A Tribute to Dr Bernard Nathanson

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By Chris Slattery,
EMC Frontline Pregnancy Care Monday, February 21st,
2011

My wife Eileen and I mourn the death of our dear friend and mentor,
Dr. Bernard Nathanson. I met Bernie in late 1970s, when I was a young
salesman in the magazine industry. after he’d published his first
book, Aborting America.

I got to know him at talks at Human Life International, before he
released his first, earth-shaking film, The Silent Scream. He
explained the sinister and deceptive way in which abortion had been
legalized by lies and manipulation. I could see how much difference
one man could make. He got me angry, and motivated me to dedicate my
life to this cause.

When Bernie and his partners founded NARAL–the National Association
for the Repeal of Abortion Laws–and set out to legalize abortion,
they were lionized at first by the media. They coddled the press with
lies and exaggerations. In 1972, the year before Roe vs. Wade, the
Centers for Disease Control reported that there were 39 deaths from
illegal abortions. But Bernie simply made up the figure of “5,000 to
10,000 per year,” and the press bought it.

He estimated that through the abortion clinic he and his partners
founded in Manhattan, the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health
(CRASH), he was responsible for the deaths of 60,000 children. But
with the development of ultrasound in the 1970s, Bernie began to
realize what he had been doing. He changed his mind about abortion and
set out to do whatever he could, by speaking, writing, and making
films, to right the wrong he had done. The same media and opinion-
makers who had praised him now attacked him as an opportunist, a
quack, and an eccentric.

He wouldn’t be stopped. His three books and three films became the
primary tools of many pro-life activists. I can tell you that over the
years, his films alone had a huge impact on expectant mothers, and
saved the lives of tens of thousands of children in our EMC FrontLine
Pregnancy Centers and elsewhere.

He went back to school, getting a degree in bioethics from Vanderbilt
University in 1996. He became an expert witness before legislatures
and juries, using his authoritative voice to teach the uninformed
about the reality of life in the womb and the deceptions of the
abortion industry. He is a featured speaker in the current film about
that industry, Blood Money.

He became a consultant to us when we opened our first pregnancy center
in Manhattan on East 23rd Street and he helped provide pre-natal care
to our moms, and he did a fund-raiser for us in his townhouse in
Chelsea, and spoke for us elsewhere. He also helped with my wife’s own
pre-natal care when Eileen had a difficult pregnancy with our third
child, Brigid.

After he renounced abortion, Bernie was still not a religious man. He
described it as a seminal moment in his awakening when he and I next
to each were among hundreds of pro-lifers dragged away from the
doorways of Planned Parenthood on E 22nd Street, and Second Avenue in
Manhattan. On that cold January morning in 1989, with Operation Rescue
we helped shut down seven abortion mills in New York. Planned
Parenthood, his former ally, sued us and about 6 other rescue leaders
in Federal court.

Bernie carried a very heavy burden of guilt for his crimes. He began
talking with Fr. C. John McCloskey of the Prelature of Opus Dei, and
read a great many excellent spiritual books at his suggestion. Then
the man who in the 1960s had fought to destroy the reputation and
influence of the Church now asked to be baptized a Catholic. He had a
wholehearted conversion, praying for forgiveness and God’s mercy.

In 1996, in the crypt under St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, pro-
life heroine Joan Andrews Bell acted as Bernie’s godmother. I was his
Confirmation sponsor. And John Cardinal O’Connor said Mass and
administered First Holy Communion to Bernard Nathanson.

It’s with great sorrow that we lose our movement’s most famous
defector from the abortion industry. Like St. Paul, he struggled
against the Light, but came to his senses a new man and became the
Truth’s champion.

Bernie fought the good fight, and has finished the race.

God bless you, Dr. Nathanson, and may you rest in peace.

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