Meet Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Famous Ex-Abortionist

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Last week, hundreds of thousands marched in Washington, D.C. to petition Congress and the Supreme Court to do something about the unspeakable atrocity of abortion in this country.  It’s a story that is routinely ignored by the major media outlets, but it’s one that continues to grow, and even NARAL’s leader has admitted it’s got them concerned about the abortion battle lines for the upcoming generation.

In the abortion discussion, many stories are not well-known, and today I’d like to share a bit about Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the man who not only invented the concept of an abortion clinic, but also was the public face of the abortion advocates in the debate for many years.  His time on the pro-abortion side was limited, though, and the stories he shared after coming to see the truth are fascinating and frightening at the same time.

nathansonEarly Years
Dr. Nathanson, upon graduating from medical school, began his career in the state of New York and worked as an obstetrician.  He worked in a hospital and saw patients for a variety of treatments.  In time, though, he began performing abortions.  As an atheist, he wasn’t influenced by any religious opposition to abortion and he soon began performing enough abortions that there wasn’t enough room in his schedule.

Eventually he decided to open a facility that was specifically designed for abortions only.  This man invented the concept of an abortion clinic.  In his lifetime he personally performed over 5,000 abortions, including one of his own children.  He reports having felt a sense of genius and accomplishment at convincing the mother of his child to have an abortion and felt rather skilled to be able to take care of that little “problem” with his own medical training. In addition to his own abortions, he oversaw or directed doctors in the performance of 75,000 abortions in just a few years.

By his own admission, he also used a series of lies and blatantly fabricated statistics to “feed the media” on the abortion issue. Changing public opinion on abortion was strategic. Two principle abortion myths were created by Dr. Nathanson himself, and then taken up as statistical truths in the abortion debates of the sixties and seventies: the number of illegal abortions occurring each year, and the number of deaths from those procedures.  In time, he was eventually ostracized by the medical establishment because of his vocal support for abortion and his political lobbying. Below is an excerpt from Dr. Nathanson explaining the way he crafted support for legalized abortion by using falsified information:

The First Key Tactic was to capture the media
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 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 legalizing 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 legalization.

The Second Key Tactic was to Play the Catholic Card
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.

The Third Key Tactic was the Denigration and Suppression of all Scientific Evidence that Life Begins at Conception
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 perinatal research unit, just at the start of a great new technology which we now use every day to study the fetus in the womb. A favorite 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. Fetology makes it undeniably evident that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any of us enjoy.

For more, see Bernard Nathanson: “Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist” In The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind. Copyright © 1997 Regenery Publishing.

The Rest of the Story
In the seventies, a radically new technology was developed to help doctors study children in the womb. It was called ultrasound, and is now a mainstay in prenatal care. Seeing a child clearly developing in the womb (not a mass of cells, but a person) tugged at Dr. Nathanson’s conscience. He knew he could no longer justify the killing of these innocent people. Although he was an atheist, he became convinced of the value of life in the womb and reversed his position on abortion. He also produced two films showing the graphic detail of abortion. These films have been used to help many more since him to see the true horror of abortion.

Though raised Jewish and eventually becoming an atheist, in time, Dr. Nathanson would come to believe in God. One of the things that led him to do so was seeing the devotion of pro-life witnesses who even risked going to jail just to offer a silent witness that might save a single life. In 1996, he was baptized in the Catholic Church.  He spent the remaining years of his life championing the Pro-Life cause, working to undo the harm he caused in his past life and especially to demonstrate that life begins at conception.  He passed away last year.



Luke Arredondo

Luke Arredondo

Luke is a married father of three. He works as the Director of Religious Education at Divine Mercy Parish in Kenner, LA and has a Master of Arts in Theology from Notre Dame Seminary. He blogs at Quiet, Dignity, and Grace

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5 thoughts on “Meet Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Famous Ex-Abortionist”

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