At a debate last week about abortion, I challenged Youth Defence about the substantial financial support that they get from Joseph Scheidler, an American pro-life activist who promotes the disruption of the work of abortion clinics.
Youth Defence declined to give us permission to publish video of their contribution to the debate, so here is an edited video of me asking their speaker questions about Scheidler, along with a written summary of his replies.
I’m not naming the speaker, who seemed sincere in his replies, because I want to keep the focus on Youth Defence as an organisation.
Scheidler promotes disruption of abortion clinics
Joseph Scheidler is a Pro-Life activist and author, who spoke last June at Life House Ireland’s First Annual Irish Festival for Life. Other activists say that Scheidler ‘defined Pro-Life direct action.’ Scheidler, Scott Schittl and Michael Sullivan are central to the Irish American Pro-Life movement.
Scheidler produces horrible propaganda, encouraging people to infiltrate and disrupt the work of abortion clinics, including in a book that I had banned from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ bookshop in Ireland twenty years ago.
Scheidler’s book ‘Closed – 99 Ways to Stop Abortion’ is a training manual for extremist anti-choice activists.
- It outlines ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ that it advises anti-choicers to use, including ‘holocaust’, ‘abortuary’ and ‘death camp’.
- It describes how American anti-choicers hired a private detective to find an eleven-year-old pregnant girl and her mother to ‘try to talk them out of an abortion’.
- It includes chapters titled ‘Use the Horror Stories’, ‘Special Clinic Closing Programs’ and ‘Warn the Garbage Man You’re Hauling Corpses’.
- It outlines how to enter abortion clinics pretending you want an abortion, then disrupt the work inside the clinic.
Scheidler confirms fundraising for Youth Defence
On 9 December 2012 Scheidler told the The Sunday Business Post that American Pro-Life groups would be donating several hundred thousands of dollars to Irish Pro-Life groups, and that a significant amount of the money raised would go to Youth Defence.
Anti-abortion groups set for major US fund boost
Sunday Business Post, 9 December 2012, by John Burke
The national director of the American Pro-Life Action League has said that Irish pro-life groups are set for a significant financial boost as a result of fundraising campaigns across the United States.
Joseph Scheidler told The Sunday Business Post that members of the league, which has been active since the 1980s, would also be travelling to Ireland to take part in anti-abortion protests here. He said the donations involved could amount to several hundred thousands of dollars, and that a significant amount of the money raised would go to Youth Defence.
Scheidler said his group was closely aligned to Youth Defence, on the basis that they shared a similar outlook on direct campaigning. “We see Youth Defence as being out there in the street. They need the money for publicity. Abortion is about conversion and it’s very hard to convert people in masses, and that is why people like Youth Defence go out into the street,” he said.
Scheidler said that he had attended a function in Chicago earlier this year at which Niamh Uí Bhríain of the Life Institute had spoken, and estimated that $15,000 had been raised at that event alone.
He said the pro-life movement here was also likely to benefit from funds raised during a major pro-life event in Washington DC in January. The so-called ‘March for Life’ is an annual event which can attract up to 400,000 American anti-abortion activists. Scheidler said that a number of prominent expatriate Irish and Irish-American business people were heavily involved in fundraising for the Irish pro-life movement.
My questions to Youth Defence at the debate
At last week’s debate in the University of Limerick, I asked Youth Defence about the substantial financial support that they get from Joseph Scheidler, about the fact that Youth Defence approvingly quote Scheidler praising them on their website, and about the tactics that Scheidler promotes in his book ‘Closed’.
The Youth Defence speaker seemed unaware of the relationship between Scheidler and Youth Defence. He seemed sincere in what he was saying, and he seemed uncomfortable defending Scheidler’s tactics.
He argued that Scheidler was justified in telling Pro-Life activists to “warn the garbage man you’re hauling corpses” on the grounds that that was the reality of what they were doing.
While we did not have time to go into the detail in the debate, Scheidler says he and his fellow activists said this to garbage collectors at a clinic in Chicago because
“We strongly suspected that they were throwing out what they call biological waste, which are parts of human bodies, the remains of children they abort at the clinic.”
So Scheidler’s offensive rhetoric was based on suspicion, not on fact. He then tried to get all of the sanitation companies to refuse to collect garbage from abortion clinics, but the clinics explained to the sanitation companies that there were no foetus parts in the pickups, and that they were sent to a pathology lab and that there were no violations of health codes.
The Youth Defence speaker initially supported Scheidler’s hiring of a private detective to track down a pregnant eleven-year-old girl and her mother, in order to try to talk them out of having an abortion, on the basis that if the pregnant girl’s mother cared enough about her grandchild it was okay.
When I told him that the pregnant child’s mother was angry at the use of a private detective to track them down, the Youth Defence speaker said that in that case it was not okay.
This was a welcome glimmer of compassion from a Youth Defence speaker, and an acknowledgemnt that – at least in the case of a pregnant eleven year old girl – the privacy and conscience of the girl and her family should be respected.
My challenge to Youth Defence
I now ask Youth Defence the same questions that I raised at the debate.
- Does Youth Defence approve of the tactics promoted by Joseph Scheidler in the book ‘Closed’?
- Is Youth Defence happy to have someone who behaves in this way raising substantial amounts of money for them?
- Is Youth Defence happy to be approvingly quoting Joseph Scheidler praising them on their website?