Joe’s Hat Makes a Hit in Baltimore and Other Stories from the Road

Steve Perutka wears Joe Scheidler's hat

Steve Peroutka dons Joe Scheidler’s world famous hat [Photo by Rob McQuay]

It has been my honor to continue traveling across the United States meeting with outstanding prolifers involved in all aspects of the movement, and always a privilege to contribute, even if only by way of my well-known hat, as you’ll see below.

Celebrating the Hyde Amendment

It was an honor to be invited to the Americans United for Life (AUL) celebration of the 30th anniversary of Harris v. McRae and the successful defense of the Hyde Amendment. The event was held June 22 at the Roof Top Terrace of Metropolitan Square, the building that houses AUL’s impressive new offices in Washington, D.C.

I can’t figure out why I got a special invitation to this event. Perhaps it was for helping AUL hire its first executive director, Pat Trueman. Pat was a pro-life activist and law student in Chicago back in the mid-seventies. He planned to return to his hometown of Buffalo, Minnesota, to practice law following his graduation, but I wanted to see him continue in pro-life. And so, with the help of my uncle, Fort Wayne Bishop Leo Pursley, the president of the Our Sunday Visitor Foundation, I secured a grant that allowed Pat to be hired as the executive director of AUL, based until this year in Chicago.

Trueman, along with Chicago attorneys Dennis Horan and Victor Rosenblum, defended the Hyde Amendment in the U. S. Supreme Court. Introduced by legendary Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde in 1976, the measure prohibited the use of tax dollars for abortion. The Hyde Amendment was challenged by Cora McRae, who filed suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Patricia Harris to prevent its implementation. On June 30, 1980 after a four year battle, the U. S. Supreme Court held that Hyde’s funding restrictions were constitutional.

In his talk at the anniversary celebration, Pat Trueman praised Rep. Hyde and said he had saved thousands of unborn children. Also speaking at the event were Ed Grant, former chief counsel at AUL and Dr. Charmaine Yoest, current president of AUL, as well as Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs William Saunders.

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Trouble in Durango

Durango, Colorado is a quaint town set in one of the most beautiful spots in the United States, surrounded by pine-covered mountains. I was honored to spend July 29 and 30 there at the invitation of Daniel Anguis of LifeGuard and Keith Mason, a Denver activist.

I joined 100 pro-lifers in front of Mercy Regional Hospital where abortionist Richard Grossman is on staff. Speakers included Fr. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press and Walter Hoye, who spent time in jail for simply offering help to abortion-bound women outside an abortion clinic in Oakland, California, as well as a number of local pro-lifers.

We encouraged the “Catholic” hospital, run by the Sisters of Mercy, to drop Grossman from their staff. Grossman is an abortionist for Planned Parenthood, and a rabid anti-Catholic who mocks Catholic sexual morality and says that there are too many people on earth and that it is his Christian duty to get rid of some.

In my talk I stressed that the hospital administration is guilty for having an active abortionist on staff, and that it is a grave evil to allow him to work there. The hospital says it is complying with Church law. But I pointed out the Catholic Bishops’ statement that “Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.” Pro-lifers are boycotting the hospital.

During the picket I rode around the hospital in a truck with graphic abortion signs facing the building. A hospital guard ordered us off the property. The protest made page one in the Durango Herald.

Crawfordsville Story Inspires

I was delighted when Patti Harvey of Crawfordsville, Indiana, called to ask me to speak at the annual fundraising banquet for the Women’s Resource Center. One of my favorite nephews lives in Crawfordsville, so it was an opportunity to visit some family at the same time.

The banquet was well attended, with over 300 guests. A young woman who had come to the Women’s Resource Center for assistance testified about her unplanned pregnancy as a teenager and the difficult choice she made to place her baby for adoption. Her story was heartrending as well as heartwarming.

When Patti Harvey got up to give her pitch for donations to the center, she announced that she had had a whole speech ready to go, including a PowerPoint presentation, but she had decided to share an incident from that very morning with us instead. As she was rushing around making final arrangements for the evening’s banquet, she got a call at the center from a pregnant woman.

That call changed her day. The woman said she already had four children and couldn’t manage another. As Patty talked with her, the phone went dead. She didn’t know if the woman had hung up or what—and she did not have the woman’s phone number. A minute later, the woman called back saying her cell connection had dropped. She said she was willing to come to the Center and keep talking to Patti, but couldn’t afford the gas. So Patti offered to pay to fill her gas tank. The woman did come—an hour-and-a-half drive—along with her twin sister who was post-abortive. After lengthy conversations, a life was saved and the twin sister was on the road to healing. What a story!

Though I have heard countless stories like this one during my thirty-eight years in the pro-life battle, I’m always ready to hear one more. Such stories confirm the goodness and dedication of the people involved in the pro-life movement. It has always been my privilege to meet the greatest people on earth everywhere I go to speak, protest or strategize.

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Joe’s Hat Featured at Baltimore Banquet

My good friend and a great pro-lifer, Steve Peroutka, asked me and a chunk of my family to join him for his annual Pro-Life Appreciation Dinner in Baltimore, Maryland on Oct. 28. So fourteen of us boarded a United Airlines flight and headed to the lovely city on Chesapeake Bay. The Appreciation Dinner is always one of the most enjoyable pro-life events I attend, but this year was especially entertaining.

Steve asked me to do a special tribute to Dr. Mildred Jefferson, one of my favorite people, who had died just a few weeks earlier. He had put together a short video on Dr. Jefferson which pretty much covered everything I had planned to say in my tribute. But I was honored to have the opportunity to add my few words to the adulation for Mildred—a true hero and a true lady.

Following the presentation of awards to outstanding pro-lifers, Steve and his brother Michael launched into a song routine asking why their pictures had never appeared on the cover of Defend Life, the publication of Jack Ames’ Defend Life organization. With Michael on guitar and the pair singing in a comical style reminiscent of the Smothers Brothers, each verse listed their many connections in the pro-life movement—somehow not enough to get them on the cover of Defend Life. Steve had borrowed my hat earlier in the evening and donned it in verse three, singing, “Joe Scheidler is a buddy; He even lets me wear his hat.” It brought down the house.

The family and I stayed an extra day in Baltimore to visit Babe Ruth’s Birthplace and Museum and Fort McHenry. We also had a chance to attend Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption, America’s first Cathedral, which also happens to be featured in the stained glass windows of the Baptistery in my home parish of Queen of All Saints in Chicago, in a pictorial history of the Catholic Church in America. Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the same architect who fashioned the United States Capitol, Assumption Basilica has been beautifully restored to its original 1806 grandeur.

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