Subject: The Bible and Abortion Part 4: The Power of the Cross is in Transforming Lives
Psalm 130:3-4 “There is Forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”
Five years ago this week, Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s death was celebrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. A giant in the pro-life movement, he is the narrator of one of the most impactful movies ever made – ‘The Silent Scream’, an actual film of an abortion of a twelve-week old baby. In the film, Dr. Nathanson guides us through the visual images as the baby struggles to avoid the oncoming surgical instruments and then the baby’s scream as the tools begin to tear him into pieces.
Where did Dr. Nathanson get the idea to make such a movie? President Ronald Reagan, who in a 1984 speech to the Association of National Religious Broadcasters stated that a child undergoing an abortion suffers “long and agonizing pain”. While the liberal media and medical community disputed Reagan’s claim, Dr. Nathanson made ‘The Silent Scream’ to prove that Reagan was right: “I mulled it over and thought there’s only one way we can resolve this issue, and that’s by photographing an abortion, beginning to end.”
There have been many famous pro-life champions since the infamous 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. What makes Dr. Nathanson’s story so amazing? The fact is, he was at one time the most famous abortionist in America. When Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun ruled in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade case that abortion on demand is now legal throughout America, it was this same Dr. Bernard Nathanson who responded to the Supreme Court decision by announcing “I was pleased with Justice Harry Blackmun’s abortion decisions, which were an unbelievably sweeping triumph for our cause.”
At the time of the Roe vs. Wade decision, Dr. Nathanson had already personally performed over 5,000 abortions. As the Director of the world’s largest abortion clinic in New York City, he was responsible for over 75,000 abortions (by his own estimate). While he was in charge of the New York abortion clinic, he actually performed the abortion of his own child on a woman he had gotten pregnant. And in 1968, he had cofounded NARAL (The National Abortion Rights Action League).
What changed America’s most prolific abortionist into the most vocal defender of an unborn baby’s right to life? The first step was technology – the invention of the ultrasound machine: “I am often asked what made me change my mind. How did I change from prominent abortionist to pro-life advocate? In 1973, I became director of obstetrics of a large hospital in New York City and had to set up a prenatal research unit, just at the start of a great new technology which we now use every day to study the fetus in the womb.”
The next step was his moral conscience when confronted with truth. While doing his normal routine of 15-20 abortions a day, he and a colleague recorded an abortion using ultrasound. After watching the video, his colleague never did another abortion. Nathanson confessed, “I … was shaken to the very roots of my soul by what I saw… It is clear that permissive abortion is purposeful destruction of what is undeniably human life. It is an impermissible act of deadly violence.” He felt the weight of guilt for what he had been doing all those years, but he did not know where to go to find forgiveness: “I felt the burden of sin growing heavier and more insistent. I have such heavy moral baggage to drag into the next world that failing to believe would condemn me to an eternity perhaps more terrifying than anything Dante envisioned… I am afraid.”
Then in 1989, he was deeply moved by the Christian organization ‘Operation Rescue’ as he watched them pray in downtown Manhattan at a Planned Parenthood clinic. He was drawn their reliance on their God who moved them to risk their own lives for the sake of unborn children: “They prayed for each other but never for themselves. And I wondered: How can these people give of themselves for a constituency that is (and always will be) mute, invisible and unable to thank them?”
Nathanson began searching to understand who this God is. And he discovered in the New Testament the Person of Jesus Christ: “The New Testament God was a loving, forgiving, incomparably cossetting figure in whom I would seek, and ultimately find, the forgiveness I have pursued so hopelessly, for so long.”
As our verse this week emphasizes, the most awesome thing to fear about the God of the Bible is that only He has the power and the desire to forgive you for whatever you have done, including the mass murder of over 75,000 unborn children. That is the message of the cross of Jesus Christ – it is the power of God to transform the life of Bernard Nathanson and yours, if you are willing to come to Him for forgiveness.