Remembering Joe Scheidler

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 20th. Thank you for making WORLD Radio part of your day. 

Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: remembering pro-life advocate Joe Scheidler.

As a young man, Scheidler spent eight years studying for the priesthood in the Catholic church, but discovered his life’s work shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision. Scheidler founded the Pro-Life Action League in 1980 and spent the next 40 years fighting for the unborn around the world.

BASHAM: He fought a 30 year legal battle after the National Organization for Women sued him, on racketeering allegations. The Supreme Court heard the case on three different occasions before finally settling in Scheidler’s favor. 

Scheidler was a pioneer in sidewalk pro-life counseling—using both memorable slogans on placards and graphic images. His son Eric took over the ministry in 2009.

REICHARD: Here now are reflections from four friends: a politician, a couple of pro-life ministry founders, and a family values advocate. Their words will be presented without comment, with audio clips sprinkled in of Joe Scheidler over the years.

SCHEIDLER: I’m not taking my hat off. People don’t know me without the hat. They ask me in church: “Where’s your hat Joe?” I’m Catholic. I don’t wear a hat in church. 

ROSE: My name is Lila Rose. I’m the President and Founder of Live Action and I met Joe Scheidler, probably 10 to 15 years ago when I was in my late teens. He was a source of inspiration for me personally.

SCHEIDLER: Science knows that life begins at the very beginning. That tiny little dot, about the size of a dot at the end of a sentence, that is more valuable than the entire universe. 

SMITH: My name is David E. Smith. I’m the executive director of Illinois Family Institute. I’m not sure I remember the first time I met Joe…

SCHEIDLER: Most people, when they really know the facts, are not inherently pro-abortion. 

BOMBERGER: Hi, I’m Ryan Bomberger, and I’m the co-founder and chief creative officer of the Radiance Foundation. My first meeting was actually when I was able to be one of the keynote speakers at the Speak Out Illinois. We went out to dinner, and to be able to sit across from Joe and Ann and be told how inspired they were by the creative work that I did. I’m thinking, “wait a minute, I’m the one who was inspired to be a ‘factivist’ [by you] so many years ago.”

SCHEIDLER: We have a society now where everybody in their mid-thirties is a survivor of abortion. They could have been aborted, for any reason. 

MORRISON: This is State Representative Tom Morrison of the 54th district, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I got to know Joe Scheidler through volunteer pro life work here in the Chicago area. He was probably the most mission-focused and persevering man I ever knew in a very difficult and emotionally charged arena. 

SCHEIDLER: You have to be public, you have to be determined, you have to be effective. You have to be seen. And since the media wouldn’t come to us, we went to them. 

ROSE: The reason he was so passionately fighting for life was because he saw that the death of a child is not only that grave injustice against that child, but it it harms women, fathers, mothers, families, and in all of a society, it ruins a society because it puts violence in our most intimate relationships.

SCHEIDLER: And we’re working hard to talk women out of it. And we have to do it in the old Benedictian way: ora et labora. Ora et labora. To pray and to work. 

SMITH: He was very aggressive in going after the truth about the sanctity of life. But at the same time, he was kind, he was encouraging. He was winsome. Um…He was a role model. 

BOMBERGER: Joe Scheidler was not afraid to speak the truth. He wasn’t afraid to figure out ways to present that truth. And he was unapologetic about it. But here’s the thing, he combined grit and compassion. And that’s not an easy combination. 

SCHEIDLER: So we have compassion for the woman. The abortionists are always talking about the compassion is letting her have an abortion. Many of them don’t want an abortion, they want help. Abortion is a cry for help. 

MORRISON: He just had incredible strength in his faith and character. On the street, people might curse him, they might throw an object at him and it just never seemed to faze him or dampen his spirits, knowing that the cause was right.

SCHEIDLER: When I said: “Hey, when you were on their side, why the zeal, why the enthusiasm, why the hatred of us, why the hatred of God?” And she “because this is our church. This is our religion.” 

ROSE: Joe was fearless and creative. He was doggedly committed to peaceful non-violence, but he was creative in his approach to actually expose the abortion industry, and do community activism to shut down abortion facilities. 

SCHEIDLER: We are going to use all of these pictures, on billboards across the nation…

SMITH: And it really forces the public to grapple with the idea of what abortion really is and what it really does to whom it does…

NEWSCASTER: The tactics of a new anti-abortion group are drawing fire from family planning counselors tonight. Many Austinites consider the pictures offensive. 

SCHEIDLER: I hope it’s offensive. I would be horrified if the people of this area were not offended by seeing what abortion is. 

ROSE: He’s called the godfather of the pro-life movement for a reason…He was a man of love. Ultimately, his mission was love, service of others, particularly the most vulnerable—our children in the womb. So I think that ultimately that his legacy is one of love.

BOMBERGER: It’s hard to imagine the pro-life movement without a Joe Scheidler.  There’s some times when newer people in the pro life movement…are at times dismissive of those who came before us. I would never dismiss the incredible and tireless efforts of those who came before us. Because they didn’t have the means that we have today. They didn’t have social media, and they just kept fighting, no matter how impossible it seemed. So I’m really grateful for Joe Scheidler and how many countless other advocates he’s inspired.

SCHEIDLER: I don’t go into any important undertaking without an intense prayer, that this must be…if it’s God’s will at all, let me be at least a partial instrument, and we realize how weak we are. And God doesn’t need armies. Remember with Gideon, when God kept whittling the army down to fewer people? Not to us, but to your name give the glory, and that is what God wants, and that’s what we’re here for.

BASHAM: Pro-life advocates Ryan Bomberger and Lila Rose, Illinois State Representative Tom Morrison, and Illinois Family Institute’s David Smith on the life and legacy of pro-life advocate Joe Scheidler, who died Monday morning of pneumonia. He was 93.

(Photo/Pro-Life Action League) 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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