On Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s funeral Mass will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We mourn the passing of Dr. Nathanson this past week, but rejoice in the memory of his life and legacy.
Dr. Nathanson did not begin his long medical career as a pro-life icon. Instead, as owner of a New York abortion clinic, he was responsible for 75,000 abortions in his clinic — 5,000 by his own hand. He co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), explaining that he and his associates at NARAL hired a public relations firm which was key in coming up with the catch-phrase “pro-choice.” The term was culture-changing, to say the least. Dr. Nathanson often stated that language was the key to changing the debate on abortion.
Armed with “pro choice” language and shocking statistics on illegal abortion deaths (which Dr. Nathanson later admitted were false), NARAL was instrumental in the outcome of Roe v. Wade.
Despite these deep roots in the abortion industry, when technology advanced and fetal monitoring equipment became available, Dr. Nathanson experienced a change of heart. He saw that the fetus is a person “just like you and I” and this “window to the womb” caused his change of mind. Eventually Dr. Nathanson became a strong pro-life advocate, speaking out against the atrocity of abortion and using fetal monitoring technology to teach about its violent reality. The images that caused his change of heart were made into a videotape now known as “The Silent Scream.”
His journey from abortionist to Christian to practicing Catholic is documented in his book,The Hand of God, Regnery, 1996.
LLDF supporters had the opportunity to hear Dr. Nathanson’s story first-hand thirteen years ago at the LLDF annual dinner. His was such a riveting story, it seems more like months, rather than years, since he shared it. Hearing the humble, soft-spoken Nathanson speak of his journey from abortion doctor and activist to pro-life Christian is an experience we will never forget. We praise God that Dr. Nathanson’s testimony changed hearts and minds, and saved countless lives.