Soon after late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was killed, I called one of his mentors, Bernard Nathanson. The former Jewish atheist who presided over 75,000 abortions - including that of his own child - in the 1960s and 1970s left the abortion industry upon the advent of ultrasound technology.
His now-classic video “The Silent Scream” shows an unborn child recoiling from a vacuum abortion device before being sucked to its death. He was baptized a Roman Catholic in late 1996, and in an interview with me then, he said he converted because he feared going to hell.
“I have such heavy moral baggage to drag into the next world,” he explained.
We talked again last week. Co-founder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), he is now 82 and hardly able to walk. A priest brings him Communion once a week.
Had he continued in the abortion business, could he have been shot as well, I asked.
“Yes, that is correct,” he said. “But I wasn’t. I knew George Tiller years ago when I was on the pro-abortion side. He came to a course I was giving in the technique of abortion in New York in 1970 under the auspices of NARAL. And I did late-term abortions until I changed my opinion as of 1980.
“My switch to pro-life had nothing to do with religion,” he added. “Tiller was a church-going man, which doesn’t say a whole lot in this country, but one wonders why he never changed his mind based on the scientific evidence. That is where I changed my mind, based on fetoscopies and ultrasound studies.
“Once we had ultrasound in place, we could study the fetus and see it was a member of our community. If you don’t do that, you’re just a creature of political ideology. In 1970, there were approximately 1,100 articles on the functioning of the fetus. By 1990, there were 22,000. The data piled up swiftly and opened a window into the womb.”
Yes, abortion providers do go to church. Dr. Tiller, who apparently was excommunicated from a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation because of his life’s work, sought refuge with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, a more liberal church body. He was ushering at an ELCA church when he was killed May 31.
On Monday, I interviewed Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of several physicians who assisted Dr. Tiller in Wichita, Kan. He and his wife, Mary, told me they are United Methodists. At one point, he added, he considered becoming a Methodist minister.
Instead, he ended up in Dr. Tiller’s office, face-to-face with cases such as a suicidal rape victim who was 30 weeks pregnant. He aborted that fetus.
“At 30 weeks?” I asked. (My daughter was born at 32 weeks.) At that point, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice President Carlton Veazey interjected that women have a God-given right to make such decisions about their lives.
Doesn’t the fetus have the same moral rights as a born woman, I asked.
“God gave that fetus a ‘guardian ad litem’ when he chose the mother that fetus is born with,” Dr. Carhart responded. “That mother, I feel, has been charged by God to make the right choices for that child during its unborn and early born years.”
And before I could ask why God would choose a mother intent on aborting her child, they terminated the interview.