By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The New York obstetrician and abortionist who converted to Catholicism and the pro-life cause after watching a sonogram of an abortion, died in his home yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
The National Catholic Register is reporting that Dr. Nathanson, who performed his last abortion in 1979, became a significant player in the pro-life cause when he published the 1985 film, The Silent Scream. This video captured sonogram images of a child in the womb trying to get away from an abortionist’s instruments. This movie, along with a documentary describing abortion procedures in graphic detail, and several books about the dishonest beginnings of the abortion movement in America, earned him the respect of pro-life leaders and the scorn of the pro-abortion community.
In his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, he recounts the story of his change of heart and how the new ultrasound technology of the 1970’s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn. Until then, he was very much a part of the movement to mainstream abortion and admitted to how he and other abortion advocates routinely lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions at that time in order to gain sympathy for the cause of abortion rights.
“Abortion is now a monster so unimaginably gargantuan that even to think of stuffing it back into its cage … is ludicrous beyond words,” he wrote. “Yet that is our charge — a herculean endeavor.”
He added: “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.”
After changing to a pro-life physician, Nathanson gradually evolved from a self-described Jewish atheist to a convert to Catholicism. He claimed that he began to draw closer to God after witnessing a massive Operation Rescue event, when hundreds sat down in front of a New York Planned Parenthood building, blocking traffic. The sight of so many pro-lifers selflessly sacrificing their selves and risking arrest made him realize that they must be answering a higher call, he explained.
He was baptized in December 1996 by Cardinal John O’Connor during a private Mass in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
About his baptism, he said, “I was in a real whirlpool of emotion, and then there was this healing, cooling water on me, and soft voices, and an inexpressible sense of peace. I had found a safe place.”
Among those concelebrating the Mass was Father C. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest who had instructed Nathanson in the faith over a number of years.
“He was a pro-life prophet,” Father McCloskey said in a recent Register interview. “He saw the whole culture of death coming, and knew that abortion was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Nathanson died at his New York home yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
To read more about Dr. Nathanson’s life, visit the National Catholic Register.
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