Activist for Life
An Interview with Joseph M. Scheidler
Joseph M. Scheidler is National Director of the Pro-Life Action League, a national pro-life educational and activist organization based in Chicago. The league is dedicated to saving lives through activism and to bringing the abortion issue to the public via the media.
Scheidler was the chief defendant in NOW v. Scheidler, an infamous RICO lawsuit brought against him, the league, and other pro-life activists by the National Organization for Women and two abortion clinics in 1986. He originally won in the lower courts, but after a series of appeals and remands, he and the other defendants were found guilty in 1998 of "racketeering" by a six-member jury in federal district court. That finding was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court in February 2003, but NOW appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the High Court's decision. The Supreme Court heard the case again in November 2005 and issued a unanimous decision in favor of Scheidler in February 2006. Even that was not the end of the matter, for NOW has continued to fight over the details of the final judgment in district court, and the case remains open.
Scheidler has published a book on methods of fighting abortion, CLOSED: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, and he has produced two videos, Meet the Abortion Providers and Abortion: The Inside Story, featuring former abortionists who are now telling the truth about what goes on in abortion clinics. He and his wife Ann have seven children and eighteen grandchildren.
Touchstone interviewed him in May 2013.
Touchstone (TS): How did you get involved with the pro-life movement?
Joe Scheidler (JS): When I first read Roe v. Wade, I was working as an account executive for a public relations firm in Chicago. The decision was so unbelievably evil in my eyes that I realized that I couldn't let it go—that I couldn't live in a country that would allow the destruction of its posterity. Roe v. Wade was, as Justice Rehnquist said, an exercise of raw judicial power with no precedent in law or morality, and I decided to fight it. In fact, I eventually lost interest in my clients because I became so absorbed by abortion. I moved to part-time at my PR firm and devoted the rest of my time to pro-life work.
TS: What was the first pro-life organization that you worked for?
JS: I started off with my own group called the Chicago Office for Pro-Life Publicity. I believed that if the American people knew the facts about abortion and Roe v. Wade, about the extension to Roe in Doe v. Bolton, which made abortion legal up to the day of birth for any reason, that they would oppose it. I decided that the best way to combat abortion would be to educate people on fetal development, to show them how life begins at conception through descriptions and pictures. I ran ads in newspapers, which cost a fortune. I wrote people at Notre Dame and contacted religious leaders for their support.
By the end of the year, I had learned a lot about what sorts of activities were the most effective and what kind of people were the most helpful. It was then that the Illinois Right to Life Committee asked me to be its executive director. I accepted and stayed with the organization for a couple of years.
TS: How did you come to leave Illinois Right to Life?
James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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