Dr. Bernard Nathanson details the deceptions, dirty tricks, and other tactics that helped make abortion legal and socially acceptable in the United States.
I am personally responsible for 75,000 abortions. This legitimizes my credentials to speak to you with some authority on the issue. I was one of the founders of the National Association for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws in the U.S. in 1968. A truthful poll of opinion then would have found that most Americans were against permissive abortion. Yet within five years we had convinced the Supreme Court to issue the decision which legalized abortion throughout America in 1973 and produced virtual abortion on demand up to birth.
How did we do this? It is important to understand the tactics involved because these tactics have been used throughout the western world with one permutation or another, in order to change abortion law.
The First Key Tactic was to capture the media
We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal enlightened, sophisticated one. Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority.
We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law. Another myth we fed to the public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1500% since legalization.
The Second Key Tactic was to Play the Catholic Card
We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its "socially backward ideas" and picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villain in opposing abortion. This theme was played endlessly. We fed the media such lies as "we all know that opposition to abortion comes from the hierarchy and not from most Catholics" and "Polls prove time and again that most Catholics want abortion law reform." And the media drum-fired all this into the American people, persuading them that anyone opposing permissive abortion must be under the influence of the Catholic hierarchy and that Catholics in favour of abortion are enlightened and forward-looking. An inference of this tactic was that there were no non-Catholic groups opposing abortion. The fact that other Christian as well as non-Christian religions were (and still are) monolithically opposed to abortion was constantly suppressed, along with pro-life atheists' opinions.
The Third Key Tactic was the Denigration and Suppression of all Scientific Evidence that Life Begins at Conception
I am often asked what made me change my mind. How did I change from prominent abortionist to pro-life advocate? In 1973, I became director of obstetrics of a large hospital in New York City and had to set up a perinatal research unit, just at the start of a great new technology which we now use every day to study the fetus in the womb. A favorite pro-abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible; that the question is a theological or moral or philosophical one, anything but a scientific one. Fetology makes it undeniably evident that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any of us enjoy.
Why, you may well ask, do some American doctors who are privy to the findings of fetology, discredit themselves by carrying out abortions? Simple arithmetic: at $300.00 a time 1.55 million abortions means an industry generating $500,000,000 annually, of which most goes into the pocket of the physician doing the abortion. It is clear that permissive abortion is purposeful destruction of what is undeniably human life. It is an impermissible act of deadly violence. One must concede that unplanned pregnancy is a wrenchingly difficult dilemma. But to look for its solution in a deliberate act of destruction is to trash the vast resourcefulness of human ingenuity, and to surrender the public weal to the classic utilitarian answer to social problems.
As a scientist I know, not believe, know that human life begins at conception. Although I am not a formal religionist, I believe with all my heart that there is a divinity of existence which commands us to declare a final and irreversible halt to this infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity.
Nathanson, Bernard. "Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist" In The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind (Washington, D.C.: Regenery Publishing, 2013).
This excerpt from an earlier edition of the book is reprinted with permission.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson was co-founder in 1969 of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws — NARAL — later renamed the National Abortion Rights Action League. He was also the former director of New York City's Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health, then the largest abortion clinic in the world. In the late 1970's he turned against abortion to become a prominent pro-life advocate, authoring Abortion America and producing the powerfully revealing video, The Silent Scream. Dr. Nathanson is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York Medical College and a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind.Copyright © 2013 Regenery Publishing
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