Chicago, January 18, 2021 — The Pro-Life Action League is mourning the death of founder Joseph M. Scheidler, widely known as the “Godfather of Pro-Life Activism.” Joe began his life’s work fighting abortion in 1973, shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision, and founded the League in 1980 to recruit and equip pro-life Americans to be a voice for unborn children in their own communities throughout the country and the world. Countless pro-life volunteers and leaders alike credit Joe with having inspired them to join the movement.
Joe was born on September 7, 1927, in Hartford City, Indiana. After serving in the U.S. Navy as a military policeman at the end of World War II, he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s Degree at Marquette University. He spent eight years in religious life, studying for the Catholic priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. After discerning that God was not calling him to the priesthood, he served as a teacher at Mundelein College, during which time he chaperoned a group of students on a pilgrimage to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
“It’s fitting that my father died on the day when Americans remember the legacy of Martin Luther King,” said Eric Scheidler, Joe’s oldest son, who serves as the League’s executive director. “Seeing the impact that regular Americans could have by taking action against racial injustice inspired my father to mobilize Americans in the same way in the fight against the injustice of abortion.” That story and many others from his five decades of pro-life activism are recounted his 2016 memoir Racketeer for Life: Fighting the Culture of Death from the Sidewalk to the Supreme Court.
Joe’s career as a pro-life activist took him to every state in U.S. and countries on four continents, as well as through countless court battles, including the notorious NOW v. Scheidler RICO case, the longest case in U.S. federal court history and the only one to make three trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, including 8-1 and 8-0 rulings in 2003 and 2006 that fully vindicated him. His 1985 book CLOSED: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, a centerpiece of the NOW v. Scheidler trial, became the manual for pro-life activists throughout the world.
In addition to his pro-life work, Joe was a devout Catholic and daily Mass attendee, history buff with a particular interest in Abraham Lincoln, an accomplished coin collector, and very proud citizen of his adopted city of Chicago, where lived since 1963.
Full press release at Pro-Life Action League.