Why the nation's leading abortion doctor stopped, and converted to Christianity

Dr. Bernard Nathanson at one time was the director of the world's largest abortion clinic. He was the nation's (United States) most prominent abortionist and presided over 60,000 abortions as co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League, and helped make abortion legal.

Then in a conversion that made headlines and astonished both sides of the abortion debate, he renounced his profession to become a pro-life advocate.

Why? What changed his mind, after tearing fetuses to pieces by the combination of suction and crushing instruments for years, what made him stop abortions, and become a Christian? As he puts it in his book "The Hand of God" a "marvelous new technology called Ultrasound, which for the first time threw open a window into the womb."

He writes: "We also began to observe the fetal heart on electronic heart monitors. For the first time, I began to think about what we really had been doing at the clinic. Ultrasound opened up a new world. For the first time, we could really see the human fetus, measure it, observe it, watch it, and indeed bond with it and love it. I began to do that. Ultrasound pictures of the fetus have an incredibly strong impact on the viewer. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine provided evidence of how potent this technology is. In about 1986, an article in the journal reported that when ten pregnant women came to an abortion clinic and were shown ultrasound pictures of the fetus before the abortion, only one went through with the abortion. Nine left the clinic pregnant. That is how powerful the bonding is. I found myself bonding with the unborn.

While I continued to do abortions for what seemed to me to be medically justified reasons, I no longer felt certain that abortion on demand was right."

In 1974, Dr. Nathanson wrote an article for the New England Journal of Medicine, and articulated his growing doubts and fears about what he had been doing, and the presiding over of more than 60,000 deaths. He stated that "the fetus is life, a special order of life, but it's life, and we have to be reverent in the presence of any kind of life."

Dr. Nathanson goes on to say: "There is no longer serious doubt in my mind that human life exists within the womb from the very onset of pregnancy . . . Life is an independent phenomenon for all of us. It's a continuous spectrum which begins in utero and ends in death - the bands of the spectrum are designated by words such as fetus, infant, child, adolescent and adult. We must courageously face the fact - finally - that human life of special order is being taken (in the process of abortion), and since the vast majority of pregnancies are carried successfully to term, abortion must be seen as the interruption of a process which would otherwise have produced a citizen of the world. Denial of this reality is the crassest kind of moral evasiveness."

The New England Journal of Medicine received the largest response in its history from this article. But it was not fan mail. It was letters coming from physicians who had excoriated Dr. Nathanson for being an abortionist four years earlier but now, as the big abortion money came rolling in right and left, they had changed their minds. He was overwhelmed by the threats and the phone calls. Threats were made against his life and his family.

He continued doing abortions through 1976, and at the same time delivering babies. "On one floor of the hospital we would be delivering babies and on another floor doing abortions. Because Roe v. Wade didn't set any restrictions, abortions could be done into the ninth month. There are at least 15,000 abortions after the 21st week every year. Today at 21 weeks, the baby is considered viable. These are not even abortions; they are murdering premature babies."

He goes on to say "In the mid seventies, I would be on one floor, putting the hypertonic saline into a woman 23 weeks pregnant, and on another floor down, I would have someone in labor at 23 weeks, and I would be trying to salvage this baby. The nurses were caught in the same bind, the same moral whipsaw. What were we doing here, were we saving babies or were we killing them?"

Dr. Nathanson finally restricted his abortion practice to those he judged had a compelling need for an abortion, such as rape or incest. In 1978 he did two or three abortions, and in 1979 he did his last one. As he states "I had come to the conclusion that there was no reason for an abortion at any time; this person in the womb is a living human being, and we could not continue to wage war against the most defenseless of human beings."

There is nothing I can add to this comment, except, thank God for the invention of ultrasound, it may have saved the lives of millions of babies over the years, babies that would have been aborted.

By George Konig
February 12, 2006

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