Pro-life leader Bernard Nathanson dead at 84

Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician who led the charge for abortion rights before having a change of heart and becoming a staunch pro-life activist, has passed away at 84 after a battle with cancer. The National Catholic Register remembers his life and dramatic conversion:

He often admitted that he and other abortion advocates in the 1960s lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions at that time, inflating the figure from a few hundred to 10,000 to gain sympathy for their cause.

In his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby. Outlining the enormous challenge of restoring a pro-life ethic, he wrote, “Abortion is now a monster so unimaginably gargantuan that even to think of stuffing it back into its cage … is ludicrous beyond words. Yet that is our charge — a herculean endeavor.”

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He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.”

Joan Andrews Bell, Nathanson’s godmother when he came into the Catholic Church in 1996, remembers him this way:

She said that he had “a deep and tender heart,” and that once he saw the truth about abortion, he was determined to stop it. “He was like St. Paul, who was a great persecutor of the Church, yet when he saw the light of Christ, he was perhaps the greatest apostle for the Gospel. Dr. Nathanson was like that after his conversion. He went all around the world talking about the babies and the evils of abortion.”

Nathanson is survived by his wife and son. Requiescat in pace.

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  • Margaret Cabaniss

    Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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