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Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, who became anti-abortion activist, dies at 84 [updated]

Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an early abortion rights champion who oversaw tens of thousands of the procedures before having a change of heart and becoming a prominent anti-abortion activist, has died in New York. He was 84.

Nathanson died Monday at his Manhattan home after a long fight with cancer, said his wife, Christine Reisner-Nathanson.

Nathanson was an obstetrician-gynecologist who in 1969 helped found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now called NARAL Pro-Choice America. When abortion was legalized in New York the following year, he became director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health, an abortion clinic.

He estimated that he oversaw about 75,000 abortions in the 1960s and '70s before turning away from abortion rights, his wife said.

It was while working at the abortion clinic that Nathanson said he developed misgivings about the procedure. He said the use of ultrasound images led to his change of heart.

After joining the anti-abortion movement, Nathanson lectured internationally. He was a frequent visitor to the Ronald Reagan White House and narrated the 1986 anti-abortion film "The Silent Scream," which graphically depicts the abortion of a 12-week-old fetus.

Nathan also produced "Eclipse of Reason," a film about a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion, in which the fetus is partially extracted before being destroyed. He published several books, including an autobiographical account of his experiences.

His wife described him as a "real Renaissance man" and said he "had a lot of guts."

"When he was an abortion doctor he was seen as a pariah by the medical community, and when he went pro-life he was scorned by the women in the pro-abortion movement," she said.

Nathanson, born in New York to a Jewish family, converted to Catholicism in the late 1990s. He was baptized into the Catholic faith by the late Cardinal John J. O'Connor in a private ceremony.

He earned his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a medical degree from McGill University in 1949.

He wrote in his memoir that he knew "every facet of abortion."

"I helped nurture the creature in its infancy by feeding it great draughts of blood and money," he wrote. "I guided it through its adolescence as it grew fecklessly out of control."

Besides his wife, Nathanson also is survived by a son, Joseph Nathanson.

[updated 8:06 p.m.] The complete Times obituary is here.

-- Associated Press

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Note to the L.A. Times: Your newspaper has made yet, another, mistake: The term is not "anti-arbortionist", the correct term is "Pro-Life". The correct term for abortion is MURDER... Please look up the definition of this in a dictionary-- if you folks even own one...

The life of Dr. Bernard Nathanson is one of the most remarkable stories of God’s mercy and power.

My own life has intersected with his since the mid-80’s, and our last time together was just last week. Years ago, Dr. Nathanson said, ‘I uncaged the abortion monster in the United States,’ and then he told us priests that he and his former colleagues ‘would never have gotten away with what we did if you had been united, purposeful and strong.’ That assertion is at the core of our ministry of Priests for Life.

I will never forget the workshop at which I introduced him at the 1994 Human Life International Conference in Irvine, CA. He was supposed to talk about chemical abortion, but at the last minute decided instead to speak of his spiritual journey. At the end of the talk, he said that he was standing on the brink of conversion to the Catholic Church. The room exploded. People were leaping into the air. He said that he hoped God could forgive him, and I said, ‘Dr. Nathanson, he already has.’ And I reminded him of that exchange just last week.

Dr. Nathanson appears in the introductory video of Priests for Life. He called Priests for Life the ‘Paul Revere’ of the pro-life movement, and said that he was always immensely grateful for our work, because though he caught the Church asleep on the abortion issue in the late 60’s, he believed the Church could be re-activated to build the Culture of Life. In memory of Dr. Nathanson, we will redouble our efforts to do just that.

Now he can fight for the rights of the post-life.

In loving memory of all the precious babies who have been aborted
and could not experience life at it's fullest. Someone needed to be
their voice and along came Bernard Nathanson and others in the
PRO LIFE movement in the U.S. and abroad.

Jesus, Mary & Joseph, help us to spiritually adopt those babies who
are in danger of being aborted and those who have been aborted.
They have no voice, let us be their

Rest in Peace, Dr. Nathanson, Like Saul, you went from being God's enemy, to being God's soldier in the fight against the evil of abortion and those minions of Satan who promote and defend it. When you reach heaven, please continue to intercede for the victims of pro-choice murder and for those in the Pro-Life movement.


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