One of the most deeply disturbing accounts of the history of the practice of legalised abortion in the modern era has still not been surpassed 14 years after it was published.
In a truly unique autobiographical account entitled The Hand of God, Dr Bernard Nathanson tells the story of his life through the prism of his own pivotal role in the movement to legalise abortion in the United States.
Working closely with feminists such as Betty Friedan and others and attuned in a remarkable way to the zeitgeist of the Sixties, Bernard Nathanson, perhaps more than any other single person on the planet, was able to claim the lion’s share of responsibility for the decision of the US Supreme Court 40 years ago which is known universally today as Roe v Wade.
To whom can anyone appeal when evil is accepted in a society as a moral virtue? This was perhaps the essence of experience of the Jewish people in the Holocaust of the Second World War.
It is certainly the essence of the problem of abortion today. Certainly Bernard Nathanson, who remarkably went on to become perhaps the most authentic voice of the pro-life movement in his country, was often quoted as saying that “abortion is the most atrocious holocaust in the history of the United States”.
He would have known. The Record urges its readers to purchase copies of The Hand of God, which is as close to being modernity’s equivalent of St Augustine’s famous Confessions as they are ever likely to read.
Dr Nathanson, who died in 2011, came to mind again in the last fortnight as an estimated 650,000 Americans hit the streets of their nation’s capital to protest against the singular evil of abortion almost 40 years to the day after he and his collaborators succeeded in bringing the practice of killing unborn children to term.
Yet, those ordinary Americans who braved minus six-degree weather for a day to witness to what Bernard Nathanson described as his vector theory of life – that from the instant of conception there exists “a self-directed force of life that, if not interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby” – can in an entirely positive and inspiring way be called Bernard Nathanson’s real children.
By his own estimation Dr Nathanson presided over approximately 75,000 abortions – including of his own child. His success in the US led directly to the legalisation of abortion throughout the world, including here in Australia.
Yet, it is something of a sign of the hope that the pro-life movement can hold in its heart that around ten times that number turned out to speak for abortion’s victims, both mothers and children, at the recent March for Life.
Bernard Nathanson eventually entered the Church under the guidance of a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei, former Wall Street merchant banker Fr John McCloskey, known to his friends simply as ‘CJ’.
We imagine that Dr Nathanson, whatever guilt may have lingered in his life for his role in effectively legalising abortion throughout the world, was looking down from heaven full of love for those in the streets following in his own footsteps.
Among them were many women who, too late, discovered what abortion really is and the suffering it brings.
Oddly, here in Perth and just days after the January 25 anniversary of Roe v Wade yet another contradiction in how our own society thinks about abortion appeared.
A February 1 editorial in The West Australian reflecting on the damage done to unborn children by alcohol consumption appeared under the remarkable headline proclaiming ‘Child protection must start before they are born.’
It was even more remarkable to read the sentence in the second last paragraph of the editorial which simply asserted: “It is vital that the rights of the unborn child are respected and protected.”
The editorial was completely correct and its blunt assertion can only be lauded genuinely by everyone.
Yet, paradoxically, it is a sign of evil that it can only really act under what can be called a contradiction. The evil of abortion, for example, can only exist when a society denies the obvious truth that abortion kills a child.
A society can only permit abortion by both asserting and denying simultaneously that unborn children are unborn children.
Abortion, in the end, can only continue to exist when governments, journalists and citizens begin to live a pretence or an illusion that the children we want are children but the ones we don’t want or who make us uncomfortable are not.
Yet perhaps the astonishing remarks of The West Australian are the barest glimmer of what seems to slowly becoming more apparent – a dimly growing awareness that the unborn … are.
Those marching in the streets of Washington last week were marking four decades of the most hideous evil of global society, hidden by the glittering but empty sham culture of affluence and all its trappings, devoid of any moral compass.
Yet their hope is neither forlorn nor futile. At 40 years after Roe v Wade abortion continues, but now it is becoming apparent that it can only do so as its essential and fundamental contradiction bites more and more with each passing year.
Its defenders look more and more simplistic and unscientific, and more and more alarmed. But those who speak for our children look stronger and stronger by the day. Pray for Dr Nathanson’s intentions.