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MEDWAY -- Speaking at the prayer launch for Massachusetts' 40 Days for Life Campaign, Dr. Anthony Levatino, an OB/GYN and a former abortion provider, detailed what an abortion actually entails.
A community-based campaign, 40 Days for Life calls on participants to pray, fast, and peacefully protest and hold vigils outside of abortion clinics for 40 days. While the prayer launch was held on Feb. 26, the campaign officially began on March 1 and will continue until April 9.
Addressing approximately 200 people at the Betania II Spiritual Retreat and Conference Center in Medway Feb. 26, Levatino began by asking the attendees to put themselves in his shoes for a moment.
"I want you to imagine that you're an obstetrician gynecologist like me. I want you to imagine you're a pro-choice obstetrician gynecologist like I used to be," he said.
"Your patient is 17 years old (and) she's 20 weeks pregnant... She's been feeling her baby kick for two weeks, but now she's asleep on an operating room table and you're there to help her with her problem," he continued.
He went on to describe in detail the process of the surgical abortion, which can involve the dismembering of the unborn baby.
"Congratulations, you've just successfully performed a second trimester D and E (dilation and evacuation) abortion. You've just affirmed her right to choose. You've just made $800 cash in 15 minutes," said Levatino.
Once adamantly pro-choice, Levatino graduated medical school in 1976 and immediately learned how to perform abortions, sometimes performing three abortions a day. It wasn't until his young adopted daughter Heather was hit and killed by a car in 1984 that he began to truly question what it was that he was doing.
The first second trimester abortion he performed after the tragedy, he said he remembers he looked, "really, really looked" at the dismembered fetus he had just placed on the table next to him.
Looking at it, "I didn't see (the patient's) wonderful right to choose, and I didn't see what a great doctor I was helping her with her problem, and I didn't even see the $800 cash I just made," he said.
"All I could see was somebody's son or daughter, and all of a sudden it occurred to me that this woman came to me, never literally, but figuratively, had said here's $800, kill my baby. And I was the kind of person who would look right back at her without even flinching and say why sure, I'll do that," he continued.
That experience changed him, and he soon stopped performing second trimester abortions. Several months after that, he stopped performing early abortions as well.
While he originally quit because he was hurting, a "selfish" reason, he said, he began to get involved with the pro-life movement, and soon was publically speaking out against abortions.
Offering words of advice to attendees, Levatino noted that each person in the room can "make a huge contribution" to the pro-life movement, whether it be through getting involved with organizations like 40 Days for Life or by voting for political candidates who are pro-life.
One of the most important things to remember, he said, is that "you've got to love people," including those who consider themselves pro-choices, abortionists, or women who have had abortions themselves.
"Do you think standing outside somebody's office and screaming 'Murderer!' is going to get them to change their mind? Think again... You want to change somebody's mind, build a relationship with them," he said.
That message was also touted by Father Michael McNamara, part-time parochial vicar at St. Paul Parish in Hingham and director of Servants of Christ Ministries in Scituate, who celebrated Mass as part of the event just prior to Levatino's talk.
We need to be "that Tabernacle of the Lord's presence" outside of abortion clinics, for "the sake of the children, for the sake of the end of their death, and as much importantly, the souls of the mothers, and the doctors and the nurses and the people involved," he said.
"All the people of the pro-abortion side, they're God's children, aren't they? They're made in His image and likeness, right? Does He love them? Yes. We've got to love them," he continued.
Father McNamara encouraged those in attendance to become more active in the pro-life movement, saying that "when (God) says I want more for you... it's time you start going out and realizing what we can do."
"We need to intercede and pray and fast, that others will come and join. The streets should be filled with Catholic Christians, praying and interceding for children."
At a reception following the Mass and talk, Rita Russo, coordinator for Boston's 40 Days for Life movement, told The Pilot that this year's prayer launch event had a record number of people attend.
"We combined with the Worcester campaign and the Attleboro campaign" for the event, she said, making this "the biggest crowd we've had."
On Levatino, Russo said he "gave a very strong and compelling argument."
"If a former abortionist gives his testimony, you can't say that he doesn't know. There's great power in his testimony," she said.
Daniel Pritchard, a parishioner at St. Agatha Parish in Milton, told The Pilot he has been actively involved in the pro-life movement for over 20 years.
He said he has three children and eight grandchildren. One of those grandchildren, he said, was a "little miracle baby."
"She was born at three pounds, three ounces at 30 weeks, and when you consider that these are the babies that are being sucked out and killed, it just breaks your heart. It really does. These are lives, these are human beings," he said.
"I'm really hoping more people will get involved and stop this madness."