Abortionist Bernard Nathanson turned pro-life activist (part 4)

Richard Land on Abortion part 3

On the Arkansas Times Blog this morning I posted a short pro-life piece and it received this response:

We have been over this time and again SalineRepublican, and I think we all know the issue: when does the right of a woman to control her own body yield to the *potential* of life? If you continue to believe it is at conception, if you continue to believe a zygote or embryo has rights that society must elevate over the woman’s control over her health and body, we will continue to disagree.

we know that life begins at birth. We know that society has an interest in the potential of life at some point prior to birth. If you can identify a point that the balance shifts *prior* to viability, then you are staking out a position that likely will never be accepted by the broader society. And maybe that is what your faith compels you to do.

The rest of us will cede that determination to a woman and her conscience, her God and her physician.

Posted by Tap on March 29, 2011 at 1:16 AM | Report this comment

Meanwhile, Britain is engaged in a soul-searching moment. First came the release of images from the new 3D/4D ultrasound scans—one shows a 12-week-old child “walking” in its mother’s womb. Then came the shocking news of the abortion rate (up 3.2 percent from 2002), “cosmetic” abortions (at least a dozen babies have been aborted for cleft lips and palates, in probable violation of British law), and medical advances. The author of Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, David Steel, said the law wrongly assumes fetuses can’t survive outside the womb before 28 weeks. “Since then,” he wrote in The Guardian newspaper, “medical science has continued to advance, recording survivals at 22 weeks of pregnancy.” In 1990, British pro-life groups pushed to move the law back to 22 weeks, but got 24. Now Steel wants it halved, to 12.

Viability supposedly matters here as well. World magazine recently reported, “Forty states and the District of Columbia have post-viability abortion bans that are currently enforceable.” Many of these state laws define viability too late: between 24 and 26 weeks. But in December, when Sen. Joseph Lieberman noted that the laws no longer reflect “extraordinary advances in medical science,” he was condemned for eroding “choice.”

Abortion advocates are increasingly abandoning science. “For a long time now, medicine has assumed too much importance in the abortion debate,” Marina Benjamin wrote in The Scotsman. “If medical advances keep lowering the bar, we’ll soon be faced with a situation where socially motivated abortions are legally discriminated against.”

But people seem fine with that. A January poll showed that 43 percent of Democrats believe abortion “destroys a human life and is manslaughter.” Those numbers will keep growing due to what The Wall Street Journal calls The Roe Effect: Pro-lifers can pass their values on to their children; those who abort their children can’t. Another good sign: Anti-abortion demonstrations are getting younger.

Little wonder, then, that Sen. John Kerry touted that he too believes that life (though not necessarily personhood) begins at conception and that abortion is an “incredibly important moral issue.”

For Kerry, the basis for keeping abortion legal isn’t based in science but in the “separation of church and state.” The change of rationale could be great news. It’s no Herculean task to explain why banning abortion doesn’t establish a government religion.

But abortion advocates aren’t rallying to Kerry’s view of conception, so they’re not arguing church-state separation, either. In summary, they have lost ground on science, emotional appeals, constitutional law … What’s left?

I wanted to pass along a portion of the excellent article “Bernard Nathanson: A Life Transformed by the Truth about Abortion.” (Feb 11, 2011)

LifeNews.com Note: Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. This article previously appeared in Public Discourse:

Nathanson, long an unbeliever, continued to profess atheism for several years after his defection from the pro-choice to the pro-life side. His argument against abortion was not, he insisted, religious; it was based on scientific facts and generally accepted principles of the rights and dignity of the human person. In this, his views were very much in line with those of the great pro-life convert Nat Hentoff, a distinguished civil libertarian and writer for the liberal and secularist newspaper The Village Voice. But unlike Hentoff, who remains unconvinced of the claims of religion, Nathanson was gradually drawn to faith in God and ultimately to Catholicism by the moral witness of the believers among his newfound comrades in the struggle for the unborn.

As Nathanson frequently observed, it was not that he became Catholic and then embraced the pro-life view because it was the Church’s teaching. If anything, it was the other way around. Having become persuaded of the truth of the pro-life position, he was drawn to Catholicism because of the Church’s witness–in the face of prejudice Nathanson himself had helped to whip up–to the inherent and equal value and dignity of human life in all stages and conditions.

Nathanson was baptized and received into the Catholic Church in 1996 by Archbishop Dolan’s predecessor John Cardinal O’Connor in a ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He chose as his godmother Joan Andrews Bell, a woman revered among pro-lifers for her willingness to suffer more than a year of imprisonment for blockading abortion facilities. Reflecting on her godson’s conversion, she said that Nathanson was “like St. Paul, who was a great persecutor of the Church, yet when he saw the light of Christ, he was perhaps the greatest apostle for the Gospel. Dr. Nathanson was like that after his conversion. He went all around the world talking about the babies and the evils of abortion.”

The Silent Scream part 4

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