Pro-Life Action League Joseph Scheidler dies
Scheidler and his wife, Ann, founded the league in 1980, with an emphasis on “action”. Scheidler was frustrated, he said, when established anti-abortion organizations opposed his “on the streets” approach. He was among the most outspoken and recognizable evangelists in the cause.
Unlike many PR professionals who seek to resolve disputes, Scheidler embraced them as a means to an end – the end of Roe’s guaranteed legal rights to terminate a pregnancy. “Using horror stories, using inflammatory rhetoric” were among the chapter titles of his 1985 book, “Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion”.
Scheidler’s work included supporting protests to dissuade patients from entering abortion clinics, which led to a separate Supreme Court case. In 1986, the National Organization for Women filed a racketeering complaint against him, the league and other defendants, alleging a conspiracy to deny access to abortion.
The defendants, supported by a court-friendly brief from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which equated the league’s goal with a peaceful and non-violent protest, prevailed, but only after 28 years and a third appeal to the court supreme.
“I don’t know how many people told him to settle down. He stayed there until the end, ”said Thomas Brejcha, a Chicago attorney who heads the Thomas More Society. “He was a divisive figure, but in many ways he helped consolidate people of different backgrounds nationally.”
Scheidler had hoped to enter the priesthood after majoring in journalism at the University of Notre Dame, writing for the South Bend Tribune, and entering a seminary. Instead, he dropped out, got two master’s degrees, and taught public speaking at Notre Dame.
“I loved many aspects of the monastery, but at the time of ordination I felt totally unworthy of being a priest. I just felt strongly that this was not what I was supposed to do, ” he told Catholic World Report in 2017.
When Roe v. Wade was decided he quit a public relations job in Chicago.
“I became obsessed with abortion and the urgency of the situation demanded a full-time commitment. But my background in journalism has been very useful for writing press releases, newsletters and opinion pieces, and for working with the media, ”Catholic World said, quoting Scheidler.
Brejcha of the Thomas More Society said: “He would characterize her in militant language. Use words like “murder” – don’t hide your meaning. ”
In a 2015 post for Political Research Associates, which describes itself as a proponent of gender and reproductive rights, Robin Marty said Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League may not have name recognition from other anti-groups. abortion as Operation Rescue or National Law to Life Committee. But, she said, Scheidler’s influence over these entities was undeniable:
“They continue to use the tactics devised by Scheidler as they protest outside the legislature, outside clinic doors and even across the ocean, all in an effort to criminalize – and suppress the access to – safe and legal abortion.
This story has been updated to correct the subject Scheidler taught at Notre Dame and when he was a journalist.