Opinion

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, R.I.P.

byDale O'Leary
4/1/2011

Last month, I read that Dr. Bernard Nathanson had died. Over the years I had the opportunity to meet him in person on a number of occasions. The first time, I remember thinking that he was a proud to the point of arrogant, demanding New York doctor in a very expensive suit. But looking back I realize that his pride served him well, because when he saw the silent scream of a child about to be aborted on the ultrasound, he valued his own integrity enough to know that he could not lie to himself or to others. He had been one of the founding members of NARAL -- the group that lobbied to make abortion legal and to keep it legal -- and he had to correct the record.

The next time I met him, we were both speaking at the same pro-life conference (I don't remember where). During the question and answer period, a woman in the audience told him that she was praying for him. He insisted that he was an atheist, but he seemed to be wavering. I thought I observed a certain softening. There was clearly less arrogance. You could see that he was responding to the appreciation the pro-life movement was showering on him. He was the answer to their prayers, someone who knew how the pro-abortion movement had lied, because he had been party to the invention of the lies.

I saw him several more times and each time there was a noticeable change. He no longer insisted he was an atheist. In the beginning he had tried to compromise his pro-life position, arguing that perhaps at some point early, very early in pregnancy, abortion could be justified, but he had long since ceased looking for a compromise.

The final time I saw him in person was after he had been on a long fast and it showed. His face was noticeably thinner, but there was the glow of true asceticism about him and therefore I wasn't surprised when I heard that he was going to become a Catholic.

I read that he was particularly delighted that, while confession wipes away the sin, but leaves the temporal punishment for sin and requires penance, baptism wipes away the sin and punishment, therefore he could truly begin again. With Dr. Nathanson as with so many involved with the evil of abortion, the sacraments of the Catholic Church provide a beautiful way to deal with the very real guilt.

I am convinced that Dr. Nathanson is one of many pro-life saints, those who have sacrificed in this life for the unborn and gone before us to plead along with the souls of all the millions of unborn children before the throne of God for an end to the horror of legal abortion.

We must be faithful to these heroes of the pro-life movement and honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight. One way we can do this is to make a pledge to never vote for a politician of either party who doesn't unequivocally support the right to life.

Dale O'Leary is an internationally recognized lecturer and author of "The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality."