Another Reason Against Violence

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci


Last time we talked about how not to defend lives -- by taking the lives of abortion doctors. We talked about how violence doesn't help our movement, about how we're trying to stop violence. And we talked about how the greatest evil in abortion is in the souls lost -- souls of people who kill children in cold blood.

Shortly after I wrote that article, I was reminded of another reason we shouldn't kill abortionists. Sometimes they end up helping us.

If there was ever an abortionist that a "pro-life" lunatic would want to kill, Dr. Bernard Nathanson would have been that abortionist. In the 1960s, before abortion was legal, he founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now the National Abortion Rights Action League or NARAL). His organization decided that, in order to create sympathy for their cause, they needed to identify an "enemy" to be the bad guy while they were the good guys. The enemy they targeted was the Roman Catholic Church. They used the media to create a massive propaganda campaign painting the Catholic Church as male-dominated, cruel, insensitive to women and opposed to abortion. They, on the other hand, were portrayed as loving, sensitive to women and in favor of abortion.

Despite the fact that the Catholic Church does far more for women in crisis pregnancy than any other agency in the world, they were successful. Anti-Catholicism still rears its ugly head in the abortion debate on a regular basis. When was the last time you heard of a pro-life congressman identified as a "Methodist" or a "Presbyterian?" But if he's Catholic, it'll be pointed out every time his name is mentioned.

They were successful in other ways, too. They wanted people to believe that a lot of women died every year of illegal abortions, to convince them that legal abortion would save women's lives. The problem was that, after the advent of penicillin, not enough women died of illegal abortions to scare people. In 1972, for example, the year before Roe vs. Wade, only 39 women died as a result of illegal abortion. They didn't think that was enough so they made up numbers -- huge numbers. They claimed that up to 10,000 women were dying every year, all from illegal abortions. They lied, and Nathanson admits it.

It worked. Those numbers still show up in debates on an appallingly regular basis, despite the absolute lack of any verification. And rarely are the numbers questioned. People were, and still are, ridiculously gullible. And then Nathanson did more. When abortion was made legal in New York in 1969, he opened the largest abortion clinic in the nation. There, and in other settings, he presided over 60,000 abortions. Not a real likeable guy.

But then something happened to Nathanson. His conscience began to bother him. He began to question it all. He wrote a book called Aborting America, admitting that he lied, and admitting that the unborn child was more than just a "clump of cells." He admitted that modern ultrasound showed us, for the first time, a very vital, alive child, even at the earliest abortions.

When Nathanson became pro-life, he did it in a big way. Through his organization, Bernardell, he produced "Eclipse of Reason" and "The Silent Scream," two of the most powerful pro-life videos ever made. He wrote a book, The Abortion Papers, detailing his lies, deceptions and manipulations in working to legalize abortion, and showing how the abortion movement still lies, deceives and manipulates. He became involved in Operation Rescue and was arrested several times. He continues to work and speak tirelessly for the pro-life movement. He has no doubt saved countless babies. It's a good thing no one shot him.

Nathanson is not the only one. The Pro-Life Action League sponsors a "Meet the Abortion Providers" conference every year, where former abortionists who are now pro-life activists gather and speak on how to influence abortionists to stop, and how to stop abortion.

I spoke with a good friend of mine, who is a national leader in the pro-life movement. He told me that many people, including a former abortionist who knew him, believe that Dr. David Gunn, the abortionist killed last year in Pensacola, was actually on the verge of quitting the abortion business. He had already stopped doing late-term abortions because he knew the baby felt pain, and his conscience bothered him. Who knows where his conscience would have brought him next? Maybe by this time, he would have been working with former abortionists like Nathanson -- working to undo the damage he'd done.

We'll never know.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the September 15, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

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