BY BROOKSI HUDSON
GOOSE CREEK — Youth and adults gathered for a rousing talk by Dr. Paul Schenck, executive director of the National Pro-Life Action Center, at Immaculate Conception Church Nov. 6.
Schenck, a former Protestant minister and recent Catholic convert, told the crowd that he became active in pro-life issues after two of his former congregants found the remains of three aborted fetuses in a dumpster behind their home. The couple brought the fetuses into his office and he went from being “pro-choice by default to pro-life by conviction” at that moment.
“I was staring down at the human carnage in my hands and the only words that would come out of my mouth were, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God,’” he said. “We called the police and they said they couldn’t get involved. We called the health department and they said there were no laws against the disposal of fetuses. They said that if they were puppies they could start an investigation.”
Schenck decided to give the three babies names and give them a proper burial.
“I thought we could bury them on the church grounds, but if we did that the abortion doctor would never know,” he said. “So we assembled a funeral on the doctor’s front lawn. The mayor of my town, a Catholic priest, and several Protestant clergy were in attendance. We kept burying babies until the abortion facility began putting a lock on the dumpster. Two of the funerals were babies that the sewer department found stuck in the sewer trap.”
Schenck was finally arrested and jailed in 1990. He challenged a federal court order that banned pro-lifers from preaching, praying, singing, wearing clerical vestments, or anything else anti-abortion within 15 feet of an abortion-minded person.
Several court battles later, Schenck’s case made it to the Supreme Court. Walter Dellinger, solicitor general under former President Bill Clinton, fought against Schenck’s case in Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network.
“On the day of the trial we were lying on our faces before God, pleading for him to confuse our opposition. Dellinger got so flustered and confused that he was calling Justice Ginsberg “Justice O’Connor” and vice versa. He kept saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’ We did,” Schenck said. “We ended up winning eight to one and Dellinger’s performance was so poor that he lost his job and was removed from the list of Supreme Court appointees.”
After seven years in and out of jail and court and $778,000 in legal expenses, Schenck was a free man. The case was instrumental in opening the sidewalks to sidewalk counselors with the benefit of the doubt always going to the person on the sidewalk. The judges ruled that the sidewalk was a quintessential public forum.
“As long as you don’t prevent someone from coming or going you are within the law,” Schenck said. “If someone tells you to shut up you don’t have to. As long as you are on public grounds you may peacefully give your opinion.”
In the years since Schenck’s decisive victory he has made serious headway in the Supreme Court. His office is located just 60 paces from the court’s private entrance and two blocks from the capitol.
“You hold in your future the end of the culture of death,” he told members of the youth program. “The Senate is petrified of the vote of anyone 25 and under. They honestly don’t know which way you are going to go. You have in your power the ability to steer the country in the direction of life.”
He said that his goal is not about party politics or overturning Roe v. Wade.
“It is about fighting for who deserves protection and defense,” he said “It’s about humanity — about if we’ll give every human the dignity and respect to which they are entitled because they are created in the image of God.”
“If the kids in my school could hear Dr. Schenck it would really make a difference, I know it,” said Daniel Murphy, a junior at Stratford High School.
Tom Shepard, a junior at Bishop England, agreed.
“Before tonight I already knew abortion was wrong, but what Dr. Schenck said really reaffirmed my gut instinct and the beliefs that we have as Catholics,” he said.