The legendary pro-life leader’s final testament before succumbing to Lou Gehrig’s disease . . .
Joseph Schwartz (far left) accepts the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Peggy Hartshorn (member of Legatus’ Board of Governors) & Fr. Frank Pavone on Jan. 25
In his final days, Michael Schwartz could hardly hold himself up. He had to be propped up with pillows. Though his voice was little more than a whisper, his words bristled with passion.
It’s likely that you don’t know his name. Mike was a behind-the-scenes person, but he was more. Hardly a pro-life leader in America was not at one time welcomed by him, mentored and taught by him, prayed for by him. He was in fact a leader of leaders.
His life’s trajectory was likely set when one of his young friends gave him a copy of National Review. He and his fellow students at the University of Dallas formed the Sons of Thunder, one of the first pro-life groups in America. They promptly occupied a Planned Parenthood facility in Dallas and promptly got arrested.
For his whole professional life, Mike was at the center of all the most important pro-life activities. With Nellie Gray and others, he founded what became the March for Life. Mike went on to work for Paul Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation. He became legislative director for Concerned Women for America, and later Sen. Tom Coburn’s chief of staff.
Mike was not a namby-pamby Christian. He was salty. Talking about the Supreme Court or the “gutless Republicans in the U.S. Senate,” his eyes would narrow, and his lips would tighten across his teeth and he would hold forth like an Old Testament prophet. Sometimes this got him into trouble.
He once said publicly that the Supreme Court justices shouldn’t be impeached, “they should be impaled.” It wasn’t just abortion he cared about. Mike said that the scourge of pornography caused young men to become homosexuals. He was one of the first in this country to sound the alarm bell about the sex scandal of Catholic priests. He called abortion murder. Mike was salty and fearless.
His last pro-life testament was a strategy memo that he formally presented to a large group of pro-life leaders who met in Washington, D.C., around the March for Life — which turned out to be his last public appearance, a few weeks before his death.
The memo is a masterwork, a summa of a life spent living and thinking about the cause of the unborn. Mike believed that even if Roe were overturned, we would still be faced with massive numbers of abortions and “instead of eliminating abortion by outlawing it, we first need to outlaw it by eliminating it.”
He wrote: “When the total number of commercial abortions committed is no greater than 100,000 and the total number of abortion shops is less than 100, then we can say that the cancer has been shrunk sufficiently to cut it out.”
To end abortion, Mike called for prayer (specific prayers for women and for abortionists by name), service to pregnant women, and legislation aimed almost exclusively at putting abortionists out of business in the states.
He called for “facilities regulations,” requiring all abortion workers be bonded so as to expose the criminal past of many of them, establishing an Abortion Injury Compensation Fund to be funded by a tax on all abortions, and several other very clever ideas, many of which are already being carried out.
You may never have met Michael Schwartz, but much of what you know about the pro-life cause first came to life in his head and at his hands.
He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease only two years ago. This man, who always carried some book about theology in his pocket, knew the disease was a blessing. He was joyful about it to the end. It was a final test, a final penance that he carried out with the sporting spirit of a true Christian and a Son of Thunder.
Mike breathed his last on Feb. 3, 2013, in the company of his beloved wife of 42 years, his many children and his grandchildren. Requiescat in pace, Mike. At only 63, you left us way too soon.
AUSTIN RUSE is the president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute. Originally published on Feb. 8, 2013, this article is reprinted with permission from The Catholic Thing — TheCatholicThing.org
A pro-life warrior’s fond, final farewell
Michael and Rose Ann Schwartz meet Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in March of 1991
On Jan. 25, Michael Schwartz received Legatus’ Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award and The National Pro-Life Religious Council Award. He was too ill to attend, but his son Joseph accepted the award on his behalf, delivering his father’s heartfelt gratitude in the speech below, Michael Schwartz died of Lou Gehrig’s disease a week later on Feb. 3, 2013.
I am honored to be present with you this morning and humbled to receive such recognition. I have learned many things in over 40 years of pro-life activism.
It is not enough to be right when it comes to the issue of abortion. Abortion is murder, and an attack on women. This is true. Perhaps 15-20% of the adults in this country hold to the pro-life position. The same percentage of adults on the other side want to see the rights to kill the unborn continued. The majority of American adults are conflicted. They do not like abortion, but do not believe laws should be passed to prohibit it.
It is for this reason that we need to be persuasive. We have not begun to do that well. Our rhetorical style turns people off. Gory pictures turn people off. We are often viewed as judgmental fanatics who want to harass women. We need to make the cause attractive. The enemy has done so by artificial lies — the lie of “choice.”
Women exercise their choice in leisure, in education and in careers. It is something they look forward to and enjoy. This is not the case when it comes to abortion. I have never heard of a woman wanting to get pregnant for the purpose of having an abortion. Abortion is what happens to a woman when she runs out of choices. She does not seek for her baby to die. She is alone and frightened and sees no solution for her dilemma.
The next lie is women’s rights. In the entire history of our common law tradition, no mother has ever been prosecuted for undergoing an abortion. The mother is always the victim of the crime. The prosecution always went after the abortionist.
For most of the 20th century — from 1920s to the 1960s — the abortion industry was run by organized crime. It was a sideline to their prostitution industry. The purpose of abortion was to keep women enslaved. So where do you see women’s rights here? The right to be victimized and the right to be a slave, injured, abused and violated.
The reason why women feel the pressure to undergo abortion is that they are afraid — afraid to lose their job, rejected by parents, beat up by boyfriends and get thrown out of school. For them, abortion is the path of least resistance.
Thus, women in such situations need friends and support. Pregnancy resource centers need to provide community. As a community, we need to do everything to strengthen these alternatives. I recommend that every believing church adopt a pregnancy center. That does not mean just write a check. It means encouraging the congregation to donate time, talent and treasure to their sisters in need.
As part of this partnership, churches should regularly invite the staffs of their local centers to meetings of the congregation. This should be done because a lot of Christian girls are not sure they will find forgiveness. They will feel more confident in their forgiveness when they know that parents, friends and others are supporting this ministry of love.
Last year I attended the pro-life rally in D.C. and saw three women carrying a sign that read: “Good women have abortions.” My heart went out to them. I knew they were burdened with guilt. Good people will do all kinds of sin. We have to put aside the scarlet letters and condemnation and show that we really do care about those who are frightened, alone and in trouble.
Therefore, I propose that in every believing church, when we worship, that we offer prayers not for some vague end to abortion, but instead for immediate help for the women in danger. We should pray for the protection of every woman who is at risk for abortion, that she will find the help and support she needs. The focus is to be upon the mother. Secondly, we need to pray for the abortionist who should be named. Before the throne of grace, we should pray for his or her conversion and forgiveness.
As this important cause is furthered, may our nation and watching world see and hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award
Cardinal Raymond L. Burke
Steve & Vivian Koob
Thomas S. Monaghan
Sam & Gloria Lee
Monsignor Philip Reilly
George W. Bush
Cardinal Francis George
Chris & Joan Bell
Sisters of Life
Sr. Paula Vandegaer
Thomas W. Hilgers
James Bopp Jr.
Fr. Tom Euteneuer
Fr. Frank Pavone
Bishop Victor Galeone
Sen. Rick Santorum
John & Barbara Willke
Fr. Paul Marx
Rep. Henry Hyde