Bernard Nathanson: Requiescant in Pace

One of the great strengths of the pro-life cause is its ability to make converts among its adversaries.  Bernard Nathanson was a prime example.  An obstetrician\gynecologist, Dr. Nathanson became an abortionist out of ideological committment to what he perceived as a necessary element in the liberation of women.  During his career as an abortionist, he took the lives of 75,000 unborn children.  One of them was his own child:   “In the mid-sixties I impregnated a woman… and I not only demanded that she terminate the pregnancy… but also coolly informed her that since I was one of the most skilled practitioners of the art, I myself would do the abortion. And I did.”  He was a founding member of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. 

Unlike most of his colleagues in the abortion trade, Nathanson was not a marginally skilled doctor.  He was highly trained and kept up with medical developments.  When ultrasound came along in the seventies he began to use it and quickly reconized its worth in pre-natal examinations.  It also revealed to him something he had done his best to ignore:  the humanity of the unborn.

In 1979 he wrote Aborting America which told his role in legalizing abortion in this country and his uncomfortable discovery that the unborn were fully human. 

We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a  liberal  enlightened, sophisticated one.  Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls.  We announced  to the media  that we had taken polls and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion.  This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie.  Few people care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy  to sell our program  of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure  we gave  to the media  repeatedly was 1,000,000.  Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public.  The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250  annually.  The figure  we constantly fed  to the media  was 10,000.  These false figures  took root  in the consciousness  of Americans  convincing many that we needed to crack  the  abortion law.  Another myth  we fed  to the public through the media was that legalising abortion  would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally.  In fact,  of course,  abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1500% since legalisation.  


We systematically  vilified  the Catholic Church  and its  “socially backward ideas”  and picked  on the Catholic hierarchy  as the villain  in opposing abortion.  This theme  was played endlessly.  We fed the media such lies as “we all know that opposition to abortion comes  from the hierarchy  and not  from  most Catholics” and “Polls prove time and again that most Catholics want abortion law reform”. And the media drum-fired all this into the American people,  persuading  them that anyone opposing permissive abortion must be under the  influence  of the  Catholic hierarchy  and  that Catholics in favour of abortion are enlightened and forward-looking.  An inference of this tactic was that there were no non- Catholic groups opposing abortion. The fact that other Christian as well as non-Christian religions  were  {and  still are)  monolithically  opposed  to  abortion  was  constantly suppressed, along with pro-life atheists’ opinions.


I am often asked what made me change my mind. How did I change from prominent abortionist to pro-life advocate? In 1973, I became director of obstetrics of a large hospital in New York City  and had  to set up  a prenatal research unit, just at the start of a great new technology  which we now  use every day to study the foetus in the womb. A favourite pro- abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible;  that the question is  a theological or moral or philosophical one,  anything  but a scientific one.  Foetology  makes it undeniably evident  that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any of us enjoy.  Why,  you may well ask,  do some American doctors  who are privy  to the findings  of foetology,  discredit  themselves by carrying out abortions? Simple arithmetic at $300 a time, 1.55 million abortions means an industry  generating  $500,000,000 annually,  of which  most  goes into the pocket of the physician  doing  the  abortion.  It is clear  that  permissive  abortion  is  purposeful destruction  of  what  is  undeniably  human life.  It is  an impermissible act of deadly violence.  One  must concede that unplanned pregnancy is a wrenchingly difficult dilemma, but  to look  for its solution  in a deliberate act  of destruction  is to trash the vast resourcefulness  of human  ingenuity,  and to  surrender  the public weal  to the classic utilitarian answer to social problems.

In 1984 he made the film Silent Scream, the first part of which is shown in the video at the beginning of this post, to show America the reality of abortion.  He remained a dedicated pro-lifer to the day of his death, today, at age 84.  Born into a Jewish family, Nathanson spent most of his life as an atheist, until 1996 when he converted to Catholicism.  May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision.  Nathanson’s life is proof of the power of redemption, and that no matter how scarlet our sins we can all be made white as snow with the Grace of God.  The still small voice of God in every human soul is the greatest ally of the pro-life cause, and why it will ultimately prevail.


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  1. Do you know what Nathanson represents to me?

    The great good that the truth can accomplish. Nathanson exposed the outright lies of the abortion movement, which he explained were justified on the theory that lying for a good cause was perfectly acceptable.

    Perhaps another post is in order.

  2. “Today our movement mourns the passing of one of its greatest voices for life,” said Live Action President Lila Rose. “Dr. Nathanson is a testament to God’s grace; that any heart can be transformed into a beacon of love and truth.”

    “In his memory, and as the battle in Congress rages these next two weeks, let us work tirelessly to aid Dr. Nathanson’s brave efforts in exposing evil and protecting the innocent. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” she said.”

  3. Joe, you’re right. The scrupie factories never beat up Dr. Nathanson for that.

    They kicked him around for “cooperation” in making Silent Scream. Look it up.

    He is a saint in Heaven and his critics are still wringing their hands. May he pray for them and for you.

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