Monday, May 04, 2009

the silent scream revisited

Bernard Nathanson’s book, The Hand of God, should be on every young person’s reading list. He describes his own journey from a broken childhood with a dictatorial doctor father, who was verbally and emotionally abusive to his mother, into his own medical career, and the pathways that led him to become one of the leading early abortion doctors, who was also a leader in the pro-choice movement. He performs 60,000 abortions over the course of his career – including that of his own child – and only when ultrasound becomes standard use, does the veil fall and he sees that the fetus is life. His arguments rest on that fundamental principle, not in all the bafflegab of pro-choice proponents who have fairly sophisticated arguments for when and how a fetus is human, and whether there’s a moral absolute, and whether a fetus can feel pain (yes, it can). He stops doing abortions in 1979, and at one point even asks one of his colleagues if he minds having the ultrasound machine on while he conducts an abortion. When his colleague sees the ultrasound results, he is sickened, and stops doing abortions himself.

The strength of Nathanson’s book is its honesty, how he became pulled and lulled into the pro-choice movement, and with good compassionate reasons. He also supports it all with some pretty shocking stats – especially gruesome are the deaths of some women seeking abortions from bad doctors. He discusses how the cream of medical crop bypasses this as a career choice, because of its scummy aftertaste, leaving the doctor dregs to perform abortions – some of them doing 30 a day.

Ironically, it is his pro-life about face that eventually leads to his conversion to Christianity. He witnesses the quiet, deep of the pro-life vigils, and prayers, and holding the mirror to his own soul, finds it lacking. He eventually becomes Catholic.
The other strength in the book is his prescriptions: prayer is vital, non-violent vigil, too – as he points out, no one was ever convinced of God’s unbounding love or of the personhood of a fetus by argument alone. It is love -- relayed through visual and emotional means -- that can successfully grab one in the gut and demonstrate the reprehensible act of abortion.

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