From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Protection Racketeer

The Friday Reflection by James M. Kushiner

January 22nd, 2021

Triumph of the Innocents by William Holman Hunt

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children


oe Scheidler died on Monday, January 18, 2021, Martin Luther King Day. He was 93. I joined him outside of a nearby abortion clinic in mid-December, where a few dozen Christians sang Christmas carols in front of a small Nativity creche. He spoke afterwards, briefly, encouraging us in our faith and witness to Christ and to pray for the unborn and their mothers.

After Roe V. Wade, Scheidler felt moved to quit his job in PR and to work to protect the lives of the unborn. He was "known as the 'Godfather of Pro-Life Activism'," according to a press release from the Pro-Life Action League, which he founded in 1980.

Perhaps "godfather" confused some people. For his pro-life work, Scheidler was sued by the National Organization of Women under federal laws targeting organized crime, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (1970). The suit was filed in 1986; after appeals, remands, new trials, appeals and three trips to the Supreme Court, in 2006 the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 decision, found in favor of Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action Network—20 years later.

The irony of using laws designed for organized crime against a non-violent pro-life activist was not lost on Joe, who entitled his 2016 memoir Racketeer for Life: Fighting the Culture of Death from the Sidewalk to the Supreme Court.

I saw Joe regularly for many years in his offices, as a member of a committee to plan the annual Speak Out Illinois conference and other pro-life efforts. Joe, always approachable and friendly, usually sat quietly, writing in his notebook. I never saw him angry or exhibit bitterness. He focused on the child and the plight of the mother and what we could do help her and save a life.

In his younger days, Joe had "served as a teacher at Mundelein College, during which time he chaperoned a group of students on a pilgrimage to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in 1965."

On the day of his death, Martin Luther King was being honored, and the outgoing President of the United States issued a proclamation declaring today, January 22, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. The proclamation (still posted) declares,

Whether born or unborn, young or old, healthy or sick, every person is made in the holy image of God... On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we celebrate the wonder of human existence and renew our resolve to build a culture of life where every person of every age is protected, valued, and cherished.

This month, we mark nearly 50 years since the...Roe v. Wade decision. This constitutionally flawed ruling overturned State laws that banned abortion, and has resulted in the loss of more than 50 million innocent lives.

January 22, 1973, is the date of Roe v. Wade. The Catholic Church in the United States marks January 22 every year as a "Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children." And the new President is the first Roman Catholic to hold the office since John F. Kennedy.

Noting this well, Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, president of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, sent a long statement "on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America," which assured prayers for wisdom, courage, as well as stating that the nation's Catholic bishops are "not partisan players" in politics, but "pastors responsible for the souls of millions," trying "to guide consciences" including on matters of human sexuality and the family. So:

For the nation's bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the "preeminent priority." Preeminent does not mean "only."... But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.

Gomez, expressing the hope that Biden would not expand abortion and would dialogue with the bishops on this matter, was criticized by a fellow bishop for his letter. So it goes.

Like Gomez, Joe Scheidler chose not to remain silent, but speak for the myriad unborn children targeted for death. All Christians should offer "prayer for the legal protection of unborn children," today and every day. And it's not a crime to organize it. Yet.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.