“Sometimes we get more than 100 people lining the highway with these signs, about six feet tall,” said Scheidler. “We go for 10 days straight, during the summer. And then once a month we go to the Art Institute, or the Civic Center – somewhere that people have to see what abortion is.”
“On one of our tours, we stopped 22 women from having abortions, because they see what it looks like and they don't want that to happen to their baby.”
He believes these forms of direct action and engagement are the most important part of the pro-life cause.
“It's one thing to work in the courts and the political arena – but that's going to take forever, and it's not going to stop abortion. You have to convert people. So that's my whole thing, to try and promote conversion.”
Scheidler knows from personal experience just how long political and legal battles can take. He spent 21 years in court with the National Organization for Women, fighting charges that his activism was a form of “racketeering” comparable to organized crime.
“I had to found a law firm, the Thomas More Society, to fight this thing for 21 years,” he recalled. The dispute reached the Supreme Court three times, and was resolved in Scheidler's favor in 2006. “We still have this thing called the First Amendment,” he observed, “and even the courts are very reluctant to break the First Amendment rights.”
Scheidler, who was a Naval officer before his four years as a monk, urged young activists to develop a routine of spiritual discipline in order to prepare for their own struggles.
“Number one, you pray. You have to pray all the time. I can't get through a day without Mass, the Rosary, spiritual reading, and meditation. And in between, you work harder than the devil.”
“You need meditation, and prayer, and closeness to God. Christ has to stay on your mind – you offer everything to him, and join your suffering to his.”
He also urged young people to be fearless and unashamed about their pro-life convictions. “Bring the literature with you all the time. On an elevator, at a restaurant, wherever.”
“People sitting next to me on the plane ask me what I do – I say, 'I fight abortion.' Everybody's interested. You talk to them. I always wear some symbol of being pro-life and Catholic.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Apart from the lives he has helped to save, Scheidler says his most important achievement has been to “keep abortion on the front page,” ensuring it did not become an accepted part of life in the United States.
“Abortion has not been accepted as the law of the land, even though the Supreme Court tried to make it so,” he said. “We're going to keep stirring the pot, and abortion is going to stay on the front page. Everybody's going to know which politicians are pro-abortion and which aren't.”
“It's got to be an issue. It's the most important issue in the world – human life.”
Looking to the future, he sees signs of hope in the next generation.
“We're gaining quite a bit. Planned Parenthood's scared to death now, that they're going to lose their funding,” he noted. “We're getting the young people. There are more and more of them coming out, and a lot of good, young priests. And all across the country, we're getting good, pro-life bishops.”
At age 83, Scheidler intends to work alongside this new generation of activists as long as he can.