Eric Scheidler is leading a new effort to defund and shut down Planned Parenthood facilities with the formation of the National Coalition to Stop Planned Parenthood, composed of nine established pro-life organizations. Scheidler, communications director for the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, founded by his father, Joe Scheidler, was interviewed by Register correspondent Stephen Vincent.
What was it like growing up in such an active pro-life family?
Growing up in a family headed by an outspoken pro-life activist was at times a challenge, but I was always proud of my father’s work. There were times when each of us kids — I’m the oldest of seven — wished Dad did something “normal,” but more often, we felt privileged that our father was doing something so important.
Did you always plan to join your father’s pro-life organization?
I only began working for the Pro-Life Action League six years ago. There was never any expectation that I would do so — my parents always recognized that this kind of work is a calling, not something you can simply “pass on” to the children.
I had been working for another apostolate called the Gift Foundation, dedicated to promoting Catholic teaching on marriage and the family, when the opportunity to come on board the league as communications director opened up. I think it was the activism in my blood that made this opportunity attractive to me.
How about your own personal and family life?
I am 42 years old, married for nearly 17 years to my wife, April. We have eight children, two boys and six girls, ages 16 years to 16 months. April and I met at the University of Illinois when I was a senior and she a junior. I later attended graduate school at the University of Georgia, earning a master’s degree in English studies.
For nine years, I taught college English, which prepared me for my present work with the league, which involves a great deal of writing.
After a major conversion experience — I had left the Church in college — inspired largely by taking a course in natural family planning, I quit teaching and went to work for the Gift Foundation, an apostolate founded by a friend from college to promote NFP, highlight the harms of contraception and encourage openness to life.
Pro-lifers have been trying to stop Planned Parenthood for a while. What’s different about this new effort?
Planned Parenthood is engaging in a major expansion across the country, creating greater urgency than ever for the pro-life movement to mobilize in resistance. This new coalition goes beyond previous efforts to fight Planned Parenthood by drawing expertise from across the country, leveraging the experience and creativity of the pro-life movement’s most dynamic leaders.
Moreover, in the past two years, we have seen several new developments — from the 40 Days for Life prayer vigils to the Students for Life of America’s video exposés, to the Pro-Life Action League’s grassroots mobilization at “Ground Zero” in Aurora, Ill. — that point to a new opportunity to expose Planned Parenthood’s nefarious agenda and weaken its public support.
How involved in abortion is Planned Parenthood?
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, responsible for nearly a quarter of all the 1.2 million abortions performed in the U.S. every year. They like to claim that abortion is only 10% of the services they provide, but this is misleading. If a woman goes to Planned Parenthood for an abortion, they will count at that visit several different “services” — a pregnancy test, a counseling session, an exam and abortion — and if they give her a packet of condoms, that’s another service, too.
Everyone knows the woman went for an abortion that day; in her mind, the abortion isn’t just one of four or five different services she received from Planned Parenthood. But they’ll count it that way. It’s nonsense.
Can you defund Planned Parenthood when it has so many political and media allies?
Yes, we can — and will — shut down Planned Parenthood. But it won’t be easy.
It’s true that Planned Parenthood has many friends in government. Now that the Obama-Biden ticket has won, they’ll have even more friends.
But many of these friends know little about Planned Parenthood’s real agenda. That’s why Planned Parenthood works so hard to keep that real agenda hidden. Take for example their recent removal of the offensive “Take Care Down There” videos that made light of casual sex, group sex, masturbation and homosexuality. As public awareness of these offensive videos grew, Planned Parenthood saw a threat to its positive public image and removed them.
So a large part of our mission is to expose who Planned Parenthood really is and what they really do. The lawsuits we’re pursuing here in Illinois work toward that goal, showing that Planned Parenthood has no respect for the truth — from lying to city officials and skirting zoning laws to defaming their opponents with known falsehoods.
We are also working to expose Planned Parenthood’s dishonest use of government money. They’re defrauding the government, and even the most pro-choice legislator has to object to that. And of course, Planned Parenthood’s shielding of child predators is another dark side that we are working to bring to light.
What have you learned from you father, who went to the Supreme Court twice and won?
I know from my father’s experience in NOW v. Scheidler [to which Planned Parenthood was a party] that the abortion lobby will stop at nothing to shut us down. They will twist and pervert the law in any way. But at the same time, they are so arrogant that they make lots of mistakes.
They made serious mistakes in NOW v. Scheidler that ultimately opened the door for us to show that a decision against my father would have a chilling effect on the freedoms of speech and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment. We’re seeing the same arrogance working in our favor now in our fight against Planned Parenthood in the courts.
I have also learned the importance of patience, which is in turn built upon prayer and faith in God. He’s in charge. We have to know that in order to withstand the enemy’s attacks and keep courage in the face of so many setbacks on the way toward victory.
What is the key to ending abortion in America?
As a movement, we’re fighting on so many fronts, and they’re all important: legislations, lawsuits, public education, reaching out to the media, and so forth.
But the most important effort must be at the grassroots level. We need to reach out to more and more faithful pro-life Christians and invite them to join us on the front lines, praying and protesting right outside the Planned Parenthood centers where unborn babies are being killed and their mothers deeply scarred by guilt and shame.
We can save babies from abortion not months or years from now when the right legislation is passed, or the right legal ruling handed down, or the right number of minds changed on abortion. We can save babies today by reaching out to one abortion-bound mother at a time.
That’s why my father and I and the Pro-Life Action League are dedicated, above all, to recruiting and equipping the new ranks of pro-life activists, upon which all of our victories for life will depend.
Stephen Vincent writes
from Wallingford, Connecticut.