Dr. Nathanson died last Monday
Dr. Nathanson, an obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in Manhattan, helped found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now NARAL Pro-Choice America) in 1969 and served as its medical adviser.
After abortion was legalized in New York in 1970, he became the director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health, which, in his talks as an abortion opponent, he often called “the largest abortion clinic in the Western world.”
In a widely reported 1974 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Deeper into Abortion,” Dr. Nathanson described his growing moral and medical qualms about abortion. “I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”
His unease was intensified by the images made available by the new technologies of fetoscopy and ultrasound.
“For the first time, we could really see the human fetus, measure it, observe it, watch it, and indeed bond with it and love it,” he later wrote in “The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind” (Regnery Publishing, 1996). “I began to do that.”
Despite his misgivings, and his conviction that abortion on demand was wrong, he continued to perform abortions for reasons he deemed medically necessary.
“On a gut, emotional level, I still favored abortion,” he told New York magazine in 1987. “It represented all the things we had fought for and won. It seemed eminently more civilized than the carnage that had gone on before.”
But, he added, “it was making less and less sense to me intellectually.”
The Realchoice blog has more on some of the shady tactics of the early days of NARAL
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