We knew from the very beginning that the real purpose behind the NOW v. Scheidler case was to disrupt our effective pro-life efforts. The abortionists and the radical feminists at the National Organization for Women could see the impact we were having and they had no rebuttal to message. So they sought to silence us in the courts.
Scheidler grandson Aaron Miller sits beneath one of the billboards that featured his picture and inspired many pregnant women to seek help
We were determined not to let them succeed. During the 1998 trial we continued our life-saving work at the League. We ran a campaign to raise funds for ultrasounds for the clients of the Women’s Center, a crisis pregnancy center near both our office and an abortion clinic. I gave talks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Alabama and New York, and several in Illinois during the trial.
In the summer of 1998, undaunted by the guilty verdict, we launched a nationwide billboard campaign featuring a photo of my grandson, Aaron Miller, at the age of fourteen months, picking up stones from the alley behind our house. The billboard read, See the World Through Your Child’s Eyes, and included the number for a crisis pregnancy hotline. Over five hundred billboards were displayed in Illinois, Indiana, California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. An analysis of the phone calls to the 800 number revealed a significant increase in calls from the areas where the billboards ran.
Pro-Abort Bradley at Notre Dame
In early fall 1998 we learned that presidential hopeful Sen. Bill Bradley would be a guest professor at Notre Dame University during the fall semester. Hoping that the university administration was somehow unaware of Bradley’s strong pro-abortion stance, we contacted Notre Dame Provost Nathan O. Hatch and President Fr. Ed Malloy and were told that Bradley would not be speaking about abortion, but about public service.
League pickets Notre Dame on game day over Bill Bradley guest lectureship
The League and an ad hoc group of Notre Dame alumni started a letter writing campaign to convince Notre Dame to disinvite Sen. Bradley. When that failed the League led a series of protests. We attended Bradley’s first lecture and questioned him about his support for abortion. He confirmed that he stood by his vote against banning partial birth abortion. We hired small planes to fly over Notre Dame Stadium during every home game, trailing signs like Bradley=Abortion and Dump Bradley. And we picketed along Angela Boulevard—the main road into the university—on Oct. 31, as football fans poured into the campus.
Notre Dame never backed down, nor did they acknowledge that they should be more circumspect in their invitations to guest lecturers, but they certainly were forced to answer hundreds, perhaps thousands, of letters from alumni and pro-lifers who were troubled by the Bradley fiasco.
Battling Planned Parenthood
That fall we also learned that the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic was planning to move from its near north location in Chicago to a larger facility. We sprang into action and mailed a letter to every resident within a mile radius of the new location at LaSalle and Division Streets, alerting them to the arrival of Planned Parenthood in their neighborhood and asking them to join our protest on December 19. A few did, but we received many angry calls, letters and emails. As usual the Planned Parenthood supporters were vulgar, angry and threatening. Those who were sympathetic to our plea were polite. Over 150 demonstrators joined the picket in front of Planned Parenthood, including Fr. Thomas Paprocki, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fr. Paprocki was later named auxiliary bishop.
Just a year after the NOW v. Scheidler trial began, Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the Roe v. Wade decision, died. I had confronted Blackmun at a dinner in Chicago in 1984. He told me that he didn’t like being compared with Adolf Eichmann in the leaflets we distributed in front of the Drake Hotel. I asked him how he slept at night.
Thomas More Society Founded
In late May 1999 the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in my favor in Summit v. PLAN and Tom Brejcha immediately filed a motion in Judge Coar’s federal district court and tried to present the issues raised by the Wisconsin lawsuit. Judge Coar stated, “Frankly I don’t understand the motion.” Rather than try to understand it, he denied the motion.
Also in May, in anticipation of an unfavorable ruling from the district court, Tom Brejcha suggested that the Pro-Life Law Center become a separate entity, incorporated on its own. He recruited a respected board of directors and adopted the name The Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center, with the mission of defending pro-life activists well beyond the life of NOW v. Scheidler.
Julie McCreevy, director of the Chicago branch of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, the League’s sidewalk counseling branch, invited Francis Cardinal George, the new Archbishop of Chicago, to officiate at a Helpers Mass and prayer vigil on June 26 at St. Sylvester Church. Following the 8:00 Mass the gathering of over a thousand processed to Centro Medico Pan Americano abortion clinic to pray for an end to abortion.
Judge Coar Finally Issues a Ruling
On July 16, 1999 Judge Coar finally issued his ruling in NOW v. Scheidler, granting NOW a nationwide injunction against me and anyone affiliated in any way with me, and imposing a judgment of $257,780 to be paid to the two named plaintiff clinics, Summit and Delaware, by the defendants. Since Operation Rescue no longer existed, Randy Terry having settled out of the case in December 1997, and since the other two named defendants were relatively judgment-free, that meant that the Pro-Life Action League was the only entity with something to lose.
In order to proceed with an appeal without having to pay the $257,780 judgment, we had to post bond. Since neither the League nor I had $257,780 and since we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to lend us that kind of money, Ann and I decided that our only option was to use our house as collateral. We petitioned Judge Coar to let us use the house in lieu of cash, but Fay Clayton objected. She wanted some of the bond in cash. Due to the generosity of one of our supporters, we were able to post $70,000 in cash.
We had to have the house appraised to guarantee that it was worth the remainder of the bond. Clayton thought our appraiser was too generous, so she hired her own. Apparently he came up with a value higher than the first appraisal. She stopped objecting. Judge Coar set the arrangements for the bond and we filed our Appeal with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on August 6, 1999.
Activism Continues During Appeal
We picketed the radical feminist Lilith Fair for the second year in a row, and had a good turnout. In September I headed to Dublin and Belfast for a conference and series of talks. The Irish pro-life activists are brave, energetic and fearless. They have no intention of allowing abortion into Ireland. I found it encouraging to spend a week with these courageous leaders.
October was packed with trips—Rockford and Ottawa, IL, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. In mid-October the League hosted the “Bring America Back to Life” Conference at the Marriott O’Hare. We brought in pro-life activist leaders from all over the country to present their own effective programs. We concluded with an open session for all in attendance to ask questions and contribute ideas. Everyone declared it was the most productive pro-life conference they had ever attended.
League Releases “No Greater Joy”
For several years we had wanted to produce a video on sidewalk counseling in order to inspire and train more pro-lifers in the art of turning a woman away from abortion. We were fortunate to meet Don Carney, a video producer with strong ties to the rescue movement. In fact, Don met his wife when they were both arrested in a rescue. Don had produced an excellent video for the Women’s Center and was recommended to us for our sidewalk counseling project.
Videographer Don Carney and technician Bob Barwegen discuss the taping for the League’s “No Greater Joy” video
Don recruited a talented videographer and audio technician and we began taping our abortion clinic presence, League meetings and individual interviews. Eventually we had twelve hours of material. Miraculously Don was able to edit it to twenty-eight minutes of compelling testimonies that make the case for sidewalk counseling.
We added a manual, a fetal model and a selection of literature to the video to create a sidewalk counseling seminar package. “No Greater Joy” was released in May 2000 and was enthusiastically received by pro-life activists. Hundreds of copies have been shipped, and thousands have watched the video on our website and on EWTN.
Our First Face the Truth Tour
In the year 2000 we launched our first Face the Truth Tour. Pastor Matt Trewhella of Missionaries to the Preborn in Milwaukee had been doing Truth Tours for five years, focusing on exposing Planned Parenthood. We decided to adapt the concept and expose abortion to the general public. Our first Tour was set for the last two weeks of June with thirty sites. We coordinated the Tour with Monica Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.
The Tour was a tremendous success and is now a staple of the summer for pro-lifers. Don Carney videotaped some of the sites and we later put together an 11-minute training video to spread the idea nationwide.
Our Face the Truth Tours inspired other pro-lifers in Illinois to take the Tour concept to the political front. Vote Life America began using large graphic abortion posters to protest pro-abortion politicians and encourage voters to support pro-life candidates.
Pro-Lifers Shocked by Live Birth Abortion
The pro-life community was shocked to learn that late-term abortions were taking place at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, a southern suburb of Chicago. Nurse Jill Stanek had gone public with her first-hand experience at the hospital after she comforted a baby left to die in a soiled laundry room after an abortion. She was shaken by the experience and knew she had to do something to get the hospital to stop the procedure. They tried to fire Jill, but armed with a good attorney, she was able to hold on to her job for two more years.
We joined with other pro-life organizations in Chicago to put pressure on Christ Hospital and its parent company, Advocate Health Center. With Jill’s help we obtained a copy of the hospital’s abortion policy. We sent a copy of the policy to every obstetrician on staff at all nine Advocate hospitals in the Chicago area, and asked if they supported the policy or not.
The League pickets Advocate Health Center headquarters in Oakbrook, IL Nov. 6, 1999 over the atrocities revealed by Jill Stanek
Advocate’s response was to advise the doctors not to reply to our inquiry. They claimed that the FBI had told them that the Pro-Life Action League was a radical group and they should avoid any contact with us. Ann contacted an FBI agent who had come to our office during an anthrax scare. He assured her that the FBI does make comments about organizations and that it was not possible that the FBI had given that advice.
Pro-life groups began protesting at Christ Hospital on a regular basis and continue to do so today. Pro-lifers also continue to picket Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, the other facility in the Advocate network that performs abortions. All Advocate patients are referred to Christ Hospital or Lutheran General for abortion.
Jill Stanek testified before a congressional committee in a campaign to pass the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush on August 5, 2002.
Appeals Process Begins
In September 2000 we had oral hearings at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Our three-judge panel included Diane Wood (who had clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun), Ilana Rovner (known to be pro-abortion) and Tim Evans. We were not optimistic. Judge Evans deferred to the women on the panel, and did not ask one question, while Wood and Rovner were clearly in Fay Clayton’s camp. Two weeks later the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling; I remained a federal racketeer.
We tried appealing to the full Seventh Circuit, to no avail. Yet it took them a year to make up their minds. Not one judge voted in our favor. The next step was an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court.
In the meantime, NOW’s former president, Patricia Ireland, made inflammatory statements against me in the media. She claimed that I taught “violent” tactics to Priests for Life. “They’re now trying to sell the Chicago method to start attacking the clinics again,” she said. She described the Chicago Method as “physical violence at the clinics. It’s the attacks. It’s the terrorism.”
I had to sue her for libel. I invited Fr. Pavone to join me in the suit since it was his Priests for Life who were allegedly learning my violent tactics. His attorneys said no, and settled for sending her a stern letter. Tom Brejcha deposed Ireland with Fay Clayton as her attorney. Clayton was obstructive and belligerent, and instructed Ireland to refuse to answer questions. A judge ordered that the questions be answered in a second deposition.
Supreme Court Appeal
On the NOW v. Scheidler front, Tom Brejcha felt that we needed appellate expertise in order to be successful at the Supreme Court. He had heard good things about Alan Untereiner of Washington, D.C. and contacted him to see if he would take our case. Our past experience with most lawyers was that they realized it would be too much work and they lost interest rapidly. But Alan was excited about the prospect and was well acquainted with the legal issues involved. On January 28, 2002 we filed our Petition for Certiorari and it was granted on April 22. The oral hearing was scheduled for December 4 before the U. S. Supreme Court.
We weren’t idle while waiting for the Supreme Court hearing. I joined activists Troy Newman, Ken Reed, Colette Wilson, Cheryl Sullenger and Rev. Al Howard to celebrate the closing of two abortion mills in San Diego. Sullenger was instrumental in closing fifteen abortion clinics in San Diego County.
I spoke at two venues in Baltimore in May. Mary Ann McCafferty invited me to give the address for a dinner sponsored by ABBA Ministries to benefit the Gabriel Project, an initiative to mentor young pregnant women and mothers. Steve Peroutka, a great fan of the Truth Tours and pro-life activism, invited me to address a Pro-Life Appreciation Dinner in Severna Park. At the dinner I was presented with a large canvas featuring a photograph of me taken in front of the Supreme Court. The poster now hangs in Ann’s office.
Rescue Veterans Join Truth Tour
The 2002 Truth Tour was moved to June to avoid the July heat. But the heat followed us anyway. We hired a teacher from Christian Liberty Academy, to coordinate the Tour. Troy Newman, Ken Reed and Joe Foreman, all veterans of Operation Rescue, joined us for two of the toughest days in hostile towns. We added Tour shirts, a tactic borrowed from Jack Ames’ Truth Tour in Baltimore, to further enhance our message. The back said, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” That T-shirt message saved a baby when a young woman saw Ann in the shirt as she stopped to fill our coolers with ice.
In October I headed for Northern Ireland where I joined other pro-life activists from the U.S. and Ireland for a conference hosted by Precious Life. In spite of Northern Ireland’s ties to Great Britain, abortion remains illegal there, thanks to the efforts of Bernadette Smyth and Precious Life. I warned the Ulster activists that they must keep abortion out of Northern Ireland. The United States is proof that once abortion becomes law it is an uphill battle to get rid of it.
Generations for Life Launched
The Pro-Life Action League expanded its outreach to young people by launching Generations for Life, with my daughter Annie Scheidler as director. After four years as a youth minister, she wanted to concentrate on developing a deep respect for life among teens and on empowering them to educate their peers and communities on life issues. Annie’s first task was to develop a curriculum for pro-life clubs and youth groups.
In November my son Eric joined the League staff as Communications Director. Eric had spent five years with the GIFT Foundation, concentrating on promoting the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. He had grown up with the pro-life activist movement and had a real heart for the League’s work. Eric took over editorship of the Action News and began a thorough overhaul of our website, which is now one of the premier online pro-life resources.
Victory in the High Court
The Supreme Court hearing on Dec. 4 was heartening. Justices against us on the abortion issue were concerned about the real possibility that RICO could be used against political protesters in liberal causes. They were aghast at the suggestion that famous leaders like Carry Nation and Martin Luther King might be considered racketeers under NOW’s interpretation of the RICO statute.
When Fay Clayton was caught by Justice Antonin Scalia in a blatant lie about her statements during the trial, we knew there was a good chance for victory. But the 8-1 ruling in our favor on February 26, 2003 was much more than we had hoped for.
Newspapers across the country applauded the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision as a victory for the right to protest. The Chicago Sun-Times stated, “Relying on RICO . . . to prosecute nonviolent protesters like Chicagoan Joseph Scheidler, head of the Pro-Life Action League, is neither appropriate nor conscionable. Contrary to NOW’s position, it would result in the silencing or chilling of people’s First Amendment rights—not only those demonstrating against abortion.”
League Efforts Expand
Generations for Life was growing by leaps and bounds. Annie needed more space and an assistant. We cleared out a room that housed all our huge picket signs, rented storage space for them, and turned the space into the Generations for Life office. We hired Mary Shine to assist Annie in meeting the needs of high school students. They both spoke at high schools and helped set up pro-life clubs. Annie and Mary worked with Eric to produce a GFL brochure and web page and edit the GFL curriculum.
Eric was also on the speaking circuit with a special focus on faith, family and the legacy of abortion. With his background at the GIFT Foundation he has a passion for helping young and old understand the true meaning of marriage. He shows how devastating the contraception culture has been to marriage.
Fr. Pavone of Priests for Life set April 1-10 for a New York Face the Truth Tour, expecting moderate spring weather for his first Tour. But starting on April Fool’s Day should have been a clue to be on guard. Ann and I joined him for two days in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was chilly at the Central Park site in Manhattan, but by the time we hit Brooklyn, we were practically in blizzard conditions. Huge, wet snow fell fast and furiously. We had to wipe off the signs every two minutes to see them at all. Finally we threw in the towel. Motorists could not see our signs and conditions were so slippery that drivers had to keep their eyes glued to the road. Fr. Pavone said he might as well have chosen December.
Reaction from New York pedestrians and motorists was subdued. We get more vocal response in Chicago. Does that mean New Yorkers are all pro-life? Or just apathetic?
Embarrassing the Abortionists
Back in Chicago, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the newest name for what was once the National Abortion Rights Action League, celebrated abortion at a luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel. We volunteered as the welcoming committee with our graphic signs. We knew these staunch supporters of abortion would want to see what they stood for. Luncheon guests tried to ignroe us, but other passers-by were interested and one cab driver stopped and took literature because his daughter was considering an abortion. He called the League office later to get more information for her.
League pickets Fay Clayton talk at Glencoe, IL synagogue, May 21, 2003 [Photo by Eric Scheidler]
We also felt compelled to provide a welcoming committee for Fay Clayton who spoke at Am Shalom synagogue in Glencoe, IL on May 21. In addition to a large contingent of picketers with signs featuring Clayton’s picture and the World Magazine “Perjury?” article, four “spies” went in to monitor what Fay had to say. She railed against the “physical attacks” at the abortion clinics and called me “violent.” She called Congressman Henry Hyde a “liar.” But she admitted that the pro-abortion side is losing ground and she was worried about the balance on the Supreme Court.
League Celebrates Victory
We scheduled a Victory Celebration for June 6 in the Federal Plaza across from the court where we had spent seven weeks in trial. We thought that by June the Appellate Court would have followed the Supreme Court’s directions and reversed its prior decision. The injunction would be lifted and the bond released. We misjudged the chicanery of the pro-aborts. None of the directives from the Supreme Court had been acted on. But we had 8-1 in hand, so we went ahead with our Rally in Federal Plaza featuring leaders of the pro-life movement—Nellie Gray, Fr. Tom Euteneuer, Troy Newman, Chris Slattery, Bernie Smyth, Fr. Frank Pavone, Fr. Paul Marx, Mark Crutcher, Jack Ames, Jerry Horn, Ed Martin—and a Dixieland band to accent the celebration.
From the Rally we proceeded to the Congress Hotel for workshops in pro-life activism and a Victory Banquet for over five hundred guests. At the banquet we presented Tom Brejcha with a plaque honoring him for his dedication to life and justice. The plaque was inscribed with the dates of the NOW v. Scheidler case, 1986-2003. We would be proved wrong about the end of the case and have promised to cross out “2003” and have the final date engraved when the case is really over (see related story).
Eric Takes Over Tour Duty
Our 2003 Face the Truth Tour ran from July 9-19. Eric took over as Tour coordinator. John Jansen, a teacher at Northridge Prep School and former president of the Loyola University pro-life group, joined the tour. Plus we had a crack team of volunteers who set up each site with the efficiency of a military unit. Dan Payne, Scott and Leo Reese and Eric’s son Nate were invaluable to the success of the Tour. Over sixty “Tourists” came to our house for a barbecue after the last site on July 19.
On Sept. 3 Paul Hill was to be executed in Florida for the shooting death of an abortionist and his driver. I fielded media calls all day on the death penalty, my reaction to shooting abortionists and the state of the pro-life movement after the shootings. I appeared on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss Hill’s execution.
I had a flurry of talks in September and October, traveling to Arlington, VA, Buffalo, NY, Menominee Falls, WI, Libertyville, IL, Sterling Heights, MI, Steubenville, OH, Orange County, NY, and Ann Arbor, MI to promote activism and assure pro-lifers that we are making headway.
In November I was invited to Washington, D.C., along with a group of writers and editors, to attend a preview and discussion of The Passion of the Christ, scheduled for release on Ash Wednesday the following year. The film was so powerful that the room remained dead silent for nearly a full minute when it was over.
It’s always nice to have an excuse to go to a warm climate in mid-January. Luckily I was invited to Tucson, AZ for a series of events commemorating Roe v. Wade. We picketed Planned Parenthood, attended a pro-life Mass sponsored by Catholics United for the Faith, and joined a March to a cemetery for a memorial to the unborn. At the cemetery thirty-one white doves were released, marking each year of legal abortion. Then a person born in each year since 1973 came forward to place a white rose at the memorial.
Ann and I, with Eric and his son Nate, went to Washington for the annual March for Life. It was Nate’s first plane ride which made the trip more fun for all of us. As usual it was exhilarating to march down Constitution Avenue with hundreds-of-thousands of fellow pro-lifers. After the March Ann and I attended the “Silent No More” press conference in front of the Supreme Court. Dozens of women testified to the devastating effect abortion had had on their lives. While Eric and I attended meetings the day after the March for Life, Nate and Ann toured the city.
In February I flew to Miami Beach, FL to receive the Cardinal O’Connor Award from Legatus. Four years earlier I had been in Cong. Henry Hyde’s office and commented on the Cardinal O’Connor Award on his bookshelf. He offered to let me borrow it for a while. Shortly afterward his office was destroyed by fire and all his plaques and awards were destroyed—except for the Legatus award, which was safely on display in my office. I told the Miami audience I could now return Henry Hyde’s award since I finally had my own.
On Ash Wednesday Chicago pro-lifers met at an Evanston, IL theater to see The Passion of the Christ. I noticed many in the audience were teenagers. Just like at the November preview, when the film was over there was silence, which continued as the people filed out. In spite of the controversy surrounding the film, it was a resounding success.
Fateful Campus Truth Tour
In March we fatefully launched a series of monthly Truth Days on college campuses on “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day.” We took our graphic display to Northwestern University and to Loyola University, where we were confronted by a rabble of belligerent anarchists who had learned about the Truth Day from our website. At Northwestern we had to call the police to assure our safety, and one of the pro-abort activists was arrested for disturbing the peace and drug possession. At Loyola, a woman who identified herself as the Freshman Dean told us we could not stand on the public sidewalk near a CTA bus stop. She then fraternized jovially with the anarchists. Some pro-life students joined our demonstration.
Pro-abort counter-protestors at UIC, April 7, 2004, Spy Wednesday
At our next Campus Truth Day on April 7, which was Spy Wednesday of Holy Week, the anarchists were back during our Tour sites at the Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Illinois at Chicago. At UIC they grew violent, attacking League staffer Carmeline DeVito and splashing Eric and me with black dye. Dozens of campus and Chicago police were on site but were unhelpful. We concealed the locations for the remaining campus Truth Days from the pro-abort activists, and we were able to continue our campus outreach unhindered.
Friends in Florida
Jerry and Kathleen Sullivan, pro-life friends who had relocated from Chicago to Naples, FL invited Ann and me to visit them for a few days in March. Kathleen had founded Project Reality, an abstinence education organization, and “retirement” notwithstanding, she was still heavily involved in the movement. She was glued to the television during the primary election returns to find out what happened in Illinois.
Activist Jim Finnegan also has a winter home in Naples. He arranged for me to speak at Ave Maria University during our mini vacation. After my talk I joined Fr. Joe Fessio, S.J. and many students for the evening Rosary walk around the University.
Jack Ames invited me to Baltimore for as many talks as he could squeeze into two days. Jack has the ability to keep me busier than I would think possible. But I always meet terrific pro-life people, so I love it. I spoke at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary, the University of Maryland and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. The following day we spent an hour at an abortuary before heading to the airport.
The Wonders of New Mexico
Dr. Tony Levatino and his wife Ceil invited Ann and me to visit their new home in Las Cruces, NM and to give a talk to the Dona Ana County chapter of Right to Life of New Mexico. The Levatinos left Troy, NY to settle in southern New Mexico in 2003 and quickly became involved in the pro-life community there. Tony is medical director of a crisis pregnancy center and Ceil was a delegate to the Republican National Convention.
The day after my talk in Las Cruces, the four of us drove two hundred miles to Albuquerque where Tony and Ceil were the speakers at a fundraiser for the Albuquerque CareNet centers. On the drive back to Las Cruces we had a lively discussion on the role of contraception in the abortion culture, which spurred us to plan for a conference on that subject (see related story).
Tony, an amateur astronomer, set up a powerful telescope to show me the New Mexico night sky. We were all awestruck by the glory of God who created the universe with its endless heavens. The next morning as we drove to church I saw another beautiful sight—a CLOSED sign on a Planned Parenthood center. Our aim is to slap a CLOSED sign on every abortion clinic in the nation.
A Pro-Life Springtime
Right after the New Mexico trip I boarded an Amtrak train for Jackson, MI where I spoke to Jackson Citizens for Life at the invitation of Kathy Potts; then flew to Chesterfield, MO for a talk at Gateway Academy, arranged by Camille Murphy and Elizabeth Daub, formerly of Walk for Life. Ann and I drove to Peoria, IL for a dinner and talk at a Legatus gathering. A few days later we were on our way to Lynnwood, WA where I delivered the banquet talk for Pro-Life Washington and Ann gave a workshop on sidewalk counseling for the Seattle area Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. Matt and Georgene Ulrich arranged both events.
Generations for Life saw some major changes in spring 2004. Annie got married in May and became Mrs. Robert Casselman. Co-director Mary Shine left the League to become a mother, and John Jansen, who had helped us with Face the Truth in 2003, joined the GFL staff full-time.
2004 Truth Tour Saves 20 Babies
Eric Scheidler sets up the display during the 2004 Face the Truth Tour [Photo by Dan Gura]
Our annual Face the Truth Tour ran from July 7-17 and this year my son Matthias joined the core team. He, Eric and John Jansen brought Truth Tour coordination to a new level. We spent the first three days at sites in downtown Chicago, then covered sites north, south and west of the city. Once again we ended the Tour with a party at our house. The 2004 Tour resulted in at least twenty known “saves,” situations in which people told us they had changed their minds about an abortion after seeing the graphic pictures.
A trip to Manchester, NY afforded me an opportunity to visit with Shannon McGinley, who had worked at the League before she got married. Shannon had invited me to Indiana University in 1992, where I faced one of the most hostile crowds in my pro-life experience. After a year with Collegians Activated to Liberate Life (CALL) and a year at the League, she married and moved to the east coast where she quickly got involved in pro-life. She invited me to address the New Hampshire Right to Life Committee at their annual banquet.
Picketing Loyola Law Award
League protests Loyola Law School award to pro-abort Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Oct. 30, 2004 [Photo by Ann Scheidler]
On October 30 Loyola University in Chicago presented the Saint Robert Bellarmine Award to Lisa Madigan, the pro-abortion Attorney General of Illinois. While I was in Waterbury, CT for a talk at the Connecticut Right to Life banquet, and Eric was in LaSalle County, IL giving a seminar on Face the Truth, John Jansen led a protest of Madigan at the Westin Hotel, situated such that everyone who attended the formal dinner had to see our graphic abortion signs and placards saying: Shame on “Catholic” Loyola and Lisa Madigan Is Pro-Abortion. Across the street hundreds of patrons of the House of Blues, in line for a concert, had an opportunity to dwell on the reality of abortion.
Pro-lifers in Des Moines, IA took advantage of several League speakers in November. I was invited to speak at the Iowa Right to Life convention. John Jansen and Annie Casselman put on an entire teen conference at the convention, and two weeks later Ann went to Des Moines to give a sidewalk counseling seminar and on-site training.
When Jen Giroux of Cincinnati, OH heard that the League was facing a financial struggle she hastily pulled together a fundraising event. Ann and I drove to Cincinnati where I gave a talk and Jennifer cajoled the guests into making donations to the League. She raised over $10,000. They even raffled off an original edition of my book CLOSED: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion for $300!
We ended 2004 with what has become an annual event, the “Empty Manger Christmas Caroling.” We visited five abortion clinics with an empty manger and sang Christmas carols to highlight the beauty of every child’s life. Two babies were saved when women were touched by the words of the carols and the reality of Jesus’ birth.
2005: Our Silver Jubilee
The year 2005 marked the 25th anniversary of the Pro-Life Action League and we began planning for events to celebrate our silver jubilee. Apparently our celebration would not include an end to NOW v. Scheidler.
On January 28, nearly two years after our “victory” at the U. S. Supreme Court, and a year after we had petitioned for an en banc hearing, the full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision, siding with NOW’s lawyers who somehow construed that the Supreme Court hadn’t meant what it said in the 8-1 2003 ruling. By NOW’s reckoning, when the Supreme Court said the “injunction issued by the District Court must necessarily be vacated,” and the judgment “must also be reversed,” what they meant was “might be reversed—or might not.”
The Appellate Court wanted to leave it to Judge Coar in the District Court to decide. But we had had enough of the District Court. We chose instead to take it back to the U. S. Supreme Court to determine if they meant what they said or not. Once again we petitioned the high Court for a hearing.
Wisconsin prayer warriors asked us to join them at two abortion mills in Milwaukee in January. Linda Schmidt, director of the Milwaukee chapter of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, organized a prayer vigil at Summit abortion clinic and at Planned Parenthood. At Summit a contingent of aggressive, confrontational deathscorts mocked the prayers of the forty stalwarts who held a two-hour vigil despite sub-zero temperatures. Planned Parenthood was closed for business, but we prayed there for an hour. In my talk at the awards luncheon following the vigil, I reminded the audience that they were not there by chance. They had been chosen by God for a specific pro-life vocation. The unflagging efforts of the Milwaukee pro-life activists were rewarded in November when Summit clinic abruptly closed down. Deo Gratias!
League Mourns Terri Schiavo
Throughout the month of March the national media and the pro-life community were absorbed with the tragic plight of Terri Schiavo. The League joined an eleventh-hour campaign organized by Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman to pressure the national and Florida state authorities to intervene in the court-mandated starvation of Terri. In Chicago the League dedicated a Face the Truth Day to a massive literature distribution alerting Chicagoans to travesty. On March 29, we joined a demonstration led by Not Dead Yet, a disability advocacy organization. Terri’s death on March 31 was a black day indeed.
The Pro-Life Action League has always aimed to maintain good relations with members of the media. In that vein on March 24 Ann and I joined representatives of several other Chicago area pro-life organizations in a round table discussion with Chicago Tribune public editor Don Wycliff and five Tribune writers. The meeting was very positive and led to subsequent calls from Tribune staff on various pro-life issues, as well as coverage of our Contraception Is Not the Answer conference in September.
Saving Babies—and Souls—with the Truth
As League demonstrators lined Lake Shore Drive at Jackson Boulevard on April 18, a young man stopped in astonishment. “That’s what abortion looks like?” he asked. He explained that a “counselor” at a Chicago abortion clinic had told him and his pregnant girlfriend that the unborn baby looked like “worms.” Seeing the truth, he vowed he would have nothing to do with abortion. My son Eric gave him information on finding help.
On April 30, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, led a Helpers of God’s Precious Infants vigil from St. John Berchman’s Church in Logan Square to the American Women’s Medical Center on Western Ave., the scene of many confrontations with deathscorts over the years.
On June 2, we attended a luncheon in Washington D.C. honoring African-American pro-life leaders. Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Dr. Johnny Hunter and Kay Cole James were celebrated by Black Americans for Life, an outreach of the National Right to Life Committee.
During our June Truth Day in Evanston, IL a man jumped out of his car and began swearing and shouting at Eric, who spoke calmly to the man and listened to his tale of woe. Eric advised him to visit a church and pray for God’s guidance, and the conversation ended more than amicably when the man grabbed Eric and hugged him.
League Heads Back to High Court
June 2005 marked twenty-five years of pro-life activism. On June 28 we got word that the Supreme Court had granted Certiorari in our appeal of the Seventh Circuit’s decision not to instruct the district court to end our case. The oral hearing was scheduled for November 30, 2005—our third trip to the Supreme Court.
It was a fitting testament to our two and a half decades of dynamic pro-life activism that we would receive this news in our anniversary month. From its humble beginnings in 1980 the League became a nationally recognized leader in pro-life activism, thanks in large part to NOW v. Scheidler, the very case that was supposed to silence us.
This concludes the League’s retrospective series.