Bernard Nathanson - R.I.P.Yesterday, February 21, 2011 we received word that Dr. Bernard Nathanson, M.D. had passed away after suffering these past years from cancer. Nathanson was the last surviving member of the original group that founded NARAL back in the 1960s. He was responsible along with Lawrence Lader and others with the successful efforts to legalize abortion in New York prior to Roe v. Wade. He ran the world's largest abortion mill at the time and was responsible as he later said for the deaths of over 60,000 unborn children.
While he was a pioneer in favor of abortion, he was the darling of the media. Then in 1974 he wrote an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine questioning his support for unrestricted abortion. The backlash form the media was immediate. No longer was he the respected forward thinking crusader for woman's rights. Yet the article was not a pro-life manifesto. It merely asked the question. But for Bernard Nathanson, the intellect that he was, the question continued to haunt his mind.
He next wrote the book "Aborting America" which continued to explain his ever evolving thoughts on the abortion issue.
This was later followed by his ground breaking movies, The Silent Scream and Eclipse of Reason, both which now firmly articulated the reason why abortion was morally wrong.
But it was his 1996 book "The Hand of God" that finally spoke to the real purpose of the man's life and how the mercy and love of God had brought about his redemption.
However, these books and films made no difference to his former crowd. He was shunned and ignored by the very people who thought he was so forward thinking just a short time age. Their hearts were cold. They would not even try to understand him.
As the saving power of God's love and mercy continued to enfold him, Nathanson still lived with the demons of his past. His brutal honesty forced him to consider the reality of truth and the existence of God. Soon he was received into the Catholic Church. His godmother was Joan Andrews Bell, noted pro-life activist. His confirmation sponsor was Chris Slattery, founder and director of EMC Pregnancy Centers in NYC. He was baptized by the late John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York.
I first personally met "Bernie" as he was known to his friends (though I always referred to him directly as "Dr. Nathanson"), when I needed an expert in an medical malpractice case concerning a botched abortion in the early 1980s. We became first professionally and then personally acquainted through that experience. After that we would visit on occasion and later became friends during National Right to Life conferences. Arizona Right to Life invited him come speak at our own state conference during the promotion of the two abortion films.
But it was years later during my visits to NYC while handling either a particular legal matter or during some pro-life activity that I would see him at the 8:30 am daily mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. We would visit for a moment after mass and I could sense the grave weight and deep grief in the man. The awareness of his past life was before him. He felt the pain and understood the healing power of God's mercy - yet as a man - he still grieved the life he had led. And so it became even more clear to me the effect of sin in a man's life and the long shadow sin casts even upon one's future days. How appropriate that Christ is called the Light of the World, for He is the Light who will banish away all of the dark shadows of our past.
Bernie has now gone to his rest. We pray for him and all those who have been snared by the evil of abortion. We pray that this horror in our land will end and for the redemption of all who have been enlisted in this evil practice. Perhaps Bernie's example will be the means of their salvation.