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CHICAGO (Church Militant.com) - The Pro-Life Action League held a Way of the Cross for Victims of Abortion at more than 70 abortion clinics throughout the country on Good Friday. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the League, spoke with Church Militant about the event.
The League was founded in 1980 by Joe Scheidler, the primary defendant in the decades-long National Organization of Women vs. Scheidler racketeering case initiated in 1986. He and the League were accused of conspiring to deprive women of the right to abortion, after he counseled women in abortion mills not to kill their unborn children. NOW sued Scheidler, starting a 20-year legal battle that went to the Supreme Court a record three times, finally ending with a unanimous decision in 2006 in Scheidler's favor, with NOW ordered to pay legal costs.
Taking up where his father left off, Eric is continuing to lead the fight to end abortion. The League staged the first public protest against ObamaCare's funding of abortion and contraception with its "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rallies over the past five years, held in 200 cities with more than 150,000 people attending.
And last year, in response to Planned Parenthood's profiteering in aborted baby parts, the League together with Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and Created Equal acted as primary co-sponsors of the #ProtestPP National Day of Prayer and Protest. The second protest is taking place on April 28–29.
On this Good Friday, Eric Scheidler spoke with Church Militant about the nationwide Way of the Cross event.
CM: Do you have an estimate of the size of your activist community?
ES: It's difficult to come up with a specific number to account for our activist outreach across the country. We have thousands of volunteers and donors on our standard mailing list, tens of thousands on our email list, tens of thousands following us on Facebook, and hundreds of thousands who take part in our events throughout the year.
There is, of course, some cross-over in all those groups. And many of those who come out to events organized by the Pro-Life Action League may not have any familiarity with the organization. They're coming out because they were invited by a local pro-life group we work with, or a local leader we've recruited to hold these types of events.
We have over 1,000 such local leaders who take part in Pro-Life Action League events. Some of them are on board every time we call for a national event, while others take part less frequently. Some of these local leaders are the heads of pro-life groups, while others are independent activists.
CM: We've seen that you currently have 65 locations set up for the Good Friday event. How many people are you anticipating?
ES: We now have 76 locations on the map for the Way of the Cross for Victims of Abortion. Some of these events will be quite large — such as St. Paul, Minnesota, where thousands are expected to turn up over the course of a 12-hour vigil. Others will be more modest events — a few dozen pro-lifers praying outside their local abortion facility. All together, we expect attendance to top 10,000 throughout the country.
CM: What do you personally hope to accomplish with the Good Friday prayer vigils?
ES: Prayer itself is our first goal for this event. We believe in the power of prayer, and we are praying for everyone who has been or might be touched by abortion, starting with the unborn children facing abortion on that day, and their mothers and fathers. We pray for women and men struggling with guilt over abortion, the elected officials and judges who must do more to end this horrifying injustice, the media who so often misreport the truth about abortion, and even those staffing the abortion facilities where we're praying.
We also pray in mourning for the nearly 60 million children who have been killed through legal abortion, whose lives we will never know, but who are known individually by our loving God. They are precious to Him, and so they are precious to us, as Cdl. Francis George used to say.
Beyond the impact of prayer itself, we also hope to stand as witness in our communities to the injustice of abortion, awaking out neighbors to the reality of the killing of unborn children in our midst.
CM: Your organization has an impressive resume of achievements. Which do you think has had the most impact?
ES: It's tempting to list something like our #ProtestPP rallies as our most impactful activity, drawing hundreds of thousands of participants throughout the nation and earning massive media coverage — coverage that carries on every time one of our rallies is pictured in a news story on defunding Planned Parenthood, and so forth.
But thinking about it more deeply, our greatest impact happens when those we have called — either directly or indirectly by leaders we've inspired — come out in witness right outside abortion facilities, praying and offering help to women about to have their children aborted.
Nothing can compare with the impact of saving a single life. Sometimes we get to see this happen — the conversation that turns a woman against abortion. Other times, we find out years later, when a happy parent stops to show us a two- or three-year-old who would have been aborted but for our presence. But most of those saved through this witness we will never know anything about this side of eternity.
CM: You've mentioned that ending abortion is a long haul. What other steps is your organization taking towards ending abortion?
ES: For the child saved from abortion through a pro-life witness at an abortion clinic — standing in prayer or reaching out with compassionate help — Roe v. Wade has effectively been overturned.
At the Pro-Life Action League, we're not content to wait until the politicians and the judges restore legal protection to unborn children. We seek to save children from abortion today through direct action.
We also work to build up the pro-life community by getting people directly involved in fighting abortion, and making the case against abortion with our fellow citizens (through, for example, our pocket-sized handbook, Sharing the Pro-Life Message, packed with all the facts and arguments pro-lifers need). And we expose the inhumanity and crimes of the abortion industry.
Another important area is pro-life legislation. While Supreme Court rulings keep us from banning abortion outright, we keep the political fight against abortion alive — keep the wheels greased, so to speak — by passing pro-life measures that both save lives and keep abortion an important political issue.
CM: Most people can't get out to protest every day. Are there small things pro-lifers can do to help with the cause between the big events?
ES: The most important thing people can do to support the pro-life cause is to go out to the nearest abortion clinic in prayer and, if called to do so, become a trained sidewalk counselor. Being out there once a week or even once a month praying or reaching out to abortion-bound women is our most important work, and something that most people really can do.
Stepping out with courage — and knowledge — to talk about abortion with friends and neighbors is also important and, again, something almost anyone can do. Finally, supporting pro-life groups with financial assistance is also very important.
And of course, pray every day for an end to abortion, for mothers and fathers facing a pregnancy at a difficult time, and for all those working to end abortion.
CM: You must have a lot of stories from your years of sidewalk activism. What is your most memorable?
ES: One of the most powerful experiences I've had as a pro-life activist was a couple of years ago during the Way of the Cross prayer service at the Planned Parenthood mega-center in Aurora, Illinois. Right as our group of about 200 people were kneeling on the ground at the Twelfth Station, "Jesus dies on the cross," a woman came out of Planned Parenthood and told a sidewalk counselor she had decided she couldn't go through with the abortion. Our prayerful presence had touched her heart. I was able to share this turnaround with the group. It was a very powerful moment.
CM: Were there any times when you felt you were up against the demonic or felt the presence of the Divine?
ES: The most demonic presence I've felt was during a series of "Face the Truth" tours at Chicago-area university campuses some years ago. At the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, A large throng of socialists, anarchists and feminists came out to counterprotest, many of them wearing face masks. They carried signs saying things like "I'm a feminist and I riot!" At one point, my father, Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League, had to leave for a Knights of Columbus meeting, and decided to walk away from the protest. He was followed by a couple of pro-aborts. I saw this, and ran to join him.
We decided we had better return to the protest area, where police were present, and suddenly we were struck with a black liquid. One of the counterprotestors had flung a jar of what we later learned was black vegetable dye at my dad and me. We were both covered with it, and he got some in his eye, requiring medical treatment. When we told the police about it, they laughed. I saw the devil in the eyes of some of those counterprotestors that day.
CM: What can we all do?
ES: I would emphasize that there is no way we will end abortion if those who believe abortion is wrong do not all take part in the pro-life movement. If every adult who believes abortion is always wrong were to spend just one hour in prayer at an abortion clinic every year — just one hour a year — there would be 50–100 pro-lifers at every abortion facility every hour its opened. We're nowhere close to that kind of presence. There are abortion clinics pro-lifers never show up to. We need all hands on deck to save our unborn brothers and sisters.
For locations and how you can help, please visit Pro-Life Action League's website here.