Dr. Bernard Nathanson, R.I.P

By Bell, Christopher; Bell, Joan | The Human Life Review, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview
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Dr. Bernard Nathanson, R.I.P

Bell, Christopher, Bell, Joan, The Human Life Review

The crypt was dark, as if only fiUed with candle light, that early morning in December. The very young girl didn't really understand why she was there, or how poetically appropriate her presence was to the occasion. Her mother was to be the godmother of this doctor about to be baptized. This doctor had deüvered our own daughter, Mary, just four years earüer. Shortly after her birth, this doctor had witnessed her baptism at the hands of die same prelate, Cardinal John O'Connor, in this very place under the main altar at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

When we first discovered Joan had conceived, we also discovered how hard it was to find a pro-life OB-GYN who would not prescribe birth control or encourage unnecessary (which nearly aU are) pre-natal tests. We called and visited several local doctors, all of whom saw Joan's age, 43, as requiring her to have an amnio and numerous, spurious blood tests. Some didn't want to hear that we just didn't want that.

Joan didn't want to impose upon someone we knew and admired. Yet, we really had no choice, as we couldn't find anyone in the New York-New Jersey area who was as unconditionaUy pro-life as was Bernard Nathanson. At this time, he was more than a great physician, he was a pro-life friend, a fellow warrior.

What a long road to Damascus for Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D. His conversion was a modern-day St. Paul story, and this, when he would receive baptism, confirmation, and his first Holy Communion, was perhaps his finest hour to date. He had, some 16 years before, renounced abortion and assiduously applied his God-given talents, using the best technology and videography of the day to bring the horror of a child's death - before birth, darkly in the womb - into the light of day, and by so doing dispel the evil he personally, and at a time passionately, promoted. You could imagine Albeit Einstein trying to put the Atomic Bomb atoms back into Pandora's Box.

Born New York to a Jewish farmly, Bernard was sent by bis father to Hebrew school; his father would then denounce everything he learned. This Bernard painfully revealed in his 1996 autobiography, The Hand of God.

He was bright. He followed in his father's medical footsteps and went on to become an OB-GYN, receiving bis medical degree from McGillniversity Medical College in Montreal, Canada. He spent a few years as a doctor in the U.S. Air Force and then came back to New York to build a notable medical practice and, at one time, work at the same hospital as his father. Having so much and then seeking to do the worst. Along the road to being a doctor he had a girlfriend abort their chüd. This might have been one of many reasons that led him further into this dark path. Bernard Nathanson used his medical education and experience, his persuasive articulation and personal charisma, along with a photogenic face, to bring about the "need for women to have legal abortions."

During the late 1960s, Bernard coUaborated with leaders in the so-caUed feminist movement and became one of the founders of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now called NARAL Pro-Choice America). He deftly used the press and broadcast media of the day to leverage fabricated statistics brandishing the "horrors of back-aUey abortions." He attacked the Catholic Church, saying the Bishops were imposing their religious dogma on this nation and making poor women suffer. The bishops were an easy enemy and, he later explained to the Archbishop of New York and a roomful of priests, "you would not fight back. If you had, it would have been more difficult for me and my friends then."

Further, Bernard and his coUaborators claimed that poor women were having too many children they didn't want, and those children were all adding to the welfare rolls. Conservative and liberal politicians alike were easily duped into beüeving this was a problem and that abortion would solve it.

All this allowed him to win over a progressively declining pubtic moraUty and a ravenously, raucously decadent body poUtic in New York State, which then passed legislation legalizing abortion.

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