Joseph M. Scheidler is National Director of the Pro-Life Action League, a national pro-life educational and activist organization headquartered in Chicago. One of the true pro-life "greats," it has been said that Scheidler defined pro-life direct action. He has been called the "Green Beret" of the pro-life movement, and has written several books and spent countless hours on the street, counseling women and raising awareness of the evil of abortion.
Q: Looking back over the past 8 years, how do you see President Bush's contribution to the pro-life and pro-family causes?
A: He did a lot of good for us, really, with helping us with anything that we tried to get passed. I think we have made some gains with Bush in there. So he was a friend in pro-life. He talked to us at the March and in the White House: about like another Reagan in a sense.
He was pro-life. I didn't originally like his stem cell thing, but when you came to think about it, there wasn't much more he could do. There were stem cells already being used and he said, "No more."
We are going to find out how good he was when we find out how bad Obama is. That is why we just say that the people who lost faith in him (and there were some) will realize, in the long run, he was a good thing for pro-life.
Q: Why do you think some people lost faith in him?
A: Well, I think that they thought he hurt the Republican Party with the war and that he wasn't able to stop the recession and things like that. So they didn't necessarily lose faith in him because of pro-life things, but for other reasons.
I think history will show that what he did was probably the only thing he could do - to stop terrorism. I think we had to go after the Taliban and probably everybody was giving him information that Iraq was where it was at. So some people just lost faith in his other policies and maybe a lot of people just thought it was time for the Republicans to go, because lots and lots of pro-lifers didn't vote, from what I understand. And, in many cases, that lost a close election for us in some of the states.
I think Bush was good for pro-life. He always had a representative at meetings we would go to. We could reach him. We could reach Bush. We will miss him because we are going to have a real fight on our hands now with Obama. If you look at the people he is appointing, they are almost all pro-abortion - just about everybody. I was reading yesterday in World magazine, I think it was, the number of Catholics that he has, who are all pro-abortion. Most of them are for gay "marriage."
The thing I give Bush most credit for was the Supreme Court appointments.
Q: What would be the most lasting pro-life legacy that Bush has left behind in your opinion?
A: I think it would be his concern about the unborn, some of his powerful statements on pro-life. But I would say his Supreme Court appointments, just off the top. If we look back 10 or 20 years from now, we will see that that was one of the best things that he could have done. … I think the Supreme Court appointments - Alito and Roberts - will be his legacy for the pro-life movement in the future.
Q: A lot of people have said that President Bush was just a lot of talk, but not enough action. Do you think there was more that he could have done?
A: Oh sure. There is always more that can be done. And some of the things that he did, he put off. Like that thing recently, the Conscience Clause thing - he could have done that early on, and it probably won't stand very long.
The problem is that many things that the president does can be undone by another administration. The things that go through the legislature are better. He did sign everything that we wanted. I can't think of anything that went through the legislature that he didn't sign, but I don't think that much went through. We didn't have Henry anymore and some of these guys. We still have Chris Smith in there, but there were all the other issues and I think abortion took sort of a back seat.
I think Bush could have done more - sure. They all could do more. They have a position but it doesn't seem to be ironclad. Abortion is a bad thing. It is certainly immoral to cut off a baby's life, but I don't think that they feel it like we do who go out to the clinics. He didn't show up, in person, at the March for Life. Nellie always wanted him to come up and talk to us if he is really pro-life; why not come out and stand on the stage for a few minutes? Why always have to talk from the White House or have a statement read? He could have done things like that, of course; a really truly pro-life, deep, deep President would. You would, I would, Nellie would - about anybody I know would do a lot more than he did.
Q: Why do you think that he did not do more?
A: To get along with everybody. It may play to our advantage with Obama. He wants to be everybody's friend. He may not do all the things that he said he would do. He may never get a FOCA to sign. You don't like to have half the country hating you.
I think that is partly why Bush didn't do more and partly why Reagan didn't do more. Although Reagan did more than Bush did - he wrote the book, or at least had a book written that was good. I think he was a little more sincere in his defense of what abortion really is. Bush knew it wasn't good and he was against it, but I don't think he was an ardent pro-lifer.
Q: Do you think he lacked a sense of the larger consequences of abortion?
A: Yes. They almost always lack that. Abortion is such a cause of so many evils. Of course it is a result of evils too. I don't think he saw what it does to a nation. It absolutely disqualifies a person from having any part at all in making laws and decisions. A person who would kill off a whole class of people is no good for leading people. They are fake. I don't think he was that, but I don't think he saw.
You can't cavort around with people who are willing to destroy innocent human life. He is out congratulating Obama right now. That is a bunch of phony baloney. I wouldn't do that if I were president and a man who came into office and was willing to wipe out a million and a half people every year. I wouldn't have anything to do with them. I would point that out, "I can't shake your hand." I went on a program one time with an abortionist and I said, "I can't shake your hand. I just can't be that phony." He understood. He didn't like it.
Maybe that is too hard-nosed. We have to see what this is. Would you say, "Oh good luck Hitler, I hope everything works out for you, all your plans"? You couldn't do that if you really saw the evil that this man will not only tolerate, but push along. That is the way I see it.
Q: Some people would also point out that while Bush might not have done so much in America, because of the political climate, a lot of his foreign policy was pro-life, especially with the Mexico City Policy.
A: Yes. He brought that back and that was good. He stood by those things. I will give him credit.
I was just reading the other day all the other things that we have accomplished in these 8 years are significant. Foreign aid, and he went along with just about everything that we wanted and signed the bills that we wanted. He brought Jill Stanek out there on that Born-Alive thing, and there were times where he was very outstandingly pro-life.
We always want more. A President can't do everything but I think he did what he could with what he had. I trusted him and I like him. I still do.
So, it is not a perfect world, but I am concerned now that with Obama in there and the team that he has around him - the bar scene from Star Wars practically - people who are scary. These are scary people. He has picked them out of Planned Parenthood and they are abortion promoters. This is going to be a scary time. We will be out on the streets, as we always are, whether people like it or not, and showing people what abortion is and passing out fliers.
We are introducing a little handbook that we are going to give out free to everybody in the country that wants it, explaining the whole pro-life issue. To your mailman and your mother-in-law and your cousins who are having abortions, whose daughters go to Planned Parenthood. It is a nice little booklet. It is about 95 pages and it has all the questions and answers - almost all that you could think of, in short form. We are having that printed this week and I'll have some copies with me out at the March. You have to put it in peoples' heads.
People are scared. They are scared to discuss abortion. I think that half the reason that people think we are crazy for going out on the streets with the pictures is because they are afraid to do it themselves. It is effective. When, at the end of the tour, you have 20 women who decide against abortion because they saw what an abortionist is going to do to the baby. These are 20 women who came up and told us that they were cancelling their abortions. That is significant to me. You can wait 20 or 30 years to get a law passed that might save some babies and we hope it does but we can save them right on the street. We saved 7 the other day.
Q: If you could give a message to Bush, what would you say to him?
A: Oh man, at this point. I would thank him for being pro-life, for being concerned about the issue and for signing the bills that he could and for keeping the Hyde Amendment and ensuring that it got on and saying that he would veto any pro-abortion legislation. I would thank him for all of that. I would tell him to pray really hard that the administration that is in there right now doesn't do everything it can to undo the good that he did. Just pray for the next four years that we can at least keep some of the laws that he helped us get.
I would thank him and I would tell him that I am praying for him because he made a lot of decisions that would have been awfully hard to make. Was it the right thing? The Iraqi thing, was it right? I would hate to have that hanging on me. 4000 or 5000 soldiers dead and how many civilians and was it the right thing. I don't know.
I hope it was, and I would tell him "thank you."
(Part II of our interview with Joe Scheidler, about the future of the pro-life movement under Obama, will be published tomorrow.)