Roe vs Wade: 40 years of lies (Lie #2)

SECOND LIE: When the Supreme Court justices took the case (Roe vs. Wade), they called upon experts in the medical field to provide statistics regarding the number of illegal abortions being performed on American women. Unknowingly, they swallowed a second lie–a huge one.

Statistics presented to dramatize the plight of desperate women gave a powerful emotional incentive to the passage of the ruling. One justice changed his vote at the last minute because his wife begged him in tears to “remember the thousands of women dying from illegal abortion.”
Yet the claim that “5,000 to 10,000” women were dying yearly from abortion, according to one who promoted this claim before the high court, was sheer fabrication.
“I confess I knew the figures were totally false,” writes the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson in his book, Aborting America (1979) . “But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, the overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible.”

Dr. Nathanson was an obstetrician turned abortionist turned pro-life advocate. Before the end of his career he would claim to have performed or overseen 75,000 abortions. But by the time he wrote Aborting America he was calling abortion “the most atrocious holocaust in the history of the United States” and in it he exposed what he termed “the dishonest beginnings of the abortion movement.”

What made Nathanson’s change of heart and admission of group deception especially powerful was the fact that he was a high-profile pro-choice activist and one of the founding members of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (later renamed the National Abortion Rights Action League), now NARAL Pro-Choice America. He worked with Betty Friedan and others, playing a large part in influencing the Supreme Court to see abortion as a medical issue, not a moral one, and to make unsafe abortions appear to be a national medical emergency.

With the development of ultrasound in the 1970s, Dr. Nathanson watched a real-time abortion. It changed his views forever on who the real victim is.

In 1984, Dr. Nathanson asked a colleague to allow him to film an abortion “through the uterine wall.” He made sure the woman whose abortion he would be filming was not open to other options.

In Wikipedia’s account of The Silent Scream, as the documentary was titled, “Nathanson serves as both the medical expert and narrator of the film, describing the events of the abortion as they unfold. He begins by stating the viewer is about to witness the ‘dazzling’ new ‘science of fetology’ and to witness an abortion in real time ‘from the victim’s vantage point.’ The film compiled a series of still ultrasound images of the abortion of a twelve-week-old fetus, which Nathanson describes as a child, spliced together to create the video.

“Nathanson displays the instruments used in a typical abortion and calmly demonstrates how each instrument is introduced into a woman’s body during an abortion. Nathanson points out that the head, even at 12 weeks’ gestation, will be too large to enter the suction device and shows how forceps are used to crush the skull, where brain waves have been active for six weeks.

“Nathanson then sits by a television screen showing ultrasound images of a fetus in its mother’s womb. As the images of an abortion appear on the screen, Nathanson describes step-by-step what is taking place. . .”

Pro-life groups welcomed the film. Then-President Ronald Reagan said “if every member of Congress could see that film, they would move quickly to end the tragedy of abortion.” Right to Life set about to provide a copy to each one of them.

But the backlash from the pro-choice community was immediate and outraged.  “Fraudulent and emotionally exploitative,” their leaders called it. “How can a fetus feel pain before the hypothalamus is even fully developed?”

I wove actual quotes into my historical novel on abortion in America, Compelling Interests, changing only the names. Two pro-choice advocates are watching the documentary, which is being narrated by Dr. Michaelson, my name for Dr. Nathanson:

“Look at that!” Liz shook her head as Dr. Michaelson, in a white lab coat, pointed to a blurred gray shape on the screen next to him and intoned, ‘We see the child moving rather serenely in its sanctuary.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “‘The child!’ Give me a break! It’s just a fetus, for God’s sake!”

“Its ‘sanctuary?‘” said Bobbie. She made gagging sounds.

“The child’s thumb is in its mouth,” Michaelson was saying.

“He’s telling the audience what to see! You can’t tell which of those wavy lines is the fetus, much less see a thumb!

“Now the abortionist inserts the suction apparatus which will tear the child apart.”

Something long and pale seemed to appear and flash about, but it was indistinct–everything in the picture was jostling around now. “The child will rear away from it and will undergo much more violent, much more agitated movement as it senses the most mortal danger imaginable–“

“That’s a lie!” burst out Bobbie. “How can he say that? It’s only moving because the instrument is moving–like stirring tea leaves in a cup!”

After a few seconds of agitation, part of the darkish lump in the center of the picture vanished. “The lower extremities have already been lost–“

Liz jabbed the “off” button on the remote. “That’s utterly outrageous! The whole thing is garbage! Nothing like that is happening at all. He’s completely misleading them and he makes it sound so professional.!”

“It’s so obvious,” said Bobbie. “No one will fall for it.”

“They will,” said Liz. “That’s the trouble. He’s a doctor, he’s an authority figure in a white coat. Besides, anti-choice people want to believe a fetus feels pain. They’ll see whatever they want to see.”

Pat [O’Connor, my name for the doctor who performed the abortion “Michaelson” filmed] had just finished a routine surgery and was stripping off his gloves when he looked up to see Dr. Michaelson before him.

“Pat,” his former boss began without preliminaries, “you’ve got to see this.”


“The ultrasound. Your abortion.”

Panic clutched at Pat’s stomach. “No,” he said  before he could stop himself.

“You’ve got to.”

“I’ve got patients.”

Dr. Michaelson didn’t speak. His presence, as usual, was overpowering.

There was a VCR in the office. Sometimes the staff watched training films on it. Dr. Michaelson wheeled it into one of the side rooms and shoved a tape into it. Pat followed reluctantly.

Both tense, both standing with arms crossed, not speaking, the doctors watched. There was the uterus, a shadowy bowl. Inside, the fetus was clearly visible, on its back. Pat could make out the orbit of the right eye, the mouth, the ventricle of the brain, the ribs in silhouette, the spine. The placenta was a granular area above the fetus.

The recorded voice of Richard Michaelson was explaining, “We see the child moving rather serenely in its sanctuary. The child’s thumb is in its mouth.”

Now the suction tip appeared as a shadow at the bottom of the screen. Reliving the procedure, Pat felt the long metal wand in his gloved hand again.  He felt himself inserting it into the uterus.

“This is the lethal instrument which will ultimately tear apart the child,” Michaelson’s voice was saying. “The child will rear away from it and will  undergo much more violent, much more agitated movement as it senses the most mortal danger imaginable. The heartbeat has speeded up, from 140 beats per minute to over 200.”

Pat’s heartbeat had speeded up, too. The suction apparatus–his own suction apparatus–appeared in the picture again, gray, aggressive. Probing, probing. It bumped into the child’s thigh. Attached to thick tubing which led to the abortion machine beside the  operating table, it clamped firmly onto the fetus. Pat knew that a pressure of 55 millimeters of mercury was being applied to pull the body inexorably out through the enlarged cervix.

“The body is being systematically torn from the head,” intoned the voice of Dr.Michaelson. “The lower extremities have already disappeared in a typhoon-like series of echoes as the abortionist is exerting traction.”

Pat found his palms sweating. His chest hurt. The child’s head reared back and the mouth opened in a wide–yawn or scream, Pat couldn’t tell which–and suddenly, half the child was gone. There was churning, the picture wasn’t clear. Now the body disintegrated.

Pat felt faint. He tried to lower his eyes but he couldn’t take them off the screen.

“The head is too  large to be drawn through the cervix whole. Now the abortionist introduces into the uterus a polyps forceps and he will attempt to grasp the free-floating head between the rings of the instrument–” Standing in a pristine medical gown before the enlarged image, the Michaelson on film demonstrated with a pair of silver forceps. “The head will be crushed, like so, and the contents of the head removed and then the bones of the head.”

The forceps were invading the smeared, watery contents of the uterus. They searched out and locked onto the floating sphere. There was a silent crunch. Nothing but shards were left. The womb was empty.

“This is one of the 4,000 early abortions done every day–” the voice said. Dr. Michaelson clicked the machine off and turned on the lights. He looked searchingly at Pat. Pat had sunk onto a wheeled stool. He sat there, his head in his hands, for a long time.

Then he stood slowly, as if unsure his legs would hold him. “My God,” he breathed. “My God.” Without another word, he turned unsteadily on his heel, opened the door, and walked out of the room.

Dr. Michaelson waited a few minutes, retrieved his tape, and strode to the reception area. The nurse behind the desk was gazing open-mouthed at Pat’s retreating back.

“The man’s gone nuts!” she said aloud. “He resigned–just like that. He said he’d never do another abortion.”

This is all true. The physician who let Dr. Nathanson film one of his abortions quit the business upon seeing The Silent Scream and never did another one.

Referring to his previous work as an abortion provider and abortion rights activist, Dr. Nathanson wrote in his 1996 autobiography Hand of God, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.” Nathanson developed what he called the “vector theory of life”, which states that from the moment of conception, there exists “a self-directed force of life that, if not interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby.”

Nathanson grew up Jewish and for more than ten years after he became pro-life he described himself as a “Jewish atheist.” In 1996 he converted to Catholicism. He was baptized by Cardinal John O’Connor in a private Mass with a group of friends in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When asked why he converted to Roman Catholicism he stated, “No religion matches the special role for forgiveness that is afforded by the Catholic Church.

Centers for Disease Control for the year before abortion was legalized show only 39 deaths due to abortion. Even if, as now, the cause of death was disguised under resultant symptoms, such as hemorrhage or infection, the number was probably not over 500, estimates Nathanson.

Hardly a number to justify the sweeping ruling making abortion legal at the desire of the mother alone for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy as Roe vs. Wade did, according to Doe vs. Bolton, the companion ruling decided later that same day which defined the meaning of Roe vs. Wade.


About Jessica Renshaw
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