Eric Scheidler

Accomplishment #7: Hundreds of abortion clinics have been shut down.

Eric Scheidler

NOTE: This article is one of a series on the “top ten” accomplishments of the pro-life movement over the past 40 years since unborn children were stripped of their legal right to life by the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court rulings.

When abortion advocates scored the 1973 Supreme Court court victory that created legalized abortion-on-demand throughout the United States, they weren’t envisioning the emergence of thousands of specialized abortion clinics.

Shortly after Roe v. Wade, 100 professors of obstetrics and gynocology signed an open letter predicting that free-standing abortion clinics would be unnecessary if just half of the nation’s 20,000 Ob/Gyns would do abortions in their offices, and if hospitals would handle “their proportionate share.”

Abortion “contained” in specialty clinics

Abortion advocates wanted to “mainstream” abortion—to make it just another medical procedure—and having abortions performed in doctors offices and hospitals would be one of the keys to making that happen.

At that time, hospitals accounted for 80% of the nation’s abortion facilities. But by 1981, abortion clinics outnumbered hospitals. As sociologist Carole Joffe remarked in a 2010 New York Times article on abortion providers, “The clinics’ founders didn’t intend them to become virtually the only settings for abortion services in many communities.”

As explored in previous installments of this series, physicians proved far more reluctant to do abortions than the architects of legal abortion had hoped, and pro-life activists ensured that abortion remained controversial.

This alone is a significant achievement for the pro-life movement.

Not only does the containment of abortion to freestanding specialty clinics point to the stigma that surrounds abortion, but it makes it much easier for us to reach out to abortion-bound women.

Just imagine what it would be like if abortions were distributed across the nation’s hospitals and doctors offices, with abortion clients “hidden” among those seeking legitimate medial services. Sidewalk counseling would be virtually impossible.

Hundreds of abortion clinics CLOSED

Thanks to the diligence of pro-life activists, that never happened. Today, 94% of abortions are performed in abortion clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm.

That means that we have the ability—if only enough people of faith are willing to serve as pro-life sidewalk counselors—to identify the vast majority of abortion-bound women and offer them help.

But that’s not the only good news.

Pro-life activists have also succeeded in shutting down hundreds of abortion clinics over the years—at least 1,400 of them since 1991.

That year the number of surgical abortion clinics peaked at 2,200. Now there are only 660 of them, along with another 196 clinics that only offer the more recently developed method of medical abortion.

In fact, the shuttering of abortion clinics became such a central mission of the pro-life movement in its early decades that my father entitled his 1985 book on pro-life activism CLOSED.

Pro-life activists used the “99 Ways To Stop Abortion” of the book’s subtitle to close down clinic after clinic, a trend which has continued to this day.

Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek reported that 31 abortion clinics closed in 2010 alone. In Illinois—one of the most pro-abortion states in the country—three abortion facilities closed in 2011-12.

First abortion-free state coming soon?

Sadly, much of the abortion business that would have gone to those shuttered clinics has been picked up by other facilities—especially Planned Parenthood. Even as the number of abortion clinics has gone down—and with it, the nationwide abortion rate—Planned Parenthood’s share of the abortion business has steadily gone up.

Still, the closing of abortion clinics has been a significant accomplishment, especially when it makes access to abortion more difficult in a particular area. Babies have been saved this way, and abortionists have been kept on the run.

So many clinics have closed that five states now have only one abortion clinic within their borders.

We may soon celebrate the first state to become completely abortion-free—not because of a change in the law, but because we’ve driven the abortionists out of business there.

And it won’t be the last.

Reprinted with permission from the Prolife Action League.

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911 call shows how little Planned Parenthood cares about women’s health

Eric Scheidler
Eric Scheidler
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The recordings of a 911 call and a dispatcher’s ambulance call reveal Planned Parenthood’s diligence—but only when it comes to protecting their business from public scrutiny.

On Saturday, January 18, 2014, an ambulance appeared at the huge Planned Parenthood facility in Aurora, Illinois, during the Pro-Life Action League’s monthly protest there. I caught the incident on camera, as did volunteers with the Live Pro-Life youth group. The recordings were later obtained with help from the Thomas More Society through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

911 Operator Rebukes Planned Parenthood Staffer

The ambulance arrived at approximately 9:40 a.m. Shortly after 10:00 a.m., paramedics exited the main doors with a patient on a gurney and loaded it into the ambulance. They left about 10:10 a.m.

On both the 911 call and on the radio with paramedics, the dispatcher is clearly frustrated at how little information Planned Parenthood has given her about the status of their patient. The Planned Parenthood employee on the phone even seems reluctant to give the name of the business she’s calling from:

Dispatcher: Aurora 911.

PP Staffer: Yes, I need an ambulance, uh, to my location, please.

Dispatcher: Where are you at?

PP Staffer: 3051 East New York Street —

Dispatcher: Okay, what do you need —

PP Staffer: — Planned Parenthood.

Dispatcher: Okay, what do you need an ambulance for?

PP Staffer: Um, I was just directed by the doctor to call. I’m not sure what’s going on with the patient.

Dispatcher: Okay, can, can you — I need some sort of information.

PP Staffer: I, I —

Dispatcher: Is there any way —

PP Staffer: I honestly —

Dispatcher: — you can find that out?

PP Staffer: Hm?

Dispatcher: Is there any way you can find that out?

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But no more information is forthcoming—at least regarding the unfortunate Planned Parenthood client—and the operator takes the staffer to task:

PP Staffer: All they told me is that somebody fainted and we need and ambulance.

Dispatcher: Alright. We’ll send someone over, but next time I need patient information, okay?

Unfazed by the operator’s rebuke, the Planned Parenthood staffer moves on to the only detailed information she’s prepared to share: where the paramedics should park:

PP Staffer: Okay. And can you ask them to come to the southwest entrance?

Dispatcher: Okay.

PP Staffer: Thank you.

The dispatcher’s frustration is evident in her call to the ambulance. After giving the address, she reports:

Dispatcher: Unknown patient status. They have no information. They’re saying to use the southwest entrance.

Planned Parenthood Desperate to Avoid Public Scrutiny

So why is the Planned Parenthood staffer so reluctant to say what’s wrong with the patient—or why did the doctor deliberately keep her in the dark?

Planned Parenthood knows that the Pro-Life Action League and allied groups keep tabs on abortion clinic emergencies like this. Are they so reluctant to let word get out about what really goes on inside their walls that they won’t give emergency personnel the information they need?

Planned Parenthood’s slogan is “Care. No Matter what.” But it appears that what Planned Parenthood really cares about is protecting itself from public scrutiny.

In this case Planned Parenthood’s neglect to give emergency personnel adequate information served only to annoy them—the patient appeared to have revived by the time she was taken away by the ambulance.

But the results of Planned Parenthood’s negligence can be far more dire. In 2012, Planned Parenthood failed to even call 911 when 24-year-old Tonya Reaves was under their “care” after a botched abortion at their clinic on Chicago’s near north side. In February, Planned Parenthood of Illinois settled a wrongful death suit with Tonya’s surviving son.

Meanwhile, in Springfield and other state capitals, Planned Parenthood desperately fights any effort to hold them to the same standards required of other surgical centers, even the looser standards required in Illinois for “pregnancy termination speciality centers.” None of Planned Parenthood’s Illinois clinics is subject to any state inspection regime.

Reprinted with permission from Pro-Life Action League

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Is the Pro-Life Action League “targeting” abortion advocates?

Eric Scheidler
Eric Scheidler
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This past Friday, the website Religion Dispatches published a story criticizing the Pro-Life Action League’s Lenten prayer and fasting campaign for abortion advocates Robin Marty, Katie Klabusich and Cheryl Chastine. Some of our opponents have characterized this effort as “harassment,” since we named the three and included pictures of them.

Though author Alana Massey makes no secret of her pro-choice position, the piece is fairly even-handed, and I’m grateful for that. I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Massey being interviewed for the story, and she’s kind enough to call me “an exceedingly gracious person.”

For my part, I enjoyed our conversation and look forward to contributing to Massey’s writing on the abortion issue in the future. In fact, I would say that our exchange was marked by the same spirit of sincerity that inspired the League’s controversial prayer campaign.

Massey herself doesn’t quite seem to believe that harassment is our real purpose. She seems more inclined to regard it as misguided or even reckless, given the “history of anti-abortion violence” the article chronicles.

Many other advocates of legal abortion think otherwise, calling the campaign a “thinly veiled” call for violence against the women we’re asking people to fast and pray for. I’ll address that accusation below, but first I want to correct a couple of errors in Massey’s article.

The League’s Ongoing Commitment to Non-Violence

Massey mistakenly equates the Pro-Life Action League with the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN). The latter was an umbrella group of pro-life activist organizations, of which the League was one, active during the mid-1980s. My father, Joe Scheidler, was one of the principal figures in PLAN, but it wasn’t his organization by any means.

Crucifix and prayerShe also incorrectly states, “In 1985, following a year during which there were 10 bombings and 16 cases of arson, the senior Scheidler famously called for ‘a year of pain and fear.’” Actually it was PLAN, as a group, that called for “a year of pain for the abortion industry” (no mention of “fear”) in a press release [PDF] issued at the end of a PLAN meeting in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Incidentally, my father had no hand in the drafting of that statement (he was outside the meeting talking to a reporter at the time). But as PLAN’s media contact, it fell to him to explain what “pain” meant when reporters started asking him about it. What was meant, of course, was the “pain” of peaceful pro-life activism: the sit-ins, home pickets and prayer vigils listed in the release.

I say “of course” because both the League and PLAN were fully committed to non-violence. My father devoted a chapter to non-violence in his book, CLOSED: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, published that same year of 1985.

The Pro-Life Action League remains committed to non-violence, and the claim that this year’s Lenten prayer campaign is “really” intended to intimidate or threaten the women we’re praying and fasting for is entirely unfounded.

Putting Violence in Perspective

Way of the CrossBefore I go on to further address the “intimidation” issue, let me say a few words about violence in our national controversy over abortion.

Advocates of legal abortion are quick to cite statistics about vandalism against abortion facilities and list the names of abortion providers killed and injured over the years. But they’re less willing to own up to the violence directed at pro-life activists.

Massey insists that “the argument that the violence is equal in volume, frequency and at similar levels of organization is specious,” noting that only one pro-life activist has been killed, compared to six abortion providers. I didn’t actually claim any parity of violence (actually, I’d argue far more nonlethal violence has been directed at pro-lifers), but to debunk the point would demand a lot more evidence than that.

But I can understand why our opponents beat this drum so loudly. It’s a lot easier to demonize pro-life activists than to defend abortion, which violently takes the lives of over 3,000 unborn children every single day.

Praying in the snowIt’s become a kind of knee-jerk response. It was prominently on display in January when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the McCullen v. Coakley Massachusetts buffer zone case. Never mind that someone willing to commit an act of violence would hardly be deterred by a buffer zone—or that not one arrest was made under a less restrictive law previously in place in the state.

But never are these rare acts of anti-abortion violence juxtaposed with the overwhelmingly peaceful pro-life activism taking place day in, day out throughout the United States: the hundreds of marches, rallies and protests, and the countless hours of prayer and outreach on the sidewalks outside America’s abortion clinics.

Given how much pro-life activism is going on, and how high we think the stakes are here—literally a matter of life and death—it’s remarkable how very peaceful this movement truly is.

And why is it so? Because we pray. Like we’re doing now for Robin Marty, Katie Klabusich and Cheryl Chastine.

Choosing Our Words Carefully

Indeed, if “intimidation” were really our goal, this campaign would have to be considered pretty feckless. If this is really a “thinly veiled” call for violence, what, one wonders, would a “thickly veiled” one look like?

Rosary in handAs Massey notes, we chose the most pleasant pictures we could find of these three women for our graphics on Facebook. And we described their roles in abortion advocacy as neutrally as we could, calling Robin Marty a “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion” journalist and Katie Klabusich an “abortion clinic escort” rather than an “abortion mill deathscort”—choices which a few pro-lifers have criticized.

We called Cheryl Chastine an “abortionist,” rather than, say, a “baby killer” (a word choice nobody criticized; “abortionist” is merely accurate but carries a load of stigma).

No, the words and pictures in the League’s Facebook graphics bear no resemblance the “wanted poster” that Rev. Harry Knox of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice tells Massey it’s meant to mimic.

A Challenge for the Pro-Choice Reverend

Knox’s comments in Massey’s article are particularly curious. He says the members of his coalition agree that “[neither] prayer nor scripture should ever be used as weapons”—which is true enough, but an odd thing to have to “agree” on.

Knox says further that “prayer should be entered into humbly, seeking the Holy One’s will and guidance, not assuming we already know what it is,” referring to my insistence that it is not God’s will for Marty, Klabusich and Chastine to be involved in abortion.

Mary with candleBut we can’t be completely in the dark about God’s will, can we? Knox seems to have some idea himself of what it is, when he denounces the League’s prayer campaign as “just hate in love’s clothing.”

But here’s a thought experiment for Rev. Knox, and all of the League’s detractors: What would it look like if the League really were sincerely calling on pro-lifers to pray and fast for these three women?

I submit that it would like exactly like it does look, because that’s exactly what we really are doing.

Seeing Our Opponents as Loveable

We really mean it when we say, “God loves each of them—and so should we.” And at least one of our “targets” seems to get it. Robin Marty tells Massey:

By calling me a ‘pro-choice journalist’ I think that they were actually trying to make it understood that this wasn’t meant to be, at least towards me, a thing of harassment. I think that in a lot of ways they really, honestly, genuinely mean that people should pray for me cause I’m convertible.

Yes, I do believe that Marty is convertible. I sat with her at a hotel cafe for two hours last summer, talking about my work, and hers. She talked about her kids and why she’s so committed to “choice.” I talked about what it was like growing up as Joe Scheidler’s son, about my years as an atheist, and how I came back to Christian faith in my early 30s.

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Candlelight vigilAnd as I sat there talking to her, I tried, quite consciously, to see her, if not “as God sees her”—which is beyond the capacity of my mortal eyes, to be sure—then perhaps just a little bit as her husband sees her, as her kids see her. As someone loveable.

I can honestly say that I do like Robin Marty, as she surmises on her Facebook wall.

That means I’m all the more troubled by her advocacy for legal abortion. In my mind’s eye, I can catch a glimpse of the Robin Marty who refuses to accept a world in which the women for whom she so sincerely advocates cannot be truly free without the legal right to kill their own children.

Learning to Love Our Enemies

Katie Klabusich is another story. In an alternate universe in which I could sit down with her for coffee, maybe things would be different. But as it is, she’s harder to like.

Unlike Marty, who seems genuinely interested in representing us fairly in her work, Klabusich has been way over the top in her attacks on the League, as my mother noted in her blog post launching this campaign.

Praying in the rainKlabusich twists and distorts everything she can, and even tells outright lies about us. She’s compared us to Westboro Baptist Church—somehow unable to tell the difference between “God hates fags” and “God loves Katie.”

Still, Massey took me to task in our interview for the way my mother accused Klabusich of “spouting vitriol,” calling it a harsh way to speak of someone if we’re sincerely asking people to pray for her.

I responded that it’s necessary to recognize precisely how Klabusich ranks as an “enemy” of ours. Christ said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I believe that Christ meant this not just because our enemies need to be loved and prayed for, but perhaps even more importantly because we need to love them and pray for them, for our own good.

Transforming Our Own Hearts

This point is worth exploring further, since it’s an important part of the League’s Lenten prayer campaign.

In her first response on her blog to being “targeted” by our prayers, Klabusich quoted one Dianne Anderson, who—while accusing us of “weaponizing” Lent—actually raises a good point:

Lent, in my understanding, is not about working to convert others. It is not an evangelistic practice. It is primarily about internal, spiritual disciplines, the reworking of our own hearts.

Prayer at Albany in ChicagoThere’s never a season when praying for the welfare of others—even enemies—is inappropriate, but Anderson is right that the central purpose of Lent is to deepen one’s own conversion to Christ.

And that is part of what we’re trying to do here. Having sat down face-to-face with Robin Marty, it’s not hard for me to wish her well and pray for her in all sincerity. But to do the same for Katie Klabusich is difficult.

And that’s a shame. To the extent I do not wish her well and cannot pray for her with a heart full of love, I am falling short of my Christian vocation.

For me, this is where fasting becomes essential. A little physical suffering on someone’s behalf, chosen freely, makes it easier to love them.

Abortionists above All Need Our Prayers

That leaves Cheryl Chastine. She’s much more of a mystery. As Massey notes, Chastine initially hoped to remain anonymous as the new abortion provider at George Tiller’s old location in Wichita, Kansas—a naive hope, as I pointed out.

She’s not as “out there” as an abortion advocate as Marty and Klabusich are. Aside from her overactive Twitter feed and stories about the League’s efforts last year to get her to quit doing abortions, she doesn’t have much of a footprint online.

So then, why are we praying and fasting for Cheryl Chastine in this public way, and inviting others to do so, too? For two reasons.

Matt bows in prayerFirst, of the three—all of whom the League’s work has touched upon over the past year—she’s the one who is actually performing abortions. It’s one thing to advocate for “abortion rights,” as Marty does. It’s something more to usher women into abortion facilities, as Klabusich does. But to actually hold a curette or suction tube in your own hands and dismember a tiny human being—that’s a far graver thing.

Chastine desperately needs prayers—as do all our nation’s abortionists. But it’s hard to pray for the Leroy Carharts and Kermit Gosnells of the world, and really mean it. We hope with this Lenten effort to deepen pro-lifers’ prayers for all America’s abortionists by focusing them, for a time, on this one young abortionist, who even now is only in her first year of aborting babies in Kansas.

This why we did not, as Massey proposes, “opt for a more general call to pray for those with whom they disagree during the season of Lent. Surely God already knows who the abortion providers and supporters are.”

Inciting Pro-Lifers to Pray

Lent 2014 graphicI knew when we launched this prayer campaign that we’d be accused of “inciting violence”—despite all our carefully chosen words and pictures. But then again, we face that accusation no matter what we do.

No, we’re not inciting anyone to violence, or trying to threaten or intimidate anyone. And the supporters, allies and followers of the Pro-Life Action League know that.

By the hundreds, they’re giving up meals and offering daily prayers for Robin Marty, Katie Klabusich and Cheryl Chastine. They’re printing out our Facebook graphic and putting it by their bedsides. They’re offering up Masses. One woman has even taken on a bread and water fast.

That’s our real agenda here, despite what the detractors may say: inciting people to pray.

Reprinted with permission from Pro-Life Action League

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Five babies saved this month at Planned Parenthood’s ‘abortion fortress’ in Illinois

Eric Scheidler
Eric Scheidler
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I’m happy to report that since the beginning of this month, five babies have been saved from abortion at the huge Planned Parenthood’s mega-center in Aurora, Illinois, where the Pro-Life Action League is especially active. This is especially joyous news considering how difficult it is to speak to clients at this location, which was deliberately designed to hinder pro-life outreach.

The first came March 1 during a kickoff rally for 40 Days for Life. Sidewalk counselors Karen N. reports that a couple came out from Planned Parenthood and approached her as they were driving away. The woman nodded when Karen asked her if she was pregnant, and nodded again when she asked whether they’d changed their minds. Karen gave them information on the nearby Waterleaf pregnancy center. The man said they had to get a bite first—further indication they had had an abortion scheduled, since clients are instructed not to eat the morning before.

Three Saves the First Week of Lent

On Ash Wednesday, March 5, a car pulled out of the Planned Parenthood parking lot and pulled up beside sidewalk counselor Susan S. The passenger, a young woman, told Susan she had decided to keep her baby. Only minutes later, another car pulled up to Susan S. and counselor Randy M. and a beaming young woman told them about a previously unknown save: her daughter would soon turn one year old.

Two days later, Randy flagged down an SUV as it was leaving the parking lot. The young woman inside told Randy and counselor Mary V., “I changed my mind!” and then broke down in tears. Randy gave her information on Waterleaf, and Mary asked her name and promised to pray for her.

The next day, March 8, yet another car pulled out of the lot and stopped beside our pro-life crew. The driver, a man, told counselor Joe B. and prayer partner Ray, “We changed our minds. We didn’t do it,” and said he was hoping for a boy. So Ray gave the man one of the blue bags of baby items and information that some counselors give away to clients. The couple asked Joe and Ray to pray for them, and gave them their names.

Prayers Answered after Monthly Protest

The last of these five saves came this past Saturday, as our monthly protest was wrapping up. Just before I began to lead our group in a closing prayer at the protest site, some ways from where the counselors keep their posts, one of our number mentioned that a couple had just gone inside Planned Parenthood but were “on the fence” about following through with the abortion.

March monthly protest at Planned Parenthood

Monthly protest at Planned Parenthood, March 15 [Photo by Eric Scheidler]

I later learned that the man had come out from Planned Parenthood and crossed over to talk to sidewalk counselors Katherine W. He said they already had an 18-month-old and were afraid they’d be kicked out of their parents’ homes for getting pregnant again, but that he wanted to keep the baby. He took a bundle of literature from Katherine and went back inside.

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Just as we were finishing praying for this couple—by name—Julia, a student from Christian Liberty Academy’s Live Pro-Life group, came over from the counseling area overjoyed to tell us that a couple had just had a change of heart. Little did she know we had just been praying for them seconds before!

I told the group, “The eternal God who sees all our prayers outside of time has just answered this one! Aren’t you glad you came out today?”

God Is Blessing Our Work in Aurora

How to explain this sudden surge of saved babies at Planned Parenthood’s “Abortion Fortress” in Aurora? Turn-arounds at this center are all too rare. To have five of them in just two weeks is unprecedented.

I wonder if at least part of the reason God is granting such victories to our pro-life community in Aurora, Illinois, is by way of blessing the gathering of pro-life activists we held towards the end of February to reinvigorate our ministry at Planned Parenthood.

Part of that blessing includes our being there to receive the joy of these parents who have chosen life for their babies. For some reason, they feel a deep need to let us know about this choice—even if they went into the building without paying us any heed. Even years later, they feel this need—like the woman who stopped on Ash Wednesday to tell us about her daughter.

To be there for these young parents——not only to help, but to receive their joy—is a tremendous honor that transforms all those upon whom God, in His mercy, confers it. Praised be His name unto ages of ages!

Reprinted with permission from Pro-Life Action League

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