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Bernard Nathanson

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Main PagePortal Persons → Bernard Nathanson In case of identical names see: Nathanson

Bernard Nathanson.jpg
Lived July 31, 1926-February 1, 2011
Occupation physician

Bernard N. Nathanson (1926-2011) was an American medical doctor from New York who helped to found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws[wp] (NARAL), but later became a pro-life[wp] activist. He was the narrator for the controversial 1984 anti-abortion film The Silent Scream[wp].

Early life and education

Nathanson was born in New York City. His father was an obstetrician/gynecologist[1], the same career that Nathanson held in his professional life. Nathanson graduated in 1949 from McGill University[wp] Faculty of Medicine in Montreal.[2]


He was licensed to practice in New York state since 1952[2] and became board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology in 1960.[1] He was for a time the director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health[wp] (CRASH), then the largest freestanding abortion facility in the world. Nathanson has written that he performed more than 60,000 abortions.[3] Nathanson also wrote that he performed an abortion on a woman whom he had impregnated.[4]



Originally a pro-choice[wp] activist, Nathanson gained national attention by then becoming with Lawrence Lader (journalist), Betty Friedan (feminist), Carol Greitzer (councilwoman from Greenwich Village[wp]) one of the founding member, of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (later renamed the National Abortion Rights Action League, and now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America[wp]). He worked with Betty Friedan and others for the legalization of abortion[wp] in the United States. Their efforts essentially succeeded with the Roe v. Wade[wp] decision.


With the development of ultrasound in the 1970s, he had the chance to observe a real-time abortion. This led him to reconsider his views on abortion.[1] He is often quoted as saying abortion is "the most atrocious holocaust in the history of the United States". He wrote the book Aborting America where he first exposed what he called "the dishonest beginnings of the abortion movement". In 1984, he directed and narrated a film titled The Silent Scream[wp], in cooperation with the National Right to Life Committee[wp], regarding abortion. His second documentary Eclipse of Reason[wp] dealt with late-term abortions[wp]. He stated that the numbers he once cited for NARAL concerning the number of deaths linked to illegal abortions were "false figures".[5][6]

Referring to his previous work as an abortion provider and abortion rights activist, he wrote in his 1996 autobiography Hand of God, "I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age."[1] Nathanson developed what he called the "vector theory of life", which states that from the moment of conception[wp], there exists "a self-directed force of life that, if not interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby."[1]

Religious conversion

Nathanson grew up Jewish[wp] and for more than ten years after he became pro-life he described himself as a "Jewish atheist". In 1996 he converted to Catholicism through the efforts of an Opus Dei[wp] priest, the Rev. C. John McCloskey[wp]. In December 1996, Nathanson was baptized by Cardinal John O'Connor[wp] in a private Mass[wp] with a group of friends in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral[wp]. He also received Confirmation[wp] and first Communion[wp] from the cardinal. He stated that "no religion matches the special role for forgiveness that is afforded by the Catholic Church[wp]" when asked why he converted to Roman Catholicism.[7]

Personal life and death

Nathanson married four times; his first three marriages ended in divorce.[1] He died of cancer in New York on February 21, 2011 at the age of 84. He was survived by his fourth wife, Christine, and a son, Joseph, from a previous union, who resides in New Jersey.[1]


  • Aborting America[wp], 1979, Doubleday & Company, Inc.: Garden City. ISBN 0-385-14461-X
  • The Silent Scream[wp] (1984 documentary)
  • The Abortion Papers: Inside the Abortion Mentality, 1984, with Adele Nathanson, Hawkes Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-8119-0685-X
  • Eclipse of Reason[wp], (1987 documentary)
  • The Hand of God[wp]: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind,, 1996, Regnery Publishing, Inc.: Washington D.C. ISBN 0-89526-463-3


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Vincent, Stephen (21 February 2011). "Bernard Nathanson Dead at 84", National Catholic Register, EWTN NEWS. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 NYS Professions
  3. Bernard Nathanson New England Journal of Medicine 291(22): 1189-1190, November 28, 1974
  4. The Hand of God, pp. 58–9. "In the mid-sixties I impregnated a woman... and I not only demanded that she terminate the pregnancy… but also coolly informed her that since I was one of the most skilled practitioners of the art, I myself would do the abortion. And I did."
  5. "CONFESSION OF AN EX-ABORTIONIST" by Dr. Bernard Nathanson
  6. Nathanson, Bernard. Aborting America. Doubleday & Company, Inc.: Garden City, 1979, p. 193: "I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it."
  7. DR. BERNARD NATHANSON, R.I.P., Catholic League (U.S.)[wp]

External links

This article based on an article Bernard Nathanson (27 September 2013) from the free Encyklopedia Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article is published under the dual license GNU-License for free Documentation and Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). In Wikipedia is a List of Authors available those who worked on the text before being incorporated in WikiMANNia.