An abortionist's regret: "We see the child’s mouth open in a silent scream"

B. N. Nathanson, 84, Dies; Changed Sides on Abortion


Dr. Nathanson, an obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in Manhattan, helped found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now NARAL Pro-Choice America) in 1969 and served as its medical adviser.

After abortion was legalized in New York in 1970, he became the director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health, which, in his talks as an abortion opponent, he often called “the largest abortion clinic in the Western world.”

In a widely reported 1974 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Deeper into Abortion,” Dr. Nathanson described his growing moral and medical qualms about abortion. “I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”

His unease was intensified by the images made available by the new technologies of fetoscopy and ultrasound.

“For the first time, we could really see the human fetus, measure it, observe it, watch it, and indeed bond with it and love it,” he later wrote in “The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind” (Regnery Publishing, 1996). “I began to do that.”

Despite his misgivings, and his conviction that abortion on demand was wrong, he continued to perform abortions for reasons he deemed medically necessary.

“On a gut, emotional level, I still favored abortion,” he told New York magazine in 1987. “It represented all the things we had fought for and won. It seemed eminently more civilized than the carnage that had gone on before.”

But, he added, “it was making less and less sense to me intellectually.”

In addition to the 60,000 abortions performed at the clinic, which he ran from 1970 to 1972, he took responsibility for 5,000 abortions he performed himself, and 10,000 abortions performed by residents under his supervision when he was the chief of obstetrical services at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan from 1972 to 1978.

He did his last procedure in late 1978 or early 1979 on a longtime patient suffering from cancer and soon embarked on a new career lecturing and writing against abortion.

“The Silent Scream,” a 28-minute film produced by Crusade for Life, was released in early 1985. In it, Dr. Nathanson described the stages of fetal development and offered commentary as a sonogram showed, in graphic detail, the abortion of a 12-week-old fetus by the suction method.

“We see the child’s mouth open in a silent scream,” he said, as the ultrasound image, slowed for dramatic impact, showed a fetus seeming to shrink from surgical instruments. “This is the silent scream of a child threatened imminently with extinction.”

Comment: I really know nothing about this man except from the Silent Screen connection. Perhaps he is at peace with God.

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