I wasn't even a priest yet when the "NOW vs. Scheidler" case began in June of 1986. During the 17 years since then, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has attempted to penalize Joseph Scheidler, Director of the Pro-life Action League, and others who work in union with him.
For doing what, you ask? That question is the heart of the case.
Joe Scheidler and company have labored ceaselessly to save children from abortion and to help their parents find the resources to care for their children. They have gone to the very places where those children were scheduled to be killed, and have peacefully intervened for their lives. They have provided the final refuge for those lives, the final intervention for the parents who were not moved by all the political, legislative, religious, multimedia and educational work of the pro-life movement. Armed with nothing but the rosary, the pro-life activists endured heat, cold, ridicule and rejection in order to be there for those in need, and to stand in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. And many lives were in fact saved.
But in the eyes of the National Organization for Women, the pro-life activists engaged in "violence" and "harassment." In fact, NOW tried to use the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statutes against the pro-lifers. RICO laws were crafted to stop organized crime and drug trafficking, not the peaceful, non-violent intervention of those who are trying to save lives.
After 17 years of litigation, the Supreme Court gave the final word on February 26, 2003, deciding by an 8 to 1 majority that RICO cannot be used against the pro-life activists, even if their activities deprived the abortion mills of business. This is a victory for common sense and, in its implications, a victory for the pro-life movement and for the unborn.
There is still an unresolved issue, of course, that goes beyond the technical boundaries of the case. The fact is that abortion is not a legitimate business in the first place. While the Justices wrestled with the notion of "property," and whether it could be said that pro-life activism deprived the abortion mills of their property, nobody addressed the fact that the abortion mills deprive God of His property! The pro-abortion forces complained that Joe Scheidler trespassed into the "clinics." But the crime of trespassing into the sacred space of the womb, and violating it with bloodshed, was never raised.
Yes, this decision is a victory. But it is only a first step. The reputations of these pro-life activists must be fully restored. They never committed any violence. Moreover, the path they have forged must be followed by the rest of us. Presence at the abortion mills, sidewalk counseling, street preaching, and good old-fashioned American picketing are honorable activities, are integral to our movement, and deserve to be promoted by pro-life groups and by the Church at every level. Thank God for those who do these things; I am honored to be among them.