Bernard Nathanson, Author of ‘The Silent Scream’, Dies

Dr Bernard Nathanson, whose funeral was held last week, was once a prominent figure in the abortion industry, yet ended up as one of its greatest opponents.  In the 1960s, the contraceptive pill permitted sexual relationships to be separated from the responsibility of parenthood, and helped usher in the sexual revolution.  At this time Nathanson was a leading campaigner for abortion rights in USA, which led to the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision legalising abortion on demand.
Nathanson personally performed over 5,000 abortions and supervised 70,000 more.  However, advances in ultrasound technology in the 1970s permitted him to observe what was happening to the unborn child during the abortion procedure.  This profoundly affected his attitude and he went on to make the influential film “The Silent Scream”, becoming a staunch opponent of the very practice which he had helped legalise.

Since then, ultrasound technology has become widespread, used not only for monitoring pregnancies but also for terminating them.  It permits gender selective abortion, which has led to the death of many million unborn girls across Asia, mainly in China and India.  On the other hand, high resolution, 3-D ultrasounds can help pregnant women reconsider having an abortion.  Often they are pressurised through their relationships with their partners or their parents, but once they ‘see’ their unborn child moving inside, they may be empowered to resist the pressure and continue with the pregnancy.

(Jonathan Tame – Friday Five)

Dr Bernard Nathanson, whose funeral was held last week, was once a prominent figure in the abortion industry, yet ended up as one of its greatest opponents.  In the 1960s, the contraceptive pill permitted sexual relationships to be separated from the responsibility of parenthood, and helped usher in the sexual revolution.  At this time Nathanson was a leading campaigner for abortion rights in USA, which led to the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision legalising abortion on demand.

Nathanson personally performed over 5,000 abortions and supervised 70,000 more.  However, advances in ultrasound technology in the 1970s permitted him to observe what was happening to the unborn child during the abortion procedure.  This profoundly affected his attitude and he went on to make the influential film “The Silent Scream”, becoming a staunch opponent of the very practice which he had helped legalise.

Since then, ultrasound technology has become widespread, used not only for monitoring pregnancies but also for terminating them.  It permits gender selective abortion, which has led to the death of many million unborn girls across Asia, mainly in China and India.  On the other hand, high resolution, 3-D ultrasounds can help pregnant women reconsider having an abortion.  Often they are pressurised through their relationships with their partners or their parents, but once they ‘see’ their unborn child moving inside, they may be empowered to resist the pressure and continue with the pregnancy.

Advances in pre-natal technology lead to children surviving outside the womb at ever decreasing gestational age – currently as low as 21 weeks.  As these technologies develop, it will become feasible to terminate an unwanted pregnancy early on by removing the foetus alive, and then nurturing it in an incubator – permitting, some argue, a win-win situation for both pro-choice and pro-life tendencies.

Technology is about what can be done; ethics is about what ought to be done; relationships help us understand why things are done, as well as the consequences of what is done.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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