Ann Scheidler

A look back at 40 years fighting abortion

Ann Scheidler
By Ann Scheidler
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January 18, 2013 (Prolifeaction.org) - January 22, 1973. Anyone familiar with the abortion battles in America knows that date. This year we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling issued on that day.

But in 1973, the front page of newspapers across the country were full of other momentous news. Former President Lyndon Johnson died on January 22, 1973. Richard Nixon had just recently announced an end to hostilities against North Vietnam, and the Paris Peace Accords were being brokered.

My husband Joe Scheidler was down with the flu on January 22, 1973. I was pregnant with our fourth child, who turned out to be our first daughter, Cathy. Our three boys—Eric, 6; Joe, 5; and Peter, 3—occupied most of my attention. I didn’t look at the front page of the Chicago Tribune until late in the day on January 23. Joe didn’t read it until the next day.

But as we read the news we were incredulous. Illinois was a pro-life state in those days. Attempts to ease restrictions on abortions here had easily been defeated. We weren’t paying attention to the national fight to legalize abortion and did not even know there was a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

We simply could not believe such a thing could happen. With a stroke of a pen, all abortion laws were struck down and unborn babies, like Cathy, just 4 ½ months in my womb, were dependent solely on their mothers for their right to be born.

Joe immediately flew into action. He read the decision and was dumbfounded at the illogic and ignorance of scientific reality written into Justice Harry Blackmun’s opinion, representing seven of the sitting judges. Only two Justices—William Rehnquist and Byron White—dissented, with White referring to the decision as “an exercise in raw judicial power.”

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The following Sunday, we went to Mass at our parish, Queen of All Saints, expecting to hear outrage from the pulpit and to be given some sort of marching orders. There was no mention of Roe v. Wade. And when we talked with family and friends, they agreed that it was a bad ruling, but no one else seemed to feel any obligation to fight it.

We looked for some way to get connected with someone who cared. We had contributed to Illinois Right to Life when they fought in Springfield to keep abortion out of Illinois, so we called them. They had a meeting scheduled for the following week.

We went to the meeting, expecting to find the room packed with concerned citizens. Hardly anyone was there. And it slowly dawned on us that we were a minority, those of us who reacted with horror at Roe v. Wade.

Still, we believed that if people only understood the humanity of the unborn baby, American people would rise up and oppose abortion-on-demand. Joe started researching anything he could find on fetal development, methods of abortion, the background on the movement to legalize abortion. He spent so much time on it, he couldn’t focus on his work at a public relations job.

Finally his boss, a pro-life Catholic, suggested that his real passion lay in fighting abortion, and that he should pursue it as his full-time job. He said he would help him by keeping him on the payroll and with health insurance coverage until our baby was born.

Joe enlisted my father’s help in starting the Chicago Office for Pro-Life Publicity, with the aim of publicizing facts on abortion and fetal development and educating the public to build opposition to abortion. But raising funds for such a venture proved a real challenge.

In January of 1974, Illinois Right to Life decided it needed to hire a part-time director. Joe took the job, which quite quickly became a full-time job. We both still expected our pro-life mission to be short term. We still believed that Americans would not settle for such callous disregard for innocent, defenseless human life.

In that way, God was being good to us. Had we known we were in for a lifelong battle, we might have given up. In fact, Joe went to hear Fr. Paul Marx, founder of Human Life International, give a talk at a hotel in downtown Chicago. When he came home he reported that Fr. Marx thought we were in for a long fight—that it would be at least five, perhaps ten, years before Roe v. Wade would be overturned.

I was furious at such a pessimistic outlook. But Fr. Marx had been fighting the pro-death lobby for several years already. He knew it was deeply entrenched in the culture. And he was being ridiculously optimistic in his five to ten year projection. Now we know, of course, that we will be in this battle for the rest of our lives. And we thank God for entrusting this mission to us.

Joe spent five years with the Illinois Right to Life Committee. But he had a street fighter’s approach. He had joined Martin Luther King on his march from Selma to Montgomery in March of 1965. Illinois Right to Life had a more academic approach to fighting abortion. They found his aggressive tactics a little embarrassing and, at a contentious, board meeting, demanded his resignation.

Joe and a couple of pro-life colleagues from IRLC decided to form another group. They called it Friends for Life. But right from the beginning the friends were at each others’ throats. Friends only lasted a little over a year. Joe and I decided to focus principally on direct action—protests, sidewalk counseling, events that would attract media attention. So, in June 1980 we stepped out completely in faith and founded the Pro-Life Action League. Joe worked out of our basement, with six active kids under foot. Apparently it was the right move.

Joe wrote his book, CLOSED: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, which attracted the attention of not just pro-life activists, but pro-abortion activists as well. In 1986 the National Organization for Women filed its lawsuit against Joe and the Pro-Life Action League—NOW v. Scheidler.

The national attention to such an unprecedented attack on a protest movement—the use of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) to stifle freedom of speech—actually raised the profile of the Pro-Life Action League, giving it more national recognition. The case went to the Supreme Court of the United States three times!

The landmark victory in NOW v. Scheidler put an end to attempts to use RICO to stop pro-lifers. The unintended consequence of NOW’s lawsuit, thanks to the genius of our defense attorney Tom Brejcha, was to forge an alliance among protest groups of all kinds, conservative and liberal, to protect our constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The pro-life movement has changed a lot since January 22, 1973. It has become more sophisticated. We have moved from the electric typewriter and a mailing list on 3 x 5 index cards to sophisticated Facebook pages, social media, email updates, nationwide coordinated projects, and a political landscape where every candidate has to have a position on abortion.

And on this 40th anniversary we are far closer to overturning Roe v. Wade than we ever were in 1973 when in our naiveté we thought it would be a two-year battle.

Building a Culture of Life takes time. We’re willing to try. And we know we will win.

Only 6 days remain!

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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