Jewish World Review April 14, 2011 / 10 Nissan, 5771
The Doctor Who Saw What He Did
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The good doctor could have stepped out of a Louis Auchincloss short story. A fashionable but conscientious professional on the Upper West Side, his ideas, like his Brooks Bothers suits, were tailored to fit in. His ideals were those of the enlightened, modern urban America of his time, which was the mid- to late 20th century. And he was always doing what he could to further them.
The doctor's political, medical and social convictions were much what one would have expected of a
Having no convictions about the sacredness of human life, he was defenseless against its growing and increasingly legal appeal. Indeed, he was soon a leader in Pro-Choice ranks.
By his own count,
As director of the
Then something happened. The something was quite specific -- the newest EKG and ultrasound imagery. Always a follower of the latest scientific evidence, he couldn't deny what he was seeing. Political theory is one thing, but facts are facts.
By 1974, soon after Roe v. Wade had opened the way to his dream of abortion-on-demand, his eyes were opened. Literally. As he put it, "There is no longer any serious doubt in my mind that human life exists within the womb from the very onset of pregnancy." He changed his beliefs and his ways -- and sides.
I can identify. When Roe v. Wade was first pronounced, I welcomed it. As a young editorial writer in
The right to life need not be fully respected from conception on, I explained, but grew with each stage of fetal development until a full human being was formed. I went into all this in an extended debate in the columns of the Pine Bluff Commercial with a young Baptist minister in town named
Yes, I'd been taught by
Then something happened. I noticed that the number of abortions in the country had begun to mount year by year -- into the millions. Perfectly healthy babies were being aborted for socio-economic reasons. Among ethnic groups, the highest proportions of abortions were being performed on black women. (Last I checked, 37 percent of American abortions were being done on African-American women, though they make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population.)
Eugenics was showing its true face again. And it wasn't pretty.
Abortion was even being touted as a preventative for poverty. All you had to do, after all, was eliminate the poor. They were, in the phrase of the advanced, Darwinian thinkers of the last century, surplus population.
With a little verbal manipulation, any crime can be rationalized, even promoted. Verbicide precedes homicide. The trick is to speak of fetuses, not unborn children. So long as the victims are a faceless abstraction, anything can be done to them. Just don't look too closely at those sonograms. We are indeed strangely and wondrously made.
By now the toll has reached some 50 million aborted babies in America since 1973. That is not an abstract theory. It is fact, and facts are stubborn things. Some carry their own imperatives with them. And so, like Dr. Nathanson, I changed my mind, and changed sides.
There is something about simple human dignity, whether the issue is civil rights in the 1960s or abortion and euthanasia today, that in the end will not be denied. And it keeps asking: Whose side are you on? Life or death?
Long before he died the other day at 84,
"I have such heavy moral baggage to drag into the next world," he told the
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