet the Abortion Providers series with conference III on April 3, 1993. Marian Johnston-Loehner, Luhra Tivis, Judith Fetrow and Joan Appleton testified about their roles in the abortion industry and their motivation for getting out of it.
Tivis worked for the notorious late-term abortionist in Wichita, KS, George Tiller. She revealed that Tiller regularly made substantial contributions to the campaign funds of local politicians. Appleton worked as a nurse and administrator at the Commonwealth Women’s Clinic in Falls Church, VA. As a result of a friendship she developed with Debra Braun of Pro-Life Action Ministries, Joan left the abortion industry. When she announced at a meeting of the National Organization for Women that she could no longer support abortion, she was asked to leave the organization.
Judith Fetrow worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic in the San Fransico Bay area. She compared her past support for abortion to a religious commitment and admitted to being pro-lifers’ “worst nightmare.” She said witchcraft was common in the abortion industry, and she lashed out at Planned Parenthood for its deceptive practices.
Marian Johnston-Loehner, who was herself a victim of abortion, founded a chapter of NOW in Florida and soon learned that the organization mandated support for abortion from all members. After years of buying into the NOW rhetoric, Marian received a copy of Dr. Jean Garton’s book, Who Broke the Baby, which destroyed the euphemisms she had relied on and helped her turn away from abortion and feminism.
Protesters Confront President Clinton
In July President Bill Clinton visited Chicago. Tim Murphy and I, along with forty pro-lifers, greeted the president at Midway Airport with large clinton=abortion signs. Later, outside a $1000-a-plate dinner at the Chicago Historical Society, pro-lifers held graphic abortion signs and stop clinton now signs. Clinton snuck into the building via a side entrance, but when he left the event his motorcade had to pass right by the graphic pro-life display.
Part I of the Clinton protest display, July 1993
Part II of the Clinton protest display completes the message
Tim Murphy and I attended the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) conference in Denver in August. The conference coincided with World Youth Day. Bill Clinton was scheduled to meet with the pope so the pro-life activists took advantage of the opportunity to greet Clinton with Stop Clinton Now and Stop Abortion Now signs.
One of the PLAN activities was a protest at Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood. The clinic was closed due to the presence of a hundred pro-lifers, a hundred pro-aborts and a large contingent of police.
In September, the League organized a protest of Cook County Hospital, which had resumed abortions a year earlier. Over one-hundred-fifty demonstrators held a memorial service for the estimated 1560 babies who had died from abortion at Cook County in the previous year. Several of the Cook County Commissioners who opposed abortion had sued County Board president Richard Phelan in a challenge of his power to unilaterally reinstate abortion at the hospital.
Jeannie French, coordinator of the National Women’s Coalition for Life and founder of the Professional Women’s Network, spoke on behalf of pro-life taxpayers who object to the use of their tax money to kill children and announced an ongoing petition drive demanding an end to abortion in the County hospital.
Other leaders participating in the memorial service included Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Coordinator Mary Hallan, who read a statement from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Fr. Jim Heyd, head of the Chicago chapter of Priests for Life, Kathy Reese, representing the Black Pro-Life Church Coalition and Rev. Bradford Traywick, pastor of the Broadview Baptist Church.
Later in September, I joined a protest at the Swedish American Hospital in Rockford, IL, organized by Scott Matthiew of Rockford Citizens for Life. Pro-lifers regularly picketed that hospital because the city’s only abortionist, Richard Ragsdale, had staff privileges there. News coverage of the picket in a driving rain was excellent. The protesters also picketed Ragsdale’s home the same day.
In 1993 I joined with California pro-lifers in suing Governor Peter Wilson for having ten pro-lifers forcibly ejected from Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Sacramento during an ecumenical prayer service honoring the pro-abortion governor in January 1991. In October, 1993 I went back to Sacramento to give my deposition in the case, Burns v. Wilson. I testified to my actions in the Cathedral, where I stood and announced that the ceremony was a sacrilege and requested prayers for Wilson. I had been arrested immediately and dragged from the Church.
Joe and Tim Murphy on the steps of the Supreme Court after Dec. 8, 1993 oral arguments in the “first round” of NOW v. Scheidler
First Round at the Supreme Court
My fellow “racketeers” and I sat in the front row at the United States Supreme Court on December 8, 1993 for the oral hearing in NOW v. Scheidler. G. Robert Blakey, architect of the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute, argued on behalf of the pro-life defendants. The question at hand was whether the RICO statute required an economic motive. Since the pro-lifers had not profited from their efforts to shut down abortion clinics, Blakey maintained they could not be charged under RICO. The Clinton justice department sided with NOW and argued that the statute did not specify that an economic motive was necessary.
Prayers by the hundreds accompanied us to the Supreme Court. A few days before the oral argument, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin met and prayed with Ann and me and our youngest son, Matthias. The Cardinal presented me with a medallion of the Holy Name of Jesus, bearing the words, “That you may have life in His name.” He also promised to offer his Mass on December 8 for a positive outcome at the Supreme Court. On the morning of the oral argument Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Scheidlers and Murphys.
The media turned out in droves to question attorney Blakey and NOW’s lawyer, Fay Clayton, after the one-hour oral hearing. In spite of the pro-abortion stance of most of the nation’s major media, many took the editorial position that the pro-life activists should not be subject to RICO charges.
Third Annual SpeakOut Illinois Event
The Pro-Life Action League helped coordinate the third annual SpeakOut Illinois conference on January 20, 1994. Adopting the theme, “Changing Hearts and Minds,” five hundred Chicago area pro-lifers gathered at the Bismarck Hotel to hear Dr. Jean Garton, founder of Lutherans for Life, give the keynote address. Three women who had been helped by the South Side Pregnancy Center told their stories of choosing life for their babies with the help of the center. And Mike Bailey, the Congressional candidate from Indiana, explained how he used his campaign as an opportunity to educate voters on the reality of abortion by showing graphic pictures in his television ads.
Following the talks, the group marched to the State of Illinois building for a rally, where Joe and Ann Scheidler spoke before several dozen members of the group boarded buses for Washington’s March for Life.
Two days after the twenty-first anniversary of Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court handed down its 9-0 ruling in NOW v. Scheidler, broadening the scope of RICO by deciding that the RICO statute could be used against protesters. The case would begin its trek through the Seventh Circuit to the District Court and back. Again the nation’s newspapers lined up in opposition to the use of RICO against protesters, since political protest has a long and proud tradition in American history.
Undeterred by High Court Defeat
Undeterred by the unexpected defeat at the Supreme Court, the League escalated protests at American Women’s Medical Center. Christmas and New Year’s Day had fallen on Saturdays that year so the clinics had been closed two Saturdays in a row. Expecting a backlog of abortions for the weeks after the holidays, we scheduled protests at several clinics for the following two Saturdays. Braving sub-zero temperatures, dozens of protesters participated. On the third Saturday, which coincided with the twenty-first anniversary of Roe v. Wade the League joined forces with Operation Rescue Chicago and Armitage Baptist Church for a large scale demonstration at American Women’s Medical Center. Following the announcement of the Supreme Court’s 9-0 ruling against me, another large contingent of pro-life protesters demonstrated at Chicago’s abortion clinics.
The Pro-Life Action League presented the Protector Award to Pennsylvania’s Peg Luksik at its annual Awards brunch on March 6, 1994. The League’s Tim Murphy also received a special award for his excellent coordination of demonstrations at Chicago area abortion facilities. The Dirty Dozen activist awards were given to twelve faithful pro-life activists who regularly came out to the clinics to save babies.
I spent St. Patrick’s Day 1994 in Ireland, where I spoke at a four-day conference sponsored by Human Life International in Malahide, County Dublin. The Irish Times carried an extensive story about the conference and highlighted my praise for Ireland as the “last great hope of civilized society,” since Ireland was one of the only developed nations that rejects abortion.
Protest Restrictions Beget Violence
On December 30, 1994 a gunman shot seven people at two Boston abortion clinics, killing two of them. Boston’s Cardinal Law immediately announced that all pro-life activity outside abortion clinics should cease, and he canceled a scheduled pro-life Mass. My niece, Elsa Scheidler, then a graduate student at Boston College, regularly prayed at an abortion clinic with a friend. She contacted her Uncle Joe to ask his thoughts on Cardinal Law’s decree. I told Elsa that I disagreed with Cardinal Law and recommended that she and her friend, Michael Patrick, continue to pray as usual at the clinic. They turned out to be the only pro-lifers at any Boston-area abortion clinic and were interviewed and photographed by Boston media.
Following Elsa and Michael’s example, most of Boston’s pro-lifers returned to their sidewalk counseling and prayer activities in front of the abortion clinics. Time magazine quoted me in the issue for January 16, 1995: “If we go away, it’s like we are conceding guilt.” I blamed the increase in violence on the FACE bill, which restricts protests. Placing restrictions on peaceful demonstrations only encourages turning to the non-peaceful approach.
1995: Busy Year for Activism
Spreading the word on the importance of non-violent direct action, I traveled to Bakersfield, CA, Washington D.C. and Ft. Wayne, IN in January 1995. February and March were filled with protests and talks in the Chicago area. The Museum of Science and Industry installed an exhibit on AIDS, filled with misinformation and promoting the use of condoms to avoid the disease. Tim Murphy and I took a group of fearless pro-lifers and twelve signs saying, “LIES” into the museum. We paid our admission fee, viewed the exhibit and then stood with our signs. We were ejected by security.
Joe and Tim Murphy expose the deception of the Museum of Science and Industry’s 1995 exhibit on AIDS
Spring of 1995 was a busy time for me. In April Mark Crutcher and I spoke at an activist conference in Wichita, KS, hosted by Life Legal Defense Trust. I spoke on non-violent techniques to stop abortion while Crutcher talked about ways to dissuade medical students from going into the abortion business.
In May, I joined Maine pro-life activist Prof. Terence Hughes to picket the home of abortionist Parker Harris and the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Center, as well as the Eastern Maine Medical Center where Harris performed late-term abortions. Later that month, Ann and I gave a joint talk in Aurora, IL for LIFE (Life is For Everyone) of Fox Valley. I emphasized the spiritual battle against abortion and Ann spoke about how the testimonies of the former abortion providers can help the pro-life movement.
Confronting Clinton Again—As Promised
Bill Clinton made another trip to Chicago in June, and following through on a promise to confront him with the truth about abortion at every opportunity, the League coordinated a protest across the street from the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Michigan Avenue. Sixty protesters held signs, including graphic posters of an aborted baby, abortion: america’s holocaust and pray to end abortion. As President and Mrs. Clinton arrived at the hotel they had no choice but to see the pickets and the graphic signs.
In July 1995, we released our second video featuring former abortion providers. Abortion: The Inside Story focused on the testimonies of seven women who had worked in various capacities in abortion clinics. Roger MacZura, who had produced Meet the Abortion Providers, and had videotaped four Abortion Providers conferences, edited all the presentations. Then Tim Murphy, Ann and I spent a day in the editing studio at Russell Videos in Detroit, carefully reviewing every scene, adding still photos and putting the finishing touches on the video.
The League held a sidewalk counseling conference at the Lincolnwood Radisson Hotel on August 26. Ann conducted the seminar with the assistance of Annie Scheidler, Cathy Mieding and Julie McCreevy. They discussed the motivation for sidewalk counseling, the importance of stepping into the shoes of the pregnant woman and the role of men in the decision for or against life. Tim Murphy explained the details of the Chicago Method and how to research the lawsuits against abortionists.
Trips to Africa and Italy
At the invitation of Right to Life of South Africa and Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, of Human Life International, I spent two weeks in South Africa in September 1995, introducing the activists there to my successful methods of pro-life activism. The pro-life team from the U.S. visited Johannesburg and Cape Town, meeting with local pro-life leaders. South Africans are overwhelmingly pro-life, but there is enormous pressure from international population control forces to legalize abortion in South Africa.
Joe leads rally in Cape Town, South Africa, September 1995
While in Cape Town, I visited a nursery run by the Visitation Nuns who care for babies dying of AIDS, including three-year-old N’tombi, who could speak three languages and chose to speak English with her new American friend.
In October, Ann and I traveled to Rome for the Pontifical Council on the Family’s World Congress on Pope John Paull II’s encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, which had been issued on March 25 to the enthusiastic welcome of the pro-life community. The Vatican urged pro-life leaders to invite young people to participate in the Congress, so we also brought Annie Scheidler and John DeJak, president of Loyola University of Chicago’s pro-life club. We joined hundreds of pro-lifers from all over the world to discuss the various ways to implement the Pope’s encyclical.
Banned from Canada
Human Life International scheduled a conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in November of 1995 and invited me to deliver the banquet address. Two days before the event, however, I received a call from Mark Bell, director of the Canadian branch of HLI, informing me that twenty-seven pro-abortion groups had banded together to try to keep me out of Canada. Bell said Fr. Marx and I might need special visas to enter the country.
When I arrived in Calgary, I was stopped by customs officials and had to fill out a Canadian Immigration Form and pay $125 for a special visa. I was told I could only remain in the country for three days. The pro-aborts who instigated the trouble had discovered that I had been convicted of trespassing in 1985 for going into an abortion clinic in Wilmington, Delaware at the behest of three local Christian ministers. I had paid a $50 fine at the time. But that “crime” translated to “Criminal Mischief” in Canada and has kept me out of the country ever since.
I had plenty to do in the United States, however, and spent December traveling from coast to coast. I spoke in Aiden, SC, Boston, MA and Los Alamitos, CA. The Los Alamitos event was a demonstration at the racetrack where abortionist Edward Allred is part owner and races his own horses. Over three hundred pro-life activists marched from Laurel Park to the Los Alamitos Race Track, where Allred had invited thousands of friends to a special running. Allred owns forty abortion clinics across the United States and has many lawsuits against him, his clinics and the other doctors who work for him.
Thus ended 1995, one of my busiest years yet, with three international trips, travels all around the country and many bold campaigns and protests. This level of activism would countinue in the coming years, even as the NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit finally came to trial in federal court.
Next Issue: “Pro-Life Action under Siege: The Abortion Forces Attack the League, 1996-2000”
Related Stories and Pages
- Pro-Life Action Comes of Age: The Founding of the Pro-Life Action League, 1980-1987—First installment of the 25th Anniversary retrospective
- About the Pro-Life Action League