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President & Publisher………………..J.C. Willke, M.D.
Public Schools Can Teach Pro-Life
few realize this; fewer still do it
By J. C. Willke, MD
The original Roe vs. Wade decision ruled that the right to abortion was, in legal terminology, a “fundamental right” under the Constitution. That meant that the right was subject to the Court’s highest standard which is that of “strict scrutiny”. Under this standard, for a complete generation now, public schools have understood that they were not allowed to teach against abortion, or at least in practice, this is what has happened.
In 1992, however, a minor earthquake occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. It was obvious that it cancelled out Roe’s trimester structure. Further, many realized that it did replace strict scrutiny with a more lenient standard of “undue burden”. It spoke of allowing a woman’s right to choose, insofar as both sides could now be given in the public arena. Most readers are aware that this has, in the last few years, resulted in a variety of laws passed by states. These have included parental notification and consent, informed consent (Women’s Right to Know bills), waiting periods and others. Informed consent laws at state level, requiring the handing to an abortion client a booklet showing colored photos of fetal development, has been declared within the limits of these new constitutional guidelines. So far so good. State laws, recognizing the changes of Casey, have proceeded to begin to change these ground rules.
The Casey decision, however, had a reach beyond state laws. It also reached into every public school classroom in the United States. To put it in a realistic context, almost no one has recognized this, and fewer yet have taken advantage of it. The treatment of abortion in tax-supported schools has continued to grind away unchanged as though the issue of abortion were still under strict scrutiny, which it is not. Actually, because of the Court’s ruling, there has been a major change in what can and cannot be taught in public schools. In essence, what the Court has allowed the state to do, it has now also allowed in public schools, insofar as laws pertaining to a woman’s getting an abortion is concerned.
The Court has said that public institutions can teach children informed choice on this issue, i.e., both sides, and that the primary purpose of this teaching can be to persuade the woman to choose childbirth over abortion. The Court has said that minors are not prepared sufficiently to make a choice on abortion. It has spoken about the welfare of young citizens “whose immaturity, inexperience and lack of judgment may impair their ability to exercise their rights wisely.” This relates to a woman’s choice in getting an abortion and the state’s responsibility to be sure she knows both sides of this story, but it clearly now also relates to what a public school can and should do on the issue of abortion.
The Court did reiterate that the woman has the ultimate say, but it went on to rule that hers was not the only say. The Court called it an “overstatement” to declare that the woman could choose, without any interference from the state. The same is true in a public school. The Court has said that the state has a legitimate “interest from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting both the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child.” It said “these principles do not contradict each other, and we adhere to each.” Sounds to this writer like the Court has said, “Why don’t we love them both”?
The significance of the Casey decision was strikingly presented by Chief Justice Rehnquist who said that the Court ended abortion as a fundamental right and then said, “While purporting to adhere to precedent, this joint opinion instead revises it. Roe continues to exist, but only in the way a storefront on a Western movie set exists – a mere façade to give the illusion of reality.”
If all of the above is true, why is it that nothing has changed in the overwhelming majority of public schools in the United States? Well, certainly the National Education Association has had a major part to play. It has been zealously pro-abortion and anti-family at every turn in the road. Its party line is what teachers have been hearing and reading. The same is true of school boards and parents. The impression is widespread that all public school teachers, if not pro-abortion themselves, will certainly hue to the NEA’s party line.
Freedom to Learn
But now enters an extraordinary man from Punta Gorda, Florida. John Beasley, Ph.D., has been teaching in that area’s public schools for almost three decades. He is a strong pro-lifer and has taken this issue from his own curiosity to success at a local level, and now speaks at a national level. He has organized a group called Freedom to Learn. Its clear thrust is to get every public school in America to openly teach both sides of the abortion issue. He is convinced that most public school teachers are in fact moderate in the true sense of the word and that most of them accurately reflect the values of the communities in which they teach. He is quite blunt about saying that only a small portion of the membership shares the National Education Association’s pro-abortion policy and that it is in fact an embarrassment to most teachers. Many stay with it only because that union gives them job security. He insists that we frame the debate in an honest fashion that shows both sides and speaks about the fact that we have been through an entire generation of censorship by our schools. He points out that the Casey decision has opened the door, and that if we use it properly, we can end this “generation of censorship” and begin to show both sides. He’s convinced that “over a prolonged period of time, as the level of consciousness is raised, it will be difficult for the educational community to defend a continuing censorship in an educational setting. The suppression of information on such issues of national import runs counter to the goal of education.”
His goal is not to specifically argue pro-life vs. pro-abortion, but rather that both sides be shared openly and equally. His organization, Freedom to Learn, has continually insisted on referring to the positions of the U.S. Supreme Court. School boards, and the communities that elect them, will be asked to follow the lead of the Court and to pursue a policy of informed choice and one that, as the Court has ruled, declares that “normal childbirth is preferable to abortion.” He is quite aware of the fact that a major hurdle is the pro-abortion media of our country. We must, therefore, he says “jump over the media and go directly to the people.” He therefore has plans available, upon request, detailing how delegations of people can go to their school boards and “explain that there is a new day in abortion education, that Freedom to Learn is clear about saying that a great opportunity is before us. It states that “for one generation, a segment of the American community believed correctly that their views on the sanctity of life had been ruled out-of-order in our public institutions. But that day is gone. We can, by our silence, let the old style censorship remain comfortably in place because of our lack of effort. Or, instead, we can spread the good news far and wide that the plight of the unborn, and of women hurt by abortion, can now be shared in every schoolhouse in America.”
Presented with this, one asks immediately – is his opinion correct? Is this the correct interpretation of the Casey decision? Looking further, we were given a quote from James Bopp, General Counsel of the National Right to Life, a person who probably has no peer as a constitutional expert on these issues. In an article written in 1984, he said, “As a result of court decisions like Casey, public schools can now offer strong pro-life curriculums at all grade levels. But leaders in education do not understand this…nor do pro-lifers.” But that was ’84. Contacted again for this article, Mr. Bopp said this: “Casey opened the door for pro-life education through government-sponsored programs. This is an opportunity that the pro-life movement has yet to take advantage of.”
But let’s have another opinion. Responding to our request, Clarke Forsythe, president of Americans United For Life, a preeminent public interest law firm in Chicago, said this: “I think Dr. Beasley is correct in what he says about education in public schools.” His concern was only that Dr. Beasley “may over-state the situation at this time, as a practical matter, because, even though the courts technically have suggested that abortion is no longer a fundamental right, as a practical matter, courts are still bottling up pro-life legislation.”
The following quotes are from Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Supreme Court decision of 1992. The first portion of the decision reaffirms a woman’s right to have an abortion. The second portion is where our interest lies. It significantly altered the original Roe vs. Wade decision. Apropos this, we print some quotes from the Casey decision.
“We think it beyond dispute that a state has a strong and legitimate interest in the welfare of its young citizens whose immaturity, inexperience and lack of judgment may sometimes impair their ability to exercise their rights wisely.”
“The Constitution does not forbid a state or city, pursuant to democratic processes, from expressing a preference for normal childbirth.”
“Measures aimed at insuring that a woman’s choice contemplates the consequences for the fetus do not necessarily interfere with the right recognized in Roe.”
“To promote the state’s profound interest in potential life throughout pregnancy, the state may take measures to insure that the woman’s choice is informed, and
measures designed to advance this interest will not be invalidated as long as their purpose is to persuade the woman to choose childbirth over abortion.”
“The state has legitimate interest from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child. These principles do not contradict one another, and we adhere to each.”
“What is at stake is the woman’s right to make the ultimate decision, not a right to be insulated from all others in doing so. Regulations which do no more than
create a structural mechanism by which the state, or the parent or guardian of a minor, may express profound respect for the life of the unborn are permitted, if they are not a substantial obstacle to the woman’s exercise of the right to choose.”
Freedom to Learn and John Beasley, Ph.D., may be contacted at P.O. Box 511231, Punta Gorda, Florida, 33951-1231. Phone: (941) 639-9192 and (941) 627-6757. The message to our public schools is clear, insofar as their role is concerned. The Casey decision has simply redefined the abortion battle in America. With few exceptions, pro-life people have missed this and the schools have continued to operate with no change. In effect, public schools have continued to basically apply the daunting strict scrutiny standard, whereas they should have been adopting the far more lenient undue burden standard. Public institutions can now use public dollars to limit abortions. The implication for schools are enormous. A public school system can now (1) remain silent on the issue, (2) take a pro-life position, (3) take a pro-abortion position, or (4) show both sides.
Life Issues Today
with Dr. J. C. Willke
NOW vs. Scheidler in Federal Court
Two Days I’ll Never Forget
I’ve been speaking publicly for decades, and almost three of those have been in the field of abortion. During this time I’ve averaged speaking in one city a week or more in 65 different nations. What with books and articles, radio and TV, lecturing and debating, I’m no stranger to microphones or audiences. I have also testified in court on numerous occasions. But this one was different.
For one thing, the stakes were very high. This was not in defense of a single pro-lifer who had been accused of a crime. This was not in support of an injured woman who was seeking recovery from damages inflicted by an abortionist. No, this was a class action suit with potentially national repercussions. It had the potential to liberate or severely harm a significant segment of pro-life activity in the United States. This was the case of the National Organization of [Some] Women vs. Scheidler.
The original case was brought in June of 1986. The NOW organization scooped up many who had been involved in nonviolent direct action. During the next several years, the protagonists maneuvered back and forth. A major development was a court order forcing Mr. Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League to turn over all financial records, correspondence, and all information in their files – video, audio tapes, etc. – to NOW lawyers.
In 1988, Federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations) charges were added to the case against Scheidler’s organization. Additional individual defendants were added, while others were dropped. In 1991, the case was dismissed in Federal District Court in Chicago, and a year later the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that dismissal. It was appealed to the Supreme Court which ruled that the RICO law against extortion did not exclude those who were seeking no financial gain. The Court also ruled that that law could be applied, even though there was no monetary gain.
NOW then proceeded with the lawsuit back at federal district level. NOW deposed literally every major pro-life activist leader in the country, including some individuals whose activities had brought them prison sentences. The depositions did not indicate any kind of conspiracy among the defendants. The case, however, continued with Judge David Coar ruling that NOW could represent, as a class action, all women who were not members of NOW but who, at any time – past, present or future – might use the services of a facility providing abortion. This included all abortion facilities in the U.S.
NOW’s basic claim is that these pro-lifers have conspired “to shut down the abortion industry” through a pattern of criminal acts of extortion. Pro-lifers have answered that this is a blatant attempt to stifle free expression and deny First Amendment rights. Further, they argue that it is an effort to bankrupt the defendants with years of litigation as well as to intimidate and to silence anyone else who dares oppose abortion. NOW claims that by picketing, leafleting and public speaking, the defendants have conspired to try to force the abortion industry to cease operations through coercion, fear and intimidation. In other words, NOW is equating legal public protest with legal extortion.
The accused are a small number of prayerful, pro-life individuals. They are activists. However, they have had a continuous record of peaceful, nonviolent protesting. NOW calls them mobsters who are trying to extort something from the multi-million-dollar abortion industry. This can only be called ludicrous.
With the passage of the FACE law (Freedom of Access to Clinics), it is obvious that pro-life people are already prohibited by federal law from stopping or interfering with anyone entering an abortion facility. But NOW wants this to move further, and it seems rather plain that they now want to stop legal protests and the use of First Amendment rights of freedom of expression outside of abortion chambers as well. If they prevail, the court will in effect be ruling that it is wrong for a sidewalk counselor to try to talk a woman into giving birth to her own child.
I was asked to testify because, in effect, the NOW lawyers had held me up as a “good pro-lifer” who opposed all of these kinds of activities in front of abortion mills. Mr. Scheidler, in contrast, was being portrayed as a “bad pro-lifer” who did all those nasty things. Their research had shown that during the decade of the ‘80s, when I was president of the National Right to Life Committee, the NRLC had not been involved in any type of pro-life direct action outside of abortion facilities.
Therefore, they told the jurors that my organization and I stood in clear opposition to any type of pro-life direct action in front of an abortion facility. NOW went even further than that, charging by inference that Mr. Scheidler was guilty of aiding and abetting those who burned down clinics and shot abortionists. NOW states that he and his colleagues used “inflammatory rhetoric” and showed “emotionally upsetting photos alleged to be fetuses before and after abortion.”
Having been acquainted with this tactic, I was very pleased to testify for Mr. Scheidler and his co-laborers in the vineyard. First the court did allow me to explain that the National Right to Life Committee had in place a specific set of policies when I became president. NRLC was single issue, i.e.; limited itself to the protection of human life already conceived and, therefore, was opposed to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It had no policy concerning areas of human activity prior to fertilization, or parallel issues, such as capital punishment, war, nuclear arms, etc. I further explained that NRLC corporate policy was that officials and employees were not to be involved in any type of activity in front of an abortion chamber that might possibly lead, properly or otherwise, to arrest. I noted that this, under no circumstances, indicated opposition to rallies, parades, sidewalk counseling in front of an abortion chamber or elsewhere, public prayer and other such allied peaceful activities.
The NOW attorneys were not pleased. For the balance of that day and most of the next morning, I was subject to cross-examination. We labored under some very rigid rules set by the judge. One example may suffice. The NOW attorney showed a letter written by Mr. Scheidler who had been questioned whether or not he condoned violence. His answer was a lengthy one comprising about fifteen, single-spaced, typewritten lines, but it began with a sentence that stated in effect that violence was at times justified. That first sentence was highlighted, and I was asked, did I agree that Mr. Scheidler in this statement said he favored violence? “Please answer yes or no,” she stated. I carefully studied the balance of the paragraph, which was basically a discussion of violence in a just, defensive war, and a brief description of the legality of capital punishment. Abortion was mentioned, in a clear statement stating that the violence of killing the unborn should never be countered by violence against the abortion clinics or its practitioners. Clearly, in context, this was a statement against violence. In answering, I began to make the point that she could not ask me to answer only “yes or no” on the basis of the first sentence alone, but that I had to consider the sentence in context, as explained in the entire paragraph. Their attorney jumped up – “Objection, Your Honor!” The judge said, “Dr. Willke, please answer the question, yes or no.” I felt helpless. She waited. Finally I said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I cannot answer the question the way you have asked it.”
This type of insinuated guilt by taking a sentence, or even a phrase, out of context was repeated time and time again for several hours. Sometimes I could answer. Occasionally I was allowed a little elaboration, but typically it was “Please answer yes or no.” I appealed to the judge, asking for advice, and was told to answer yes or no. He actually seemed like a nice enough guy, but these were the rules he had set down, which I found to be too restrictive, to put it mildly. However, overall, through the hours of cross-examination and the subsequent questioning by Scheidler’s very able attorney, Tom Brejcka, I believe my message did get across.
I have known Joe Scheidler for 25 years. We certainly have trod different paths in the pro-life movement. Mine has been one of wearing a three-piece suit, running major organizations, talking to elected officials, lecturing, being interviewed, etc. Joe has been called the “Green Beret” of the pro-life movement, and he’s been on the sidewalk, in rain and shine. He has directly saved babies by talking to their mothers. He has organized protests and rallies. In effect, we were both working very hard to save babies, but we did it in different ways. They claimed this showed that I was opposed to what he was doing. I tried to refute that message by explaining that there are many other paths in the pro-life movement – praying, stuffing envelopes, acting as a taxi, contributing, etc. Joe and I have walked different paths, but I clearly was supportive of his.
My testimony threw great doubt on NOW’s continuous assertion that there was an organized, calculated, conspiratorial enterprise underground throughout the whole U.S., with Joe Scheidler calling the shots for that entire subversive, etc., etc. I made the point that Joe and his colleagues were a relatively small number of deeply dedicated individuals who were absolutely peaceful and nonviolent. They were totally convinced, as I was, that you don’t solve the violence inside the doors by committing violence outside the doors. My own record in decrying violence had been straight as an arrow and had been repeated thousands of times in front of cameras. I stated that I was sure that Joe’s convictions of nonviolence were the same as mine. I was able to state that, rather than being a tightly organized movement, the non-violent direct action that I knew so well was in fact a grass-roots movement. It springs up independently in different places at different times led by different people, and almost always locally engendered and carried out.
I told the jury that NOW’s description of an organization called Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) as “powerful” was blown all out of reality as to size and influence. In fact it was very loosely knit, an alliance of a sort of pro-life activists who met occasionally, sometimes annually, to discuss issues and, to some extent, at least, plan some coordinated activities. Civil disobedience, I noted, was not my style, but that Dr. Martin Luther King, suffragists, anti-Vietnam people, etc., had all used such tactics in the past.
Through it all I tried to maintain a calm demeanor, a deliberate and somewhat authoritative way of speaking, in my best bedside, family-doctor manner. I was always polite – “Yes, Ma’am…Yes, Your Honor” – and tried my best to match my wits using nothing but the truth, as I knew it. During which the radical pro-abortion prosecuting attorney was assailing me with the single purpose of destroying a valuable and necessary part of the pro-life movement.
In my mind, Joe Scheidler, and those who have worked with him, are true heroes of the pro-life movement. Each of us in the movement, contributing in very different ways, has tried to do our best to save babies and help women. Even so, these peaceful sidewalk warriors are a breed apart. They put not just their minds and hearts on the line, but their bodies too. This has made me think, from time to time, that my own contribution, such as it has been, on a personal level, at least, was quite small compared with theirs. I’m convinced that their reward before the throne above will be great.
Editor’s note. As this newsletter goes to print, the jury has ruled in favor of NOW, and has awarded two abortion clinics approximately $85,000 in damages
London Conference – Care of the Dying
AMA Official Featured
Compassionate Care of the Dying was the thrust of a major international seminar in London, England, March 13-14. The idea was first conceived last fall while teaching two major seminars in the Philippines. There had just been a U.S. Supreme Court decision denying a federal constitutional right to assisted suicide. With it had come invaluable information and research in the 46 different amicus briefs presented before that court. Particularly valuable, and yet largely unaware of by the public, were the two briefs submitted by the American Medical Association which had 51 major co-sponsors.
The Northern Territory in Australia had turned back euthanasia, but the state of Oregon was going to vote on it. In addition, legislation was being considered in England and we were aware of the continuing deteriorating situation in Holland. It was time for a major international meeting on euthanasia.
It was discussed and decided that the conference should be one that would not just attract a large audience of interested people but also hone in on what we saw as the answer to the euthanasia arguments – that answer being compassionate care of the dying. Thus was born the idea for this seminar.
Dr. Willke, as president of the International Right to Life Federation, partnered with the British Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child under the leadership of Mr. John Smeaton and Mrs. Phyllis Bowman. They run an excellent national pro-life organization. Next to the well-organized USA, it is the most effective national organization in the world. Their London office is well staffed with competent and busy people and quite capable of putting on a successful event.
The idea continued to develop over the next six months and came to effective fruition on the above dates.
Partially stimulated by the above events, and the knowledge of the upcoming seminar, Dr. Willke buried himself deeply in further research and history of the euthanasia movement. This resulted in the publication in early February of his book, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Past & Present, a copy of which was given to each of the 400-and-some registered attendees at the seminar.
These were full and fulfilling days. Dr. John Fleming, a preeminent bio-ethicist, came from Australia to fully acquaint us, not merely with their situation, but to also share his wisdom on this issue. Dr. Krijn Haasnoot, head of the Dutch Doctors for Life, gave us the latest news from Holland. Mrs. Gayle Atteberry reported in from Oregon in her usual effervescent style, bringing details that were new to the audience. Dr. Richard Doerflinger from the U.S. Catholic Conference spoke well on public opinion. A number of speakers from the United Kingdom brought the audience up to date on their situation and analyzed issues such as pain management and end-of-life patient care. Perhaps the most noted speaker was Dr. Nancy Dickey, President-elect of the American Medical Association. She very eloquently underlined the strong anti-euthanasia position of the AMA which has considerable influence and prestige in America. Dr. Willke gave a cogent overview of euthanasia. On the second day, he shared with attendees the treasure that is contained in the amicus briefs before our U.S. Supreme Court as well as details of their decision.
All of the talks were oriented toward the theme of the conference. Contrast was made between the almost 400 hospices in Great Britain compared with only 5 in Holland. Holland has little need for them, as they have a more expeditious way of caring for people who are “problems” …they kill them. As a result, there has been no incentive in Holland for doctors to develop expertise in compassionate care of the dying – a lesson that all other nations would do well to learn.
Representatives came to the conference from the various chapters of the British SPUC. In addition, leaders of ethics, medicine, clergy, nursing, hospice care, etc., were well represented, as well as leaders from other nations. Comments afterwards have been very positive. We hope that the old and vulnerable in Britain and elsewhere will rest a bit more securely because of this major international effort.
On the Go For Life Issues
Dr. Willke’s speaking schedule included the following locations and events in the last three months.
Columbus, OH – State Board meeting
Wooster, OH – Address RTL meeting
New York City – Knights of Malta meeting
Mobile, AL – Address rally
Cincinnati Music Hall – Address rally of over 3,000
Washington, DC – March For Life and an International RTL meeting
Washington, DC – Leadership meeting and a seminar with euthanasia leaders
Washington, DC – National RTL Board meeting
Washington, DC – National Religious Broadcasters Convention
San Diego, CA – Annual meeting of Legatus
Chicago, IL – Addressed Women’s Center
Kirksville, MO – Crisis Pregnancy Center Banquet
London, OH – Crisis Pregnancy Center Banquet
London, England – International seminar, Compassionate Care of the Dying
Washington, DC – NET-TV interview
Chicago, IL – Federal Court testimony at Scheidler trial
Oklahoma City, OK – Conference
Cincinnati, OH – Speaker at Christian Medical/Dental Assoc. meeting
Nairobi, Kenya – Six-day teaching seminar
Northern Virginia – National Leadership Conference
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Limited Offer on Effective Tools Against Euthanasia
For the first time in America’s history, euthanasia is legal. In Oregon physicians can prescribe self-administered, lethal medication for their patients.
Tragically, other states have already experienced attempts to legalize the killing of patients through legislative efforts. Now is the time for pro-lifers to educate themselves and their communities regarding the dangers of euthanasia.
Gayle Atteberry, international lecturer and the Executive Director of Oregon Right to Life, says, “By the time a vote comes on euthanasia, it’s too late to educate.” These are sobering words that should motivate us into action.
Life Issues Institute, in cooperation with Indiana Citizens for Life and Hayes Publishing Co., is making available, for a limited time only, effective tools to help you in this battle.
A Look At Assisted Suicide is a joint production of Indiana Citizens for Life, Right to Life of Vanderburgh Co., the Catholic Diocese of Evansville, IN, and the St. Mary’s Medical Center Foundation. This 58-minute video is a panel discussion of experts in the field of euthanasia. We have found it to be one of the most interesting and informative video presentations available. The main presenter is Robin Bernhoft, MD, a cancer surgeon and leader against euthanasia in the state of Washington. In addition to his medical practice, he shares his personal experience.
Other panel members include an Oncologist, a cancer survivor, a Hospice representative, an attorney and a local Catholic Bishop – all providing valuable insight. We highly recommend the video for general audiences.
Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia, Past & Present is a new book by Dr. Willke et al that presents a documented history of how the euthanasia movement began. As a frequent visitor to Holland, Dr. Willke shares a detailed insight into wid