Part II: Interview with Joe Scheidler - The Pro-Life Movement Under Obama and Beyond
By John Jalsevac
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: Do you sense right now that the way to deal with the Obama administration is to work more on the street, at the grassroots level?
A: Absolutely. Grassroots, that is all we got. We are not going to get anything through Congress or the courts or anything. I would say that grassroots - out counseling these women. Talking to the women, going into the high schools, college campuses. It has to be that way. It is a conversion.
We had laws against abortion for years after the Civil War. Every state had them, and there were plenty of abortions. You have to help the women, you have to educate the public and you have to get guys acting like human beings instead of hogs, and we have to convert. The whole thing is a conversion process. Christ didn't say "Go join the Sanhedrin and get some laws passed." He said, "Go and teach." And that is what we have to do - in time and out of time. Day and night. Every chance you get. On the elevator, on the bus, on the airplane. Start talking about it.
Q: Do you think the pro-life movement has focused too much on political activism?
A: Yeah. We thought we could get it through politics, but we don't get much that way because you have to change peoples' attitudes. And we have done a lot of that.
When Roe v. Wade came down, I went back and looked at Time Magazine and Newsweek and they were all pushing this Sherri Finkbine, and having her baby aborted because she couldn't get her abortion in Phoenix and how abortion took care of your problems. It has been sold. We have been sold abortion by the secular press and by Planned Parenthood and so on, and even some of the churches who have dropped their position against abortion.
Most of the mainline churches just go along to get along with anything. Only the Catholics and the evangelicals - some of them - and people like that still have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Most of society doesn't even know where to look to get the answers, so I think we have to teach; but I think we have had great success. Abortions are way down. I think even if they open them up, they are not going to go up that much because a lot of women have had abortions and they know how bad they are. They tell their little sisters. Women are suffering greatly from abortions, and so are men, and I think these groups are growing and they are going to have an influence.
When we go out with the pictures, I think we will have 100 people out there standing on a highway - Jack does this and Bob Newman and Troy Newman and so on, and we have an effect on people. They don't like it, but they see it. They realize how ugly abortion is and that we are deep into it as a nation and it is killing us. If we don't stop we will have lost 50 million of our social security payers, and so on. It is suicide. Abortion is national suicide and we are into it and we are suffering from it a great deal. Human beings are your most important natural resource and you can't deny that. We have lost 50 million workers, and taxpayers and doctors, etc. It is simple, but it is destroying us and the whole moral fiber of the country goes down.
Q: Besides getting out on the streets with the pictures of abortions, do you have any other ideas of how, from the grassroots level, we can engage the culture in a similar way?
A: We can get our op-eds in the paper and we can tell about what we do and hope it gets on somewhere. We can make videos - we have a bunch of videos that we send around and groups get together and watch Face the Truth and No Greater Joy, How to Sidewalk Counsel and things like that. We can make news here and there. We now have the abortionists coming out and protesting us. At Christmas, we had Empty Manger Caroling at the abortion clinic and when the media showed up and there came the pro-aborts and they acted like maniacs, which they are, and trying to stop our singing and pushing and shoving, but at least that was newsworthy. Conflict always brings a little news.
I would say show up when Obama appears to give a talk - protest, have signs, and let people know that this isn't a great Messiah that everyone thinks he is, this is a guy who supports abortion, and be present. A little tough love goes a long way. Sure, we want to convert everybody. We try to do it, but we also have to let people know what is going on in this country. … We have lots and lots of pro-life groups and there are lots of blogs and things, but we are not going to have much chance, at least in the federal government, in the Congress or the Senate. Fight - always fight - against anything that they introduce that is pro-abortion and don't give that up, but don't make that your whole end, that is to get laws passed.
Abortion laws have never been that strong. It was when they started setting up homes for these girls and helping them to keep from having abortions or to help them when they are pregnant, carry them through the pregnancy. Those things are very, very important, that you show an interest in the people involved and help them. But also, the women who have had abortions, have compassion for them, so that they can tell others, not to get involved in that.
There is a lot of work to do in that. We plan to do just about double of everything that we are doing. Our publications, our videos, our street-work, side-walk counseling, we give seminars on how to counsel at the clinic and we usually get 30 or 40 people who come and they become pretty good sidewalk counselors. There is a crisis pregnancy center and they have had 37,000 saves since they opened up. Women who actually came in and got help and decided to have their babies. You go all over the country and you have 3000 crisis pregnancy centers. They are doing a lot of work - a lot of good work.
I think God writes straight with crooked lines. I think maybe we almost need to have a crisis like this with Democratic, pro-abortion people in power. We are going to have to fight a lot harder and realize that this is a battle of conversion of the conscience of the country, and you can't just do it through law.
Q: So, for people who are despairing about the new administration?
A: No despair. Hope is a theological virtue and certainly we have great hope that good will come out of this apparent evil. Just for instance, the day after the election, I was getting calls from all over the country from people who were practically suicidal. I said, "Hell no! Our fight has always been a tough fight." It's a fight for life and that is not an easy one, because they have made it so convenient to get rid of babies and to live a life of sex and everything you want. And our job is the same, and that is to try to help guide people and to tell them the truth and that they won't be happy without it. This is just more of a challenge.
I am not despondent. I think this is going to be a period of growth in the pro-life movement, a period of big growth in the next 4 years. I understand that Obama has already started his campaign for '12. Even if he does, we could strengthen the whole effort for respect for life during these four years more than even if we had had a pro-life president. You grow in adversity, and this certainly is going to be adversity. I am not at all despondent. I could be but I don't think that way.
Q: How do you have such a positive vision?
A: I have seen an awful lot of results. I know that good wins out in the end. I know that we just have to be faithful. Mother Teresa didn't save everybody, but she said that God didn't ask us to win, He asked us to be faithful. And we will be faithful and ultimately we win in the end, because God is going to straighten things out in the end. But our job right now is to do the best we can under adversity.
Christ lived under Herod and Pilate and some pretty bad political leaders and a Sanhedrin who didn't understand, and he was constantly being persecuted by the powers of his time. And yet that was the whole point - that was how we got saved. I think these times of trouble and adversity are what prove us and test us. It is part of the whole cloth of a lifetime, of trying to do God's will and we know that we are doing God's will. We can't be in doubt about this. We are on the right side. I wouldn't be on the other side for anything in the world. Those people aren't happy and they are not going any place, and we are, ultimately. And we are helping our country. We are patriots. The real patriots of this country were for life. It is written into the Constitution and everything else, that we have certain inalienable rights and one of these rights have been taken away from a whole class of people and that can't be good. People see that.
We know that ultimately, if this country is going to survive, we will get back to those basic principles. You think that Abe Lincoln, or Washington or Jefferson, were any of these guys pro-abortion? They talk about God as a creator. They weren't particularly religious, but they had a sense of natural law and values and we have to get back to that, and that is what we are trying to do. So we are the true patriots and we are the people who ultimately win because we are on God's side. There is no question on that. Everybody says, "God is on our side." Well that might be in some wars and things, you can't know. But in this battle you know clearly whose side - God is our support and abortion is Satanic.
I talk to guys who work in the clinics and so on and they say that is their church - abortion is a sacrifice to Satan. I have heard all kinds of crap from these people. They are Satanic. Maybe not all of them, but certainly a lot of them. They actually are evil people. They will kill for money; it is a hit man job. I remember Tony Levitino, from Troy, New York told us one time - he was an abortionist - "I am a hit man. I take money to kill children." I couldn't live with myself. I said, "I couldn't live with myself." So, onward and upward. …
We are going to plug away - we are going to double up our efforts. … We want to make it easy for people to be pro-life and to be out-spoken. We have to get a little spine and do something and don't expect somebody to do it for us. "Let George do it." I have never liked that. Do it yourself. Don't let the president do it or congress. They won't do it, but we can do something.
I have to go out every week to the abortion clinic because I have to have the experience. After the war, I went to Dachau and hung around those barracks and things and got the feel of what these people went through and I have to go to the clinic and see a couple rushing in to have their child killed. I see good parents rushing to the emergency room to get their kids' leg straightened out or their eye put back in, but I see people rush into an abortion clinic to have their child killed and I have to experience that.
I will be out tomorrow morning - we're having rotten weather here - but I will be sitting out there, saying a rosary and we will be trying to talk to the girls. We have to have the experience of what is going on in our country. We are destroying our future and we have no future if we have no kids. One of my hopes is that the kids who survive realize - and they do feel this - they are survivors; a lot of their classmates are missing. I know there were some seminarians the other day and they were talking about how small their class was because 1/3 of the class isn't there and they feel that and they sensed it. They are not worth anything until they get born. We were. I was worth something. I had laws protecting me in the womb. They didn't, and they feel that. They sense that they were not worth much and now they are survivors and a lot of the friends aren't there. The people they were going to marry and the people that they were going to be in class with and so on, aren't there. We killed them for convenience.