By DEXTER DUGGAN
Racketeer for Life: Fighting the Culture of Death From the Sidewalk to the Supreme Court, by Joseph M. Scheidler with Peter M. Scheidler, TAN Books, Charlotte, N.C., ISBN 978-1-61890-850-6, 470 pages hardback, $24.95, 2016.
As the world prepares for the new Republican administration taking office, pro-lifers and others speculate about how President-elect Donald Trump will bring to fruition his pro-life pledges. What will Trump say, and how will he say it? What will he do? Who will help him?
In a memoir issued in December, Racketeer for Life, Chicago Catholic Joseph M. Scheidler, who helped pioneer national pro-life activism at abortuaries beginning in the 1970s, happened to quote Republican President Ronald Reagan commenting about abortion in his 1984 State of the Union address.
Scheidler’s book doesn’t even mention Trump, elected president only the month before this hefty memoir was released that recounts Scheidler’s decades of devotion, most of that time heading the Pro-Life Action League.
However, it’s only because of pro-lifers like Scheidler and activist legions, persevering across the nation to restore protection to the innocent unborn, that politicians even address the issue, much less act on it.
Were it left to dominant journalists and other social upper-crusters, merciless massive abortion only would be beloved and discreetly concealed. It’d no more be a pressing issue than putting a little butter on popcorn.
Reagan faced a communications media and elite establishment as dedicated to permissive abortion then as now. Scheidler and others had visited the White House shortly before the presidential speech to Congress and learned they had no reason to fear the issue would be overlooked. Racketeer for Life quotes what Reagan said in that State of the Union:
“America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. He is ours. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side. During our first three years, we have joined bipartisan efforts to restore protection of the law to unborn children.
“Now, I know this issue is very controversial,” Reagan continued. “But unless and until it can be proven that an unborn child is not a living human being, can we justify assuming without proof that it isn’t? No one has yet offered such proof. Indeed, all the evidence is to the contrary. We should rise above bitterness and reproach, and if Americans could come together in a spirit of understanding and helping, then we could find positive solutions to the tragedy of abortion.”
The previous year, 1983, Reagan authored a powerful article, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” for the quarterly Human Life Review. In 1984 it was published as a book including other essays. At the time, it was described as the only book to be published by a U.S. president while he held office.
To those who might object that Reagan only was trying to generate voter support for his re-election race in 1984, one might reply that presidents generally don’t prepare for their campaigns by trying to offend as many voters as possible. Reagan recognized this as a winning issue.
Even though the Democratic Party was stronger back then, Reagan dominated both the national popular vote and Electoral College in his landslides in 1980 (489 to 49 electoral votes) and 1984 (525 to 13).
In his two terms as president, the Democrats held the majority in the U.S. House every single year, as well as the Senate majority for two of Reagan’s eight years. Never did Reagan enjoy Trump’s enviable position of having both legislative chambers under GOP control. The former California governor and conservative standard-bearer proclaimed pro-life as a bipartisan cause.
And he was correct to do so back then, before radical pro-abortionists pretty much purged pro-lifers from Democratic officeholders’ and candidates’ ranks.
Perhaps Democrats today have an increasingly harder time of winning majorities in many states and nationally because of their hardened pro-abortion image, well symbolized by radical pro-abortionist President Barack Obama (not that dominant media call Obama to account for, or even call much attention to, his permissive abortion extremism).
Racketeer for Life isn’t about Reagan or Trump but about Scheidler’s shining example. The book also isn’t about strategizing for political campaigns or hiring election consultants. However, Scheidler and his inspired activists’ energy made sure that people knew when a politician was on the pro-abortion side.
While dominant media hailed permissive abortion, which so inexplicably had been thrust on the nation by legerdemain at the Supreme Court in January 1973, Scheidler determined that urban pedestrians and motorists would understand the horrors going on behind those weird storefronts that popped up suddenly everywhere.
“The slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem was two millennia ago,” Scheidler writes. “And the Nazi atrocities were horrifying, but that was under a dictatorship. But now the United States of America had stripped away its most cherished unalienable right — life — from its most vulnerable population. I felt like a foreigner in my own country. We had embarked on a program of destroying our posterity.”
Maybe blundering Justice Harry Blackmun hadn’t even really understood what he was doing when he wrote that individual doctors should go right ahead and perform whatever abortions they wanted. As a former lawyer for the Mayo Clinic, he thought doctors could be trusted. He didn’t see the High Court acting for “women’s rights,” but for doctors’.
However, Blackmun threw away the U.S. legal understanding of the gravity of what abortion involved. A serious crime suddenly was proclaimed a fundamental constitutional right.
To tunnel-visioned Blackmun and his High Court majority brethren, the question wasn’t whether the unborn baby is a living human being; just whether she is a technical legal “person” — something that even inanimate objects can be, for purposes of the law.
No state, not even the most “liberal,” had an abortion law as sweeping as what Blackmun conjured, but now the 7-2 Supreme Court majority imposed it on all 50 of them.
Indeed, even the state legislators of “liberal” New York in 1972 had realized their serious error in legalizing a more limited permissive abortion in 1970, so they voted to repeal it. But pro-abortion Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller vetoed their repeal, then Blackmun jumped in to save the day for death in 1973.
No matter how trustworthy a banker is, no federal regulator could possibly believe that it’d turn out well to allow bankers generally to help themselves personally to as much of their depositors’ funds as they thought necessary. The bankers’ self-perceived “need” for money would be an unreliable legal standard.
Nor could a steel baron be told that he absolutely can be trusted to produce as many girders as the market demands, with no consideration whatever of the pollutants in his furnaces.
If Scheidler, who’d worked as a university teacher, newspaper reporter, and advertising executive, could see this illogic, why was it so beyond the comprehension of the elite? Unless being out of touch is what elites do to get where they perch.
The title of Racketeer for Life is drawn from the drawn-out case against Scheidler and other pro-lifers for supposedly violating federal laws against racketeering and extortion. Radical feminists and abortionists were desperate to banish effective pro-life influence. Abortion clinics were losing income by being deprived of potential clients who changed their minds. Voila, extortion.
The legal charade stretched for years until no less than the Supreme Court itself repeatedly said the assertion against the pro-lifers was nonsense. “My youngest son, Matthias, was four years old when I was sued by NOW and the abortion clinics,” Scheidler writes. “He was 32 when the case was finally over.”
As Racketeer for Life begins, Scheidler jokes, “Chicago has a long history of mob bosses. But me? I didn’t know the first thing about running a national crime syndicate.”
Like many other Americans, the photos did it for Scheidler. Seeing a photo of dead aborted babies for the first time rocked his world in the fall of 1972, while a coterie of activists for permissive abortion was trying to impose its will on the U.S.
One of the unwanted babies’ faces in the hospital’s garbage bag “looked like my son Eric’s baby picture. . . . That night I couldn’t sleep. Over the next few weeks, I started studying abortion and the right-to-life movement,” Scheidler writes.
Later, he asked two young advertising men at one of Chicago’s major daily papers out to lunch to complain about the paper regularly running a full page of ads for abortuaries.
“They nodded politely, but I didn’t seem to be getting through,” Scheidler writes. “So in the middle of their lasagna, I pulled out a pack of color photos of aborted babies, some dismembered, others burned with saline. I tossed them in the middle of the table. They almost gagged. It was a dirty trick, but it was effective.” And accurate.
That’s the heart of the matter. The humanity of the unborn. The visual evidence that draws so many into the effort. “No social movement has succeeded without showing the evil they were trying to stop,” he writes.
Scheidler’s own father had disbanded the secretive Ku Klux Klan klavern in their little Indiana town when he got a list of its membership and threatened to have it published on the front page of a local anti-Klan newspaper, Scheidler writes, adding that this happened before he was born, but when he learned the story years later, “I was proud of my dad’s audacity in the cause of justice.”
Shining the light of truth scatters the darkness.
The Plan Of God
When Scheidler asked another pro-life pioneer, Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, why abortion troubled him so much, the priest replied, “It’s a calling. You are blessed with a special calling to fight this evil.”
That might well be the response for all pro-lifers who have maintained their fight for decades, and are as sure as young people joining the pro-life effort today that this monstrous injustice will be ended despite every trick and deception stewed up by their grievously mistaken foes.
The aim isn’t to vanquish the foes, but to convert them into part of the pro-life family.
Like Mary in Nazareth, who trusted in God for a Prince of Peace, regardless of what was to come, Scheidler writes, “God has a plan for each of us, and we can only achieve true happiness if we strive to live in harmony with His plan.”