Face the Truth Tour outside Planned Parenthood in Aurora, IL [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
The Pro-Life Action League’s 2011 “Face the Truth” Tour was a huge success, changing hearts and minds on abortion across Chicagoland. From July 8 through July 16 the Tour visited twenty-four sites across Chicago and its suburbs with graphic photos of abortion to show the public the true face of our country’s greatest moral atrocity.
Since the first Tour in 2000, the League has worked to develop “best practices” for conducting this kind of graphic display of abortion, especially over the last few years. Innovations like unmanned Warning signs, letters to local police chiefs, a binder on site with all relevant local ordinances and arming staff with video cameras have made these Tours more safe and efficient year after year.
All this effort paid bigger dividends this year than we ever thought possible. The 2011 Truth Tour ran as smooth as silk—even with unexpected construction projects requiring two locations to be changed at the last minute. Everything that could go right did, and turnout was great every day.
Police in every municipality we visited were friendly and helpful—at some sites they didn’t even show up! Counter-protesters showed up at only three sites—and they were but a paltry, dispirited handful. We encountered no significant problems with passersby and both staff and volunteers agree that feedback was much more positive than in past years.
Innovations this year included securing the Warning signs to street light poles with heavy-duty chains and padlocks, preventing the theft of signs that marred previous Tours. Even such minor details as a revised sign-up sheet helped the Tour run more smoothly.
Tour Starts Strong in Joliet and Aurora
This year’s crew comprised Tour Captain Eric Scheidler along with his teenage children Nate, Sam and Liza; Eric’s brother Pete; League staffers John Jansen, Corrina Gura and me; John’s father Jim; and League directors Joe and Ann Scheidler. This crack team brought 73 years of collective experience coordinating Face the Truth.
The Tour kicked off in the south suburban Joliet area on Friday, July 8. Though this area often invites controversy and has a history of negative interactions with police, everything was smooth sailing this year. Turnout was great and police merely drove past from time to time to make sure nothing went wrong. With lunch provided by Ted Castro and the good people of St. Mary Immaculate Parish in nearby Plainfield, Day One was a huge success.
The next day the Tour came to the western suburbs of Naperville and Aurora—home of Planned Parenthood’s huge “Abortion Fortress,” which the League has been fighting since 2007. All three sites were extremely well attended, with the large crowd of volunteers set up quickly and efficiently by the experienced Tour crew. Lunch at the home of long-time League supporters and activists Rick and Mary Ellen O’Rourke was a delight.
Baby Saved from Abortion by Face the Truth Tour
Joe Scheidler encourages pro-lifers downtown Chicago [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
After a restful Sunday, the Tour resumed on Monday, July 11 with two days in downtown Chicago. Tens of thousands of drivers and passengers saw the truth about abortion as volunteers held huge third trimester abortion signs over the Kennedy Expressway that morning. Next, the Tour stopped at Daley Plaza, a Chicago landmark where many downtown workers take their lunch hour.
Seeing the signs along the plaza’s perimeter, a young couple stopped and took a brochure from veteran sidewalk counselor Cathy Mieding, on literature duty. After seeing the pictures and reading the brochure’s explanation of abortion, they told Cathy they were eight weeks pregnant and considering abortion. After speaking with Cathy for a few minutes, they decided they couldn’t go through with the abortion. Cathy directed them to a pregnancy resource center for all the help they would need to choose life for their baby.
Also at Daley Plaza, Eric and I were approached by a woman pushing a stroller with a two-month old infant sleeping inside. She and her husband were in the process of adopting the baby from a woman who chose life after going to Waterleaf Women’s Center in Aurora, just a block away from Planned Parenthood’s massive abortuary.
She thanked us for what we were doing and we thanked her in turn for helping to end abortion by becoming an adoptive mother. It was wonderful to see the fruits the League’s sidewalk counseling ministry in Aurora all the way in downtown Chicago!
Both afternoons downtown, the Tour set up near Chicago’s Union Station, a huge hub for commuter traffic, with Tuesday sites at Lake Shore Drive and the Art Institute completing the downtown program. Over those two days, we distributed cases of pro-life literature, telling the true story of abortion and offering help. In the hands of commuters, our flyers made their way into homes throughout the region, expanding the Tour’s reach.
Northwest and Western Suburbs Bring Great Turnout
On Wednesday, July 13, the Tour headed to the western suburbs of Elmhurst, Westmont and Wheaton. Only days before the Tour, we learned that our planned site in Wheaton was heavily marred with road construction. Eric and I visited the intersection and decided we’d have to move the Tour two miles north.
We immediately alerted volunteers via e-mail about the change. That day, after lunch generously provided by the Voissem family at Old Country Buffet, we provided directions to the new site. Corrina was posted at the original site to make sure nobody turned up there by mistake. These measures paid off: turnout at the last site outstripped the early sites of the day!
On Thursday, it was back to the northwest suburbs of Lake Zurich, Palatine and Arlington Heights. True to past performance, these cities brought out the pro-life community in spades, with some of the biggest numbers of the whole tour, thanks in large part to the Crusaders for Life pro-life youth group, who had also bolstered our numbers in downtown Chicago. Lunch was provided by Juli Tragasz and the Holy Ghost Ladies Auxiliary, and despite a handful of counter-protesters, everything went very smoothly.
Media coverage of Thursday’s Truth Tour was tremendous as well. Online and print sources alike reported on the huge turnout and the effect it had on their communities, and vibrant discussions about the Tour were carried on in the comments boxes for days afterwards.
Healing After Abortion on the South Side
Graphic abortion signs on the south side of Chicago [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
Much of Chicago’s south side is made up of underprivileged, largely minority communities. The abortion industry targets these communities, so it has long been a priority of the League to bring them the message of hope and life. This year the Tour tried two new sites on the south side July 14: 99th Street and Halsted Street in the morning and 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue at midday.
As the midday site was setting up, a young African American woman stopped to get lunch at a Taco Bell near the intersection. She came and spoke to League Vice President Ann Scheidler for a while and bought a t-shirt, then returned to her car to eat her lunch.
Shortly after, she motioned Ann over to the car and told her that she had had an abortion when she was younger. She said it was very difficult for her and she believed that what she did was wrong. She understood that she had been forgiven by God after seeking His mercy, but she had shoved the incident under the rug for several years after. Seeing the Tour made her think about the abortion again and she asked if Ann knew where she could find someone to talk to about it.
It’s for just such an occasion that we always carry brochures for Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing ministry. Ann gave her a Project Rachel flyer and put her on the road to finding help and healing after her abortion.
The opposition showed up again at the final site of the day at Cermak Road and Ashland Avenue, led in a tiresome series of pro-choice chants by a rather effeminate young man—chants no one could hear on this hot day, with the windows up and the AC blasting. This feckless group gave up and left a half hour before the end of the site.
Tour Wraps Up in Near North Suburbs
Last day of the Face the Truth Tour in Evanston, IL [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
For its final day, the Tour visited the near north suburbs of Niles, Evanston and Lincoln-wood. Several reporters came to the first site and one even shot an interview with Eric on video, posted later that day on the Niles Patch website. He even included footage of the graphic signs—something very few media outlets are willing to do.
Evanston, a hotbed of liberalism that typically opposes the Tour vehemently, was as quiet as could be, outside of a few angry honks and gestures. It was almost unnerving waiting for someone to start yelling at us for our pro-life stand, but it never happened. Is Evanston turning pro-life?
At the final site in Lincolnwood, a few counter-protesters appeared, including one young man who was accosted by police for being out in the street, which he wasn’t. Pro-lifer Cathy Mieding, again on literature duty, came to the young man’s defense, and the police let him be. Staff photographer Sam Scheidler even caught a shot of Cathy embracing the young man, showing Christ’s love even to one who might otherwise never encounter it.
Encouragement from Father Frank
After this final day of the Tour, pro-lifers gathered at the home of Ann and Joe Scheidler for a meal and some fellowship. The highlight of the evening came when Joe read to all a letter that Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life had sent to the Tour participants. Father Frank said:
“There is no activity in the pro-life movement more important and effective than to stand on the streets of America and expose the graphic reality of abortion. Many activities communicate to people the conclusion that abortion kills children. What you have done during this tour, however, conveys to people the facts that compel that conclusion.
“And never be worried about the criticisms you receive from human beings. Only fear the criticism of God that is reserved for those too cowardly to proclaim and face the truth.”
Indeed, thousands saw the truth about abortion over the ten days of the Tour, and many who would not have given the topic a second thought had a reason to think about it again. Eyes were opened and the truth was shown. Thanks from all of us at the League to the great crew of volunteers from all over Illinois who made Face the Truth 2011 such a pitch perfect Tour.