Bernard Nathanson R.I.P. — Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, one of the founders of the NARAL ProChoice America before become a leading pro-life advocate, died this morning (Feb. 21, 2011) in New York. The cause of death was cancer. He was 84.
Dr. Nathanson’s first experience with abortion came as a student at McGill University Medical College in Montreal when he paid for one his girlfriend after getting her pregnant.
After becoming an obstetrician, he got another girlfriend pregnant during the 1960s and performed the abortion himself. He became an advocate for legal abortions, and was instrumental in overturning New York State’s century-old abortion law in 1970 which was signed by Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
He said he and other abortion advocates knowingly lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions claiming it to be 10,000 rather than the actual few hundred, and vilified the Catholic Church for it’s pro-life teachings as a premeditated attempt to get media attention.
At the height of his success the new technology of ultrasound convinced him everything he had believed was wrong. He came to understand that from the time of conception the unborn child has a self-directed force of life that, if not
interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby; and that the United States Supreme Court got it horribly wrong when it ruled that it was simply “potential life” in Roe v. Wade.
Dr. Nathanson performed his last abortion in 1979 and declaried himself to be pro-life. In 1985 he made the earth-shaking film The Silent Scream, which shows sonogram images of a child in the womb shrinking from an abortionist’s instruments, and was one of the lest talked about but most influential films of the decade.
For about 15 years after declaring himself to be a pro-lifer, Dr. Nathanson described himself as a Jewish atheist. In December 1996, he was baptized into the Catholic Church by Cardinal John O’Connor at a private Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“I was in a real whirlpool of emotion, and then there was this healing, cooling water on me, and soft voices, and an inexpressible sense of peace,” he said. “I had found a safe place.”
Dr. Nathanson was divorced three times before being married in the Church. He is survived by his wife, Christine, and a son, Joseph, from a previous marriage.
A more detailed obituary can be found at the National Catholic Register.