Bernard Nathanson

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 02 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1358
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}

Presided over 60 000 abortions then became a pro-life campaigner

The self described Jewish atheist Bernard Nathanson in the mid-1990s finally popped the question that Father John McCloskey had been expecting for more than a decade: “Father, I want to become a Catholic. What do I have to do?”

Father McCloskey, a priest of the prelature of Opus Dei, said that the two men first met in the early 1980s, and not long after Nathanson expressed interest in knowing more about Catholicism. For more than a decade they met regularly in Nathanson’s Manhattan study for wide ranging discussions on Catholicism, faith, literature, abortion, and other topics.

A lot of baggage

“He was a man of great intelligence,” said Father McCloskey. “He was a voracious reader, and he would ask questions.” And Father McCloskey added, “He had a lot of life, and he was carrying a lot of baggage.”

That baggage included three failed marriages and growing up in a dysfunctional family with a father who Nathanson described as “the monster” in his 1996 autobiography, The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind. But Dr Nathanson’s heaviest burden was being directly or indirectly responsible for, by his …

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