Yesterday afternoon, family members announced the death of Joe Scheidler at the age of 93. Scheidler was one of the earliest and most prominent leaders of the modern pro-life movement, considered by some in the movement to be the “godfather” of pro-life activism.
After the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in favor of nationwide legalized abortion in 1973, Scheidler left his job and began working full-time in anti-abortion advocacy. He founded the Pro-Life Action League and served as its director until his death, building up a national organization that trained and encouraged pro-life Americans to engage in anti-abortion activism at the local level.
Scheidler became well-known across the country after the pro-abortion group National Organization for Women (NOW) sued him in his personal capacity for organizing protests outside abortion clinics. NOW argued that Scheidler and his fellow protestors had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
After a series of long and costly legal battles stretching out over the course of two decades — including three trips to the Supreme Court — Scheidler was finally vindicated, an important victory for pro-lifers who continue to gather outside abortion facilities to protest, pray, or offer sidewalk counseling to women seeking abortion.
After Scheidler’s death, his son told Catholic News Agency that the civil-rights movement was his father’s inspiration. “He marched with Dr. King in 1965, and the impact it had in him is to see that regular people can have a real in the cause of justice, and thus decided to recruit regular Americans to the fight in favor of life and against abortion,” Eric Scheidler said.
The Chicago Sun-Times noted in an obituary yesterday afternoon that Scheidler often focused on understanding the perspective of those who had worked in abortion clinics and that he once told the paper, “I have more respect for people that have enthusiasm, even for the wrong thing, than people who are indifferent.” An admirable perspective. Joe Scheidler, rest in peace.