Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 1999
Nathanson defends life
Former abortionist now seeks to protect human life from myriad of threats
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Bernard Nathanson rose from his seat and took his place at the podium. He adjusted the microphone, looked out at the crowd of more than 300 and said, "My name's Bernard and I'm a recovering obstetrician."
The founder of the U.S. Abortion Rights Action League and former director of what was the world's largest abortion clinic was the keynote speaker at Alberta Pro-life's annual conference May 15.
Once a pro-lifer's worst enemy, Nathanson, who presided over an estimated 60,000 abortions, is now their greatest inspiration.
Abortion had been a prominent part of Nathanson's life until the late 1970s when he renounced his profession and crusaded for the other side.
But being pro-life, in the eyes of Nathanson, is not solely about opposing abortion.
"Pro-life is a very broad term," said Nathanson, 71. "There are life issues out there beyond the question of abortion and euthanasia."
"Abortion, euthanasia, violent crimes, pornography, they all stem from one element," Nathanson said. "The perversion of autonomy. Autonomy, freedom of choice, . . . it trumps everything.
"Increasingly, choices are made in a vacuum as if there were no morals or ethics . . . freedom of choice has been abused, been perverted."
Nathanson said infanticide is probably a better term for most abortions, which are increasingly being performed later in a woman's pregnancy.
"When you talk about euthanasia, please don't use that word. In Greek, it means good death. Say what it is - doctor-assisted suicide, an ending of life. . . . That is not a good death."
Technology has also played a productive, as well as destructive, role in the pro-life movement.
Technology to some is a blessing, but it comes with a price, he said.
"Technology threatens us more than such things as abortion and physician-assisted suicide."
Technology brings convenience, which already is apparent in the use of abortion drugs such as RU-486.
Though not yet available in North America, Nathanson said half of the abortions performed in Europe are through RU-486 or similar chemical drugs. He suspects the drug will be approved in the U.S within a year, with Canada waiting in the wings.
"The usage of these things trivializes life," Nathanson said. "We use a pill to get rid of a headache - not a baby.
"These abortions, expelling of fetuses done at home, usually on a toilet - we're going to lose track of how many of these abortions are being done."
The convenience of RU-486 could also increase the number of abortions, Nathanson said.
Side effects of the pills also raises a health concern. Since the pills take away from the need to visit a doctor, women could be susceptible to infections and complications.
Along with the convenience and accessibility of ending human life, medical advances have put the creation and manipulation of life in the labs and examining tables of doctors and medical researchers.
"We have assisted reproductive technology which is running wild," Nathanson said.
From sperm donors to in-vitro fertilization, conceiving no longer requires the union of a man and woman.
Nathanson recalls the case of a couple in California which exemplifies the advancement and complications of reproductive technologies.
The couple elected to have in-vitro. They purchased a frozen female egg and sperm, which a lab combined and placed the fertilized egg into a surrogate womb. Just weeks before the baby was due, the original couple, who commissioned the baby, filed for divorce.
"The judge had to determine which parent this baby belonged to," Nathanson said. "This baby had eight parents. But the judge determined the child had no parents and put her in a foster home."
Nathanson cites a plethora of examples straying from natural conception.
In Italy, a 63-year-old grandmother became a surrogate for her daughter. Japanese scientists are perfecting an artificial placenta, thereby ending the need for a human womb.
In Scotland, scientists have worked on the possibility of taking ovaries from a female aborted fetus and placing it into a woman's womb. Scientists have also worked on projects involving implanting mice with human genes in an attempt to produce human sperm.
These reproductive procedures, along with headliners such as genetic mapping and cloning, could see the end of natural human existence and a further devaluation of human life.
"In the book the Age of Spiritual Machine by Ray Kurzweil, he predicts that by the year 2029, there will be computers 100 times faster than the human brain," Nathanson said. "There will be no need for humans to think anymore.
"This is why pro-life is bigger than abortion, euthanasia - I'm talking about all of human life on this planet."