Dr. Bernard Nathanson died this morning in New York after a long battle with cancer.
Nathanson was one of the founding members of NARAL (then known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws). At one time he operated what may have been the largest abortion clinic in the Western world, and he claims he was responsible for the deaths of over 75,000 unborn children.
Shortly after the development of ultrasound technology in the 1970s, he began to have doubts about abortion. Gradually, he came to recognize the humanity of the unborn child, and eventually, he became pro-life.
His “conversion” to being pro-life was not the result of some profound spiritual experience. In fact, he became active in the pro-life movement and remained active in the pro-life movement for many years as an atheist.
But the promptings of the Holy Spirit never stopped, and this atheist abortionist turned atheist pro-lifer turned, finally, to become a pro-life Catholic, when he was baptized by Cardinal John O’Connor in December 1996.
A few years later, when I was a senior in college, I read his autobiography, The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind, which was one of the most impactful books I have ever read.
That year I was president of the pro-life student group at Loyola University Chicago, and we hosted Dr. Nathanson for a standing-room-only lecture, which everyone found enthralling.
The one thing I remember most about it now, some 11 years later, is that he told us that there were many other looming battles besides abortion — things like embryonic stem cell research and human cloning — that far too many pro-lifers were not paying enough attention to.
Considering how significant these issues have become in recent years, it’s clear that Dr. Nathanson was truly a pro-life prophet.
May he rest in peace.
- See the National Catholic Register article on Nathanson’s death here