A short journey from 'pro-choice' to infanticide
National Post - Wednesday March 23rd, 2011
Barbara Kay, National Post · Mar. 23, 2011 | Last Updated: Mar. 23, 2011 5:04 AM ET
One of abortion's most militant activists and practitioners died last month. At the exact same instant, one of abortion's most militant critics also died. It wasn't quite the coincidence it appears to be; the pro-abortion and antiabortion activist were one and the same man.
If you can imagine Dr. Henry Morgentaler experiencing a mid-career epiphany, and spending the rest of his life publicly atoning for the innumerable lives he had snuffed out, you would have a fairly accurate picture of his American doppelganger, the extraordinarily influential Dr. Bernard Nathanson.
A secular Jew, Nathanson's gloomy family history offered propitious terrain for psychological extremism. Both a grandfather and his sister committed suicide; his father (an obstetrician/gynecologist) made at least one attempt. In 1949, while Nathanson was in medical school at McGill, he paid for his girlfriend's illegal abortion. As Father Raymond J. de Souza wrote on these pages shortly after Nathanson's death, the episode galvanized him into activism promoting the legalization of abortion.
Nathanson once said, "I am one of those who ushered in this barbaric age." Just weeks before he died, that "barbaric age" was embodied in the arraignment of Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell on eight murder charges: a third-degree charge for a woman who died under his knife, and seven first-degree charges of infanticide for "snipping" the spines of live babies "to ensure fetal demise": i.e. inducing births of viable thirdtrimester babies, and deliberately killing them post-delivery.
In its 261-page report, the grand jury described the conditions at Gosnell's filthy "clinic" as rivalling those in a Third World country: unwashed instruments spreading venereal disease, cats defecating where they pleased, a padlocked emergency exit, and floors sticky with placental and fetal remains.
Gosnell's gruesome practice was no secret, but the Pennysylvania Department of Health had decided to stop inspecting abortion clinics because "officials concluded that inspections would be 'putting a barrier up to women seeking abortions.'" Thus, for 30 years, thanks to activists' remorseless protection of unconstrained abortion access, Gosnell ran his little house of horrors without any oversight whatsoever.
In 1995, according to the Washington Post, 56% of Americans were "pro-choice." In 2010, the number dipped to 45%. Twenty-nine state governors are anti-abortion. Revulsion against unregulated abortion is thus growing, not subsiding in the United States. Here, too? How can we know? The subject is virtually verboten in political, academic and media forums.
At his arraignment, Dr. Gosnell was described by one observer as "a little befuddled." He understood the charge for the dead woman, but didn't seem to understand why killing live babies was wrong. Prochoicers in Canada often say the medical profession could never produce such a monster here. But as Bernard Nathanson discovered, good intentions, amongst doctors as amongst ideologues, can produce the worst monsters of all.