A few days after the Democratic National Convention, a right-to-life activist from Chicago mailed a "directive" to hundreds of anti-abortion groups around the country spelling out in great detail how to mount demonstrations against Walter F. Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine A. Ferraro, at every campaign stop this fall.
The directive, from Joseph M. Scheidler, instructed groups how to make protest signs, form picket lines, shout chants and even infiltrate Mondale and Ferraro rallies as part of a "carefully coordinated plan" to send a "chilling message" to the two Democrats.
It is not clear how much impact the directive had in stirring up anti-abortion protests against Mondale and Ferraro, but at least one local activist said the memo sparked a demonstration in Houston.
The object of the plan was to attract attention from reporters following the candidates, wrote Scheidler, director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League. "They will, in time, begin to see the similarity of demonstrations, chants and approach, and will begin to question the candidates on the 'conspiratorial nature' of the opposition's demonstrations," he said.
Scheidler, who coordinated similar demonstrations against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and independent candidate John B. Anderson during the 1980 presidential campaign, said in an interview that the plan has worked beyond his greatest expectations.
He said he has been in contact with right-to-life groups in almost every city visited by Mondale and Ferraro since late July, disputing statements by Dr. John C. Willke, president of the National Right to Life Committee, that demonstrations all have been "locally inspired."
"It was coordinated from the start," Scheidler said. "This is the activists branch of the movement, and we don't have much to do with the National Right to Life Committee. My theory is no social movement goes anywhere without going to the streets . . . . I'm from the old school. I believe any publicity is better than no publicity."
"We want the issue of abortion to be kept alive right up until the election," he added.
Scheidler said his group, which is best known for attempting to shut down abortion clinics, began planning protests against Mondale at its national convention last May in Fort Lauderdale. He sent out his directive July 27 and went to Forest Hills, N.Y., to organize a demonstration at the first joint Mondale-Ferraro appearance July 31.
Scheidler, author of a book called "Closed: 99 Ways to Shutdown the Abortion Industry," said he telephoned allies in Alabama, Ohio and Texas urging them to greet the Democratic ticket on their first campaign swing through those states.
Diane Rinn of Life Advocates, a Houston-based group, was one anti-abortion activist contacted. "It sounded like such a good idea that we did it," she said. "We had more than 100 people out when they arrived at the airport."
She said her group used several ideas proposed in Scheidler's directive for signs and chants. "It was very helpful."
The directive suggested that "Ferraro & Fritz Back Abortion" signs be printed on white post board with water-repellent, quick-drying paint. It said signs should be made small enough so they could be smuggled into indoor rallies without detection.
Scheidler said his group made one attempt to coordinate activities with the Republican Party when Ferraro made a trip to Chicago. "We called the local Republican office to see if they had any young Turks to help us out, but they didn't," he said.