CHICAGO — The Chicago-based Thomas More Society is releasing a new documentary about activist Joe Scheidler and attorney Tom Brejcha’s nearly 30-year court fight against the National Organization of Women over the pro-life movement’s right to “witness for life” and protest outside of abortion clinics.
“Fighting for Life: The Story of NOW v. Scheidler,” debuting on the Eternal Word Television Network March 22 at 6:30 p.m. (EDT), will be available online at https://thomasmoresociety.org after March 24.
Scheidler, who died Jan. 18 at age 93, began his life’s work fighting abortion in 1973, shortly after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized it nationwide. He founded the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago in 1980 to recruit and equip pro-life Americans to be a voice for unborn children in their own communities.
In 1986, NOW and two abortion clinics filed suit against Scheidler, the Pro-Life Action League and several other defendants claiming they had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, “through a conspiracy to prevent women from accessing abortion services through the threat of violence or the implied threat of violence.”
Brejcha, at the time a successful business litigator in two private law firms, volunteered to assist Scheidler and the other defendants in the case, which turned out to be the longest case in U.S. federal court history — it made three trips to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ultimately, the court rejected attempts to use racketeering laws against abortion clinic protesters.
The lawsuit led to the birth of the Thomas More Society, a national not-for-profit law firm, which Brejcha heads as president and chief counsel. The firm, which also has offices in Nebraska, California and New Jersey, continues to defend the “‘little guys’ of the pro-life movement against the powerful abortion industry and the political operatives it has financed,” said a news release about the documentary.
“It was a challenge to cram almost 30 years of legal wrangling into a half-hour documentary,” noted Caryn Talty, the film’s producer. “By hitting the highlights, we were able to convey the reality of this true-life saga about standing up for what you believe to be right, no matter how strong the opposition.”
Hosted by Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood manager turned pro-life advocate, “Fighting for Life: The Story of NOW v. Scheidler” includes interviews with Scheidler and his wife, Ann, as well as Brejcha and his wife, Debbie. Ann Scheidler is vice president of the Pro-Life Action League and son Eric Scheidler is the executive director.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1 and 8-0 rulings in 2003 and 2006 in NOW v. Scheidler, which found in favor of Scheidler and the other defendants, final court action came April 29, 2014, with a ruling in favor of the defendants over recovery of costs incurred during the course of the lawsuit.