Joe Scheidler's pro-life legacy lives on

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
 | Staff (

I am the pro-life generationThe grandfather of the pro-life movement has passed away, but his life's work will not soon be forgotten.

Joe Scheidler, who headed the Pro-Life Action League for many years, passed away from pneumonia on Monday at the age of 93. When One News Now interviewed him three years ago, on his 90th birthday, he said his goal was to save the lives of babies in the womb from abortion. But he also resolved to help women who had aborted a child deal with the void it left in their lives.

"That absence leaves a great big hole in her heart," he shared. "We just find that over and over again, women who regret their abortion, so we actually decided to try and save the baby's life [as] we're trying to save the woman's sanity."

Study after study shows many of the women who have had an abortion go on to resort to drug and alcohol abuse; their suicide rate is also higher. So pro-life pregnancy centers were formed to help women deal with those issues. Scheidler also sought to educate people about what abortion is and to inform them of the damage it does to the nation as a whole.


"There is a whole cultural change in our country taking away the right to life," he recognized. "We're trying to get back protection for the unborn and for people in general."

In 1965, before he became a pro-life advocate, Scheidler led a group of his Catholic school students in a march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery. Then after the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision in 1973, he answered God’s call to devote the rest of his life to saving the unborn.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now fights for the preborn, says Scheidler put fear into the hearts and minds of her and her then-colleagues.

"I knew his name. I knew his work. I knew the importance of his work while I worked at Planned Parenthood," she shares. "He was really a giant in the pro-abortion world and did significant damage to abortion facilities, to their cause."

Johnson says part of Scheidler's legacy is his years-long fight at the US Supreme Court for pro-lifers to be allowed to protest outside abortion clinics without being charged with racketeering. He won his case, Scheidler v NOW, by unanimous decision.


"We wouldn't be able to do the work that we do in this movement right now if it hadn't been for his work," the pro-lifer asserts. "We wouldn't be able to stand peacefully and prayerfully outside of abortion facilities if it wasn't for him persevering."

Johnson says the pro-life movement will especially miss Scheidler's leadership and inspiration at this critical time.

"A lot of the successes that we had over the past four years with President Trump in office – we're going to see some of those successes overturned with a Biden presidency," she recognizes.

Scheidler's legacy is the work that he and his staff did for decades to educate people who were then emboldened to carry on the fight for life.

Joe Scheidler – a man of morals and purpose

The passing of pro-life activist Joe Scheidler has brought memories of the pro-lifer's lengthy legal battles to an attorney who stood with him for almost three decades.

Brejcha, Tom (TMS)"Joe retained me when I was a business litigator back in 1986," says Thomas Brejcha, founder, president, and chief counsel of Thomas More Society, a non-profit law firm. "I'd had a case in the Supreme Court involving the anti-trust laws, and Joe had just been sued by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the abortion industry under the anti-trust laws – so that's how it started.

"He persisted against all kinds of persecution and oppression, having to defend a racketeering lawsuit for many years, one that he ultimately prevailed."

Brejcha tells One News Now he learned a lot from Scheidler about the pro-life movement.

"Joe was already a very prominent pro-life leader who published a book on how to stop abortion. It was a public relations handbook telling people how to write to their representative, how to go on the radio, and principally how to go to clinics and bear witness prayerfully and do sidewalk counseling trying to persuade women to save their infant's lives and not to subject them to the cruel end of abortion," says the attorney.

Brejcha, who continued to defend Scheidler for 28 years, explains it was a working relationship that dominated his professional life.

"After eight or nine years, my partner at the firm said 'Enough is enough, I think maybe you'd better quit this case,'" recalls Brejcha. "Joe didn't have any money to speak of, and we were operating at a deficit and nine years was plenty for them, so we started this non-profit law firm and became the Thomas More Society."

What advice would Brejcha give to pro-life attorneys and/or activists today?

"The lesson of Joe's life is to be active and act on your deeply held moral beliefs," answered Brejcha. "Don't sit and fret over how bad things are going, but get out there and beat the drums."

Editor's note: Remarks from Thomas Brejcha added after story originally posted.


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