April 17, 2003
Battling for the Unborn
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Speaker at Friends for Life luncheon talks about his experience in the pro-life movement
East Syracuse –– During a time of few victories for pro-life supporters, those who gathered for Friends For Life’s Annual Spring Luncheon on April 5 were thrilled to hear Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, speak about the most recent national pro-life feat in the courts. Scheidler addressed a full house at Barbagallo’s Restaurant, giving many hope and optimism on the uphill battle for the unborn.
Scheidler founded the Pro-Life Action League in 1980 with the aim of saving unborn children from abortion through non-violent direct action. While those unfamiliar with the league may see the group as a bunch of “racketeers,” the league offers women real help, Scheidler said.
“We encourage and help women to talk to doctors and receive counseling, anything that we can do. I have gone as far as to let women stay in my home. There is much more than standing outside clinics and picketing,” Scheidler told the crowd of over 100 people gathered for the luncheon. But it was Scheidler’s picketing that got him into big trouble with the law, he said. For the past 17 years, Scheidler has been the chief defendant in NOW (National Organization for Women) v. Scheidler, a Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit, brought by NOW, a zealous pro-abortion group, and two abortion clinics. Designed to curtail organized crime and drug trafficking, RICO had been used against pro-lifers who protest peacefully and sidewalk counsel at abortion clinics.
“The 8-1 victory, with the weird court we’ve got sitting up there, is a true miracle,” Scheidler said. “It is the answer to prayer. What the abortionists didn’t have that we have is prayer.” Following its second visit to the Supreme Court since the case was first filed in 1986, eight out of nine justices ruled in favor of Scheidler and pro-life protestors on Feb. 26, 2002. Scheidler calls the ruling a victory for the unborn, as well as for pro-lifers everywhere. Rosemary Klug, director of public relations for Friends for Life, hopes that this little win will lead to a larger victory for pro-lifers, with abortion clinics everywhere being closed someday. “Mr. Scheidler has been invaluable to the pro-life cause. However, there is still much work to be done,” said Klug. Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakely wrote the RICO law in 1970 to bring down the mafia kingpins behind organized crime, Scheidler explained. RICO’s authors made specific efforts to ensure its wording could not be applied to freedom of speech rights, such as Vietnam War protests. When NOW began to feel particularly threatened by the pro-life movement, Scheidler said, they found a way to make pro-lifers pay for their success, using the RICO Act to accuse protestors at abortion clinics of extortion.
NOW used fake witnesses who lied under oath about violence and extortion, Scheidler said. “They had four witnesses, who each remained anonymous, saying that we prohibited them from obtaining services,” stated Scheidler. “But we had no idea when or where this happened.” Scheidler was found guilty in federal district court on 125 counts of extortion across the U.S. and four acts or threats of violence against persons or property in 1998. Legal fees and damages surpassed $400,000, Scheidler said. Scheidler noted that upon appeal to the Supreme Court, the ruling could have gone either way, depending on the justices’ interpretations of the words “extortion” and “coercion.” However, the Creator of the Universe is pro-life, Scheidler said, and He intervened. Although it was the intention of NOW to bankrupt and halt the pro-life movement, the result has been just the opposite, he said. “The best-kept secret is that pro-life is winning. Pro-lifers have been scared to come out due to the racketeering charges that could be brought against them, but this is no more,” said Scheidler. “We are bringing America back to life.” Raymond Dague, legal consultant for Friends for Life, echoed the sentiment of the luncheon crowd when he called Scheidler a champion in the pro-life movement.
“Joe does what is right in the face of incredible odds, putting himself on the line many times,” Dague said. “He is regarded by pro-life advocates across the country as a hero.” Scheidler, though, does not call himself a hero. He is a soldier fighting for God, trying to reach people everywhere with the facts about abortion, he explained. “I have seen too many women who say abortion is the worst decision of their lives,” Scheidler said. “It’s murder, disheartening, and the law of the land. I believe in life, the future of the land and women.” Scheidler has published several books and videos on his campaigning. His book on methods of fighting abortions, Closed: 99 Ways To Stop Abortion, was updated in 1993 and he has produced the videos “Meet the Abortion Providers” and “Abortion: The Inside Story,” featuring former abortion providers who are now telling the truth about what goes on in abortion clinics.