The Hand of God; A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind By Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., Selected Quotes
Silent Scream The Hand of God is “semi-autobiographical…for the study of…the…demise of one system of morality…and the painful acquisition of another more coherent, more reliable [morality]…[with] the backdrop …of abortion. p. 3.
“We live in an age of fulsome nihilism; an age of death; an age in which, as author Walker Percy (a fellow physician, a pathologist who specializes in autopsying Western civilization) argued, “compassion leads to the gas chamber,” or the abortion clinic, or the euthanist’s office.” p. 4.
“I worked hard to make abortion legal, affordable, and available on demand. In 1968, I was one of the three founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League. I ran the largest abortion clinic …and oversaw tens of thousands of abortions. I have performed thousands myself.” p. 5.
“The Hippocratic Oath states the following,
I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner, I will not give to a woman a pessary [a device inserted in the vagina, thought erroneously to initiate an abortion] to produce an abortion.
The oath is unambiguous on these matters.” p. 48.
“The World Medical Association meeting at Geneva, in 1948, in the aftermath of the revelations of the Nazi medical experiments, revised the oath marginally to include the pledge, “I will retain the utmost respect for Human Life from conception.”…in 1964 restated the theme : “The health of my patient will be my first consideration.” p.50. The unborn baby in an abortion procedure is not considered a patient.
Nathanson quotes Dr. Louis Lasagna from Johns Hopkins,
Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life [italics added]: this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. p. 50.
“There were perhaps three hundred or so deaths from criminal abortions annually in the United States in the sixties, but NARAL in its press releases claimed to have data that supported a figure of five thousand.” p. 90. The NARAL numbers were a lie.
Nathanson quotes Machiavellian strategy in advancing abortion, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” p. 90.
Nathanson quotes Napoleon, “L’audace, toujours l’audace” (“Boldness, always boldness”). p. 90.
Nathanson was counted himself at one time, “a Reform Jew or atheist.” p. 107.
“Robert Lifton, a psychiatrist, examined the behavior of Nazi doctors who presided over the mass slaughter in the camps and then returned to ordinary family life at the end of the working day. He termed this phenomenon “doubling,” the division of the self into two functioning wholes. The [abortion] physicians I [employed] were…mercifully unburdened with ethical or moral baggage.” p.107.
“I had come to the conclusion that there was no reason for an abortion at any time; this person in the womb is a living human being, and we could not continue to wage war against the most defenseless of human beings. Having looked at the ultrasound, I could no longer go on as before.” p.128.
“Embryos are Dependent Creatures. So are fetuses. So are we all dependent; on the kindness or tolerance of others, and on various biological and medical devices…Surely, dependency is not a measure of moral standing…” p. 128.
The Silent Scream.
By 1984, however, I had begun to ask myself more questions about abortion: What actually goes on in an abortion? I had done many, but abortion is a blind procedure. The doctor does not see what he is doing. He puts an instrument into a uterus and he turns on a motor, and a suction machines goes on and something is vacuumed out; it ends up as a little pile of meat in a gauze bag, I wanted to know what happened, so in 1984 I said to a friend of mine, who was doing fifteen or maybe twenty abortions a day, “Look, do me a favor, Jay. Next Saturday, when you are doing all these abortions, put an ultrasound device on the mother and tape it for me.”
He did, and when he looked at the tapes with me in an editing studio, he was so affected that he never did another abortion…The tapes were amazing…weren’t of very good quality… and began to show it pro-life gatherings… p. 141
Nathanson then recounts Silent Scream, the movie,
I was speaking at pro-life meetings around the country on weekends, and the response to the tape was so intense and dramatic that finally I was approached by a man named Don Smith, who wanted to make my tape into a film. I agreed that it would be a good idea. That is how The Silent Scream, which generated so much furor, came to be made. We showed it for the first time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 3, 1985. The reaction was instantaneous. Everybody was up in arms because The Silent Scream represented an enormous threat to the abortion forces and because it escalated the war (it’s not really a debate–we don’t debate each other; we scream at one another). For the first time, we had the technology and they had nothing. p.141 Emphasis mine.
Chapter 12 is titled To The Thanatoriums, an allusion the Walker Percy’s terrific book Thanatos.
Nathanson explains the reason for the acrimonious debate continuing still over abortion: It was decided by the courts and not through the public opinion in a public vote. Judges were legislating from the bench,
Like Dred Scott, Roe v. Wade…attempted to remove the abortion decision from politics and thus effectively radicalized the debate, discouraging compromise, political half-measures, or even edifying discussion. In particular it denied to pro-life forces the ordinary tools of politics…They were left with only two options, one largely illusory.
Politically, they could pursue a constitutional amendment banning abortion…But…in the absence of a national moral consensus on the issue, it is simply too large a step to be the first step. An America capable of passing a pro-life amendment would not need one; an America that needs one cannot possibly pass it. Emphasis mine. p. 178
Nathanson suggests another,[A]lternative that seemed open to pro-lifers was to wage a war of conscience, to educate, advocate, and nonviolently protest the horror until the nation was moved to reconsider. Meanwhile, if the protesters, advocates, educators, and pamphleteers could not move the nation at least they might save individual mothers and children from the monster. p. 178
“Resistance to the injustice [of abortion] may take many forms. Henry David Thoreau wrote the following in his monumental treatise “Civil Disobedience”:
Unjust laws exist. Shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally under such a government as this think that they ought to wait until they think they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that if they should resist the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt?… Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels? p. 183
“Speaking on slavery and the unjust Fugitive Slave Law to a New England audience, Emerson on January 25, 1855, stated the following:
Now what is the effect of this evil government?
To Discredit government. When the public fails in its duty, private men take its place…When the American government and courts are false to their trust, men disobey the government, put it in the wrong; the government is forced into all manner of false and ridiculous attitudes. Men hear reason and truth from private men who have brave hearts and great minds. This is the compensation of bad government–the field it affords for illustrious men, and we have a great debt to the brave and faithful men who in the very hour and place of the evil act, made their protest for themselves and their countrymen, by word and by deed. They are justified and the law is condemned
Emerson was speaking specifically of the slavery controversy…but the majestic sweep of his rhetoric encompasses every phylum, every genus, every species of man’s inhumanity to man. It is strong rhetorical medicine; it applies in every sense to the principles at stake in the abortion conflict.” P. 184
“Nathanson cites Cardinal Newman: No one was ever converted by argument.” P. 195
“Father McCloskey supports me and encourages me by paraphrasing the words Pascal uttered four hundred years ago: “The cost of believing God is minimal; the consequences of doubt may be significant.” P 195.
The afterword was written by Rev. C. J. McCloskey III, Washington, D.C., December 12, 2000, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn,
You have just read one of the more important autobiographies of the twentieth century. The Hand of God has been made available to countless millions of readers…
During the late 1970′s Dr. Nathanson became a favorite target of the anti-life cultural forces in America, the subject of ridicule and satire in comic strips and news commentary, and the butt of jokes of television comedians for his change of heart and mind regarding the objective reality of abortion, which he came to regard as the taking of innocent human lives, comparable to the Dachau of Hitler, the Gulag of Stalin, or the Cambodia of Pol Pot. Since then, along with maintaining a distinguished obstetric medical practice and university teaching, he has given hundreds of lectures throughout the world in defense of the unborn. Now in his seventies, he recently received a degree in medical bio-ethics, continuing his professional preparation and better arming himself to defend the cause of human life.
Thank you (foot)notes,
The Hand of God, by Bernard Nathanson was published by Regnery Publishing, Inc., in 1996.