Bernard Nathanson, abortionist who became pro-life activist, dead at 84
February 21, 2011
Bernard Nathanson, who was one of the leading figures in the abortion industry before he converted to the pro-life cause and the Catholic faith, died on February 21 in New York at the age of 84.
Nathanson estimated that he performed 5,000 abortions personally, and as director of busy abortion clinics he supervised more than 70,000 abortions. He was co-founder of the group now known as NARAL, and helped craft the arguments in favor of abortion on demand. But Nathanson experienced a profound change of heart, and eventually embraced the pro-life cause.
In 1985 the former abortionist produced The Silent Scream, a highly influential film that showed ultrasound images of the unborn child in the womb. Later, in his book Aborting America, he revealed how he and other abortion advocates had distorted facts— notably by concocting false statistics on the number of deaths from illegal abortion—in order to gain public acceptance of the practice. In later years he expressed profound remorse for his participation both in the destruction of unborn children and in the propaganda campaign to promote the abortion industry. “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age,” he confessed.
In a later book, his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, Nathanson recounted the next step in his dramatic conversion: his entrance into the Catholic Church. He was baptized that year by Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. His godmother was Joan Andrews Bell, who had once spent more than a year in prison—much of it in solitary confinement—for her involvement in non-violent efforts to blockade abortion clinics.