Human Exceptionalism

Abortion Rights Pioneer–Turned Pro Life Advocate–Bernard Nathanson Has Died

I am surprise this isn’t bigger news.  Bernard Nathanson, MD, helped found NARAL and became one of the nation’s leading abortion rights advocates.  But he had a change of heart–leading to a Catholic conversion–and spoke up very forcefully against abortion, including producing the seminal pro life film Silent Scream.  Nathanson died at age 84.  From the story in the National Catholic Register:

Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an obstetrician who oversaw the performance of about 75,000 abortions before becoming a leading pro-life advocate and a convert to the Catholic faith, died after a prolonged battle with cancer this morning in New York. He was 84. After performing his last abortion in 1979 and declaring himself to be pro-life, Nathanson produced the 1985 film The Silent Scream, which shows sonogram images of a child in the womb shrinking from an abortionist’s instruments, and the documentary film Eclipse of Reason, which displays and explains various abortion procedures in graphic detail. Both films had a significant impact on the abortion debate, solidified his credentials among pro-life advocates and earned him the scorn of his former pro-abortion friends and colleagues.

He also published a number of influential books, including Aborting America, written in 1979 with Richard Ostling, then a religion reporter for Time magazine, in which he exposed the deceptive and dishonest beginnings of the pro-abortion movement and undermined the argument that abortion is safe for women. He often admitted that he and other abortion advocates in the 1960s lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions at that time, inflating the figure from a few hundred to 10,000 to gain sympathy for their cause.

In his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby. Outlining the enormous challenge of restoring a pro-life ethic, he wrote, “Abortion is now a monster so unimaginably gargantuan that even to think of stuffing it back into its cage … is ludicrous beyond words. Yet that is our charge — a herculean endeavor.” He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.”

I crossed paths with Dr. Nathanson twice at events in which we were both speaking.  I found him very cordial and, I must say, sad. In one talk, he spoke about aborting his own son, and the abject horror he felt about that when he came to change his views about abortion.  I never saw such haunted eyes.

Whatever comes next, may he find rest, peace, and forgiveness.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Making Sense of the Iran Chaos

One would prefer that correct decisions be made according to careful, deliberate plan. But a correct decision made impulsively, through a troubling process, is still nonetheless correct, and so it is with Donald Trump’s decision to refrain from military action against Iran. The proposed strike would represent a ... Read More
U.S.

In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young ... Read More
Education

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn't resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business. College leaders should learn ... Read More
Elections

Joe and the Segs

Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep. Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even ... Read More
Film & TV

Toy Story 4: A National Anthem

The Toy Story franchise is the closest thing we have to an undisputed national anthem, a popular belief that celebrates what we think we all stand for — cooperation, ingenuity, and simple values, such as perpetual hope. This fact of our infantile, desensitized culture became apparent back in 2010 when I took a ... Read More