Former Abortionists Testify/Program 4

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1990
Two doctors who performed thousands of abortions tell their stories of what caused them to leave the business, even though it cost them personally and financially.

With Dr. John Ankerberg, Judie Brown, Carol Everett, Debbie Henry, Dr. McArthur Hill, Dr. Carolyn Gerster, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. Anthony Levatino, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Mrs. Adele Nathanson, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Joseph Randall, Joe Scheidler, Susan Smith, Kathy Sparks, Bishop Austin Vaughan, Nita Whitten, and Dr. John C. Willke

Editor’s note: Reader caution is advised. The transcript contains graphic medical descriptions.

What Would Convince an Abortion Provider to Change His Mind?

Ankerberg: There are three people that I’d like you to hear during this program. One is the first Roman Catholic Bishop to be arrested in a pro-life demonstration, Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York will tell you his story in a moment. You are also going to see pictures of how he was arrested.
Second, I want you to hear the story of Dr. Joseph Randall, a doctor who opened one of the first abortion clinics in Atlanta, and performed over 36,000 abortions. What was it that finally convinced him to change his mind?
Then finally, I’d like you to hear Dr. Bernard Nathanson tell you about what it cost him personally and financially to leave the abortion movement.
But to begin, here is Bishop Austin Vaughan of New York, the first Roman Catholic Bishop to be arrested in a pro-life demonstration.
Bishop Austin Vaughan: The thing, the two smaller things, that really pushed me in was about a year and a half ago, maybe to almost two years now, I was asked to give a talk to a group of Catholic lay people on Long Island on the role of the laity in the church. And the people at the same dinner were making an honorary presentation to Joan Andrews, who was still in jail in Florida. They were giving her a plaque. And I said in the course of the talk that I thought that she was entitled to collect her support from all of us. And in a sense it seemed to me as if she was doing my job. There really would have been more reason for me to be in jail on that cause than her.
In between the courses of that meal, I was asked to take part in a radio broadcast, a taped broadcast from a small station in Long Island. The man was interviewing Father Lisante, who was the Family Life Director of the Catholic Diocese on Long Island, who, the week before had written an article on Randy Terry’s first major rescue in Cherry Hill, NJ. And he raised the question of whether or not a priest should get arrested. When I went on the program they asked me what I thought of that. I said I thought that, if the cause were right, it would be easier for a priest to be arrested than it would be for a married man with small children, who had to be concerned about the support of his own children.
Well, no sooner had I said that than a couple of people came up to me and asked if I would join in a rescue the following night. I told them I’d think about it. They came back in April. I told them I still hadn’t thought about it. I wasn’t moving very fast. But the thing that finally moved me in was the presidential primary last year in New York in April. For two weeks we had media saturation with the primary. You couldn’t turn on the television station, open a newspaper, without some politician explaining why he should be the next president of the United States. And for two weeks not a single candidate of either party ever mentioned unborn children, abortion, a million and a half dying a year.
It seemed to me we were very close to a situation where it was a non-issue. And if it was a non-issue, it was a horror for us. We’d looked with horror at the Germans who didn’t stop this. But in a real sense, we have more responsibility than the Germans. It was at least partly hidden there; we have the figures from the Centers for Disease Control. So if you put all of those together, I had no answer to Joan Andrew’s challenge, and I had no answer to Randy Terry’s challenge on that: “If you really believe that abortion is murder, why aren’t you doing something about it?” And so I went on a rescue. I went with a little bit of hesitation, because I knew almost nobody there, wasn’t completely sure I wouldn’t wind up in the middle of a bunch of kooks. But after the first day I knew that the people who were there, they were peaceful, they were prayerful, they were dedicated. I never had any hesitation since then.
Reporter: When you were arrested. Describe what your feelings were, and what happened.
Vaughan: The most special feeling was the first rescue that I went on with almost 700 people there. And almost all of them were arrested that day, so there was a good deal of companionship. The one shocking thing for me that day was some of the counter-demonstrators. There were about 25-30 of them, many of them young women, some of them men who probably were gays. But I guess I have never seen an expression of so much hatred toward strangers on the part of anybody. That caught me off guard. Some people described it almost as diabolical. I’m hesitant to go to that extent, but it certainly was something very, very startling for me.
Reporter: Did you have any thoughts when you were riding in the patrol wagon, or down in the jail?
Vaughan: No, just wondering what was going to come. When I got home I was no sooner home than a reporter from the Times was on to ask who I was representing. She wanted to know if I was representing the Cardinal and the Diocese. I said I was representing myself. And she said to me, “Well, then, you’re just an individual?” I said, “Well, I’m an individual who happens to be a Roman Catholic Bishop. And I’m going because of the beliefs of my Church. So it’s not simply an individual in that sense.”
Reporter: And how did people in the Parish react to the news?
Vaughan: Some were a little surprised. But I was sure beforehand that I would get complete support from the people in my Parish. And that’s been true right from the beginning. I was asked before going, by people, what they thought the reaction would be on the people in my Parish, and I’m Vicar for a whole county. And I said I felt the people in my own Parish would be completely supportive.
I think that the Church is in a unique position to educate people with regard to this. We often hear complaints that the media, the major media, are against us. And that’s probably true, by and large. We often hear that we can’t afford to pay the sums that would be required to advertise on major media. But we have an untold number of churches and schools with direct and immediate contact that’s much more personal than what the media has on people. The people who come for whatever reason are committed, at least to some extent, to that church and to what’s presented in terms of teaching. And by and large—I speak for myself; I don’t know in Protestant churches—we haven’t done the job yet in terms of teaching people.
I would think that every one of our Parishes should make available, on an ongoing basis, films on what the development of an unborn child is like, on what an abortion is like. There’s no way that those kind of films that are available now, and that didn’t exist when Roe vs. Wade was passed, can fail to have an impact on people. The only way they won’t have an impact is on people who walk out of the room and won’t look at them.
Ankerberg: Now, I’d like you to listen to Dr. Joseph Randall, a practicing obstetrician in Atlanta, who once performed more than 36,000 abortions at his abortion clinic. Since then he has changed his mind, and here’s his story of what took place.
Randall: That was a gradual process, but definitely there was a point in time where I started to think differently about the abortions. I think, first what happened was, I had become married through all this process, had a couple of children, one was born here in Georgia, and one’s a Yankee. And I came down here, but I guess I got to feeling my oats, or felt like I deserved some thing in life. There had to be another purpose in life besides simply making money and having the fancy house and the car—I had a Jaguar, convertible—had a horse. And I just had all the amenities, but I was looking for something else. And since I was somewhat of a backward fellow when I was in High School, I didn’t date more than a few women before I was married. One of the ways I thought I was serving myself was to play the gay blade, you know, the kind of macho guy, because that was popular at that time.
So, a little bit too much of that, I ended up having an affair, and then ended up in a divorce. And unfortunately, two little boys lost their daddy, functionally, at that time. It didn’t bother me much, at that time, a little bit, but I got over that quick, because I said, “And now I’m finally a bachelor doctor in the “Big A”—Atlanta.” I mean, I had it made. And I had a great time: wine, women and song, you know, all that sort of thing. I had let my hair grow into sort of an afro-like affair over my head, and I had a beard fused into the bottom. I looked kind of like a Mau Mau. And had a black leather jacket—well it wasn’t really leather. It was pseudo leather from K-Mart. It cost about $19.95. But it looked like a real leather jacket: tough. So I had that, and I had the appropriate motorcycle to go beneath me. And I also took up karate, because that was part of it, too. And had the girlfriends.
Well, what happened was, I accidentally dated a Christian lady. And she, I prevented very successfully for some time, from knowing I did abortions. Because I knew Christians didn’t like that kind of thing. I mean, I’ve been picketed just a little bit by people, and they were almost always Christians: nerdy people running around; kind of wimpy, didn’t do too much. Weren’t there very often. But they were annoying when they were there.
So I knew they didn’t like it. And I liked her. But she found out, and really, through other reasons I won’t go into, we broke up. But before we broke up, and throughout that time when she knew I was an abortionist, she never judged me on it. She simply told me that I was killing children. Didn’t I know I was killing children? “No,” I said, “I’m not killing children, I’m just serving women. These are just blobs of tissue,” that kind of thing.
But she gave me two Scriptures, and that’s where it hit me. Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139, well known to us all now, but not to me. I hadn’t looked at the Bible, I assure you, for years. I’d kept it on the shelf where it belonged, although I was raised kind of religiously and kind of liked the traditions. But in any event, Jeremiah 1:5 struck me in a personal way, that God knew me before I was born; He had consecrated me, and whatever my life purpose or plans were, and had outlined them before I was ever born. And then in Psalm 139 what kind of stood out was the same sort of thing where He had numbered my days before there were any of them. And for some reason I couldn’t explain, it was like I knew that if I was a fetus in there, that the Lord knew me as me, and I knew me was a human, that all those babies I did were humans too, in the full sense of the word, for the first time. And it was like you took a knife through my heart and, “Oh, boy, I guess I goofed.” It was like the biggest “oops” of my life.
So that was bothering me, but I didn’t stop doing the abortions at that time, because I was a divorced doctor, better known as a poor doctor, with 2/3 of my income going out to my ex-wife, who was not a happy camper. She didn’t like this—nine hearings just to get a divorce. So I also had pressure to keep the money coming. And of course, it was a lot of money in the abortions.
Well, I mentioned earlier that we were learning a lot more about the fetus, actually, and I really had to admit that I was learning more about them, and especially things like, at eight weeks we had seen pictures of these. We had a little embryo, little 8-week miscarriage, but it was still alive in a little dish. And they tickled it with a little feather and it moved its arms away. I mean, it had purposeful sort of motions. Well, okay, reflex, right? So, no problem, but a little bit annoying, a little bit unnerving. Then at 16 weeks we were learning that if you shine a bright light—like is on us now—through the mother’s abdomen, it will go through a little bit. The babies will put their hands over their eyes—very humanoid-like activity. Suck their thumb, which is, of course, even more humanoid. Play with the cord, and do what you’d do if you were in there. I mean, it was very humanoid. And that was expressed best on the ultrasound. I think the ultrasound has been stated, by many leading authorities, to be possibly the greatest single obstetrical advance in the 20th century. But it also put the baby on the TV and gave us tremendous “ethical dilemmas.” So I started to realize that I kind of wanted to stop doing the abortions.
Well, right about that time, a second Christian came into my life. I call her a “Christian implant.” She was in my office. She worked for me part time, but I assure you, she worked for the Lord full time. And she had a nasty habit of praying. And she went to a church of about 12,000 members. And she knew a lot of people, and they had the same habit. And guess who they were praying for, for about a year and a half? Yours truly. And I didn’t realize that. Well, she became my friend, too. And that was a long story, but in short, she was a foster mother. I was adopted at age six; I was in four foster homes; I had a good experience in the homes; therefore, the fact that… I like kids—curious, you know—and she took in these kids, about 20 or so over a period of five years. And I appreciated that attitude. So that was a key, that common ground, so to speak. And so she became my friend. And she never judged me, either. And she was an infertility patient, and she became my patient for infertility at that time. Despite the fact I knew she was a Christian, and she should hate my guts, but she didn’t. So that impressed me.
And she took me to this church. And at that church, I learned what being a Christian was all about. Being from the North, I wasn’t real familiar with that. And I didn’t meet a “real Christian” until I was down here. I thought I was a Christian. I mean, I went to church, I was baptized, I read the Bible once, got some credit for it, got Sunday School pins down to my knees. You know, I mean, I was a Christian, right? Wrong! And I found out from this Church that you had to have a relationship with God. And this relationship guaranteed you entrance into heaven. And that was, in itself, sufficient. But then, obviously, it changed your life, and He could do a lot better job with this life than I was doing. And I certainly, macho man or not, was not a happy person either. I was under a lot of pressure. I had a lot of fears about money. I had a lot of inadequacies, low self-esteem. The medical community, just as I said, didn’t look up to me, certainly. And so I was kind of wiped out there. But the fear of losing that money was the biggest thing that held me off for about a year and a half.
But, finally, on October 23, 1983, I decided that I was going to trust my life to Jesus Christ now, knowing who He was really; and that I would allow Him into my life and go all the way with Him, basically, and just trust Him. And I made that decision at my bedside on my knees at that time; and the fear, the doubt, the fear of money, all that stuff just left totally. The guilt from doing abortions, that also left, so I could speak. One person asked me one time, “How can you speak? You killed 32,000 people!” And I said, “Well, the Lord can do anything. He took that away so I could speak.”
After that I became involved in the pro-life speaking, and with the crisis pregnancy center and so forth. And my life has been just totally different.
Ankerberg: Finally, I asked Dr. Bernard Nathanson, once called the “abortion king” of New York City, because he was responsible for over 76,000 abortions, what it cost him personally, among his colleagues; and what it cost him financially, to leave the abortion movement and to come and argue the pro-life cause. Here’s what he said.
Nathanson: Well, in 1969, I took a maverick stance on the subject of abortion. Abortion had been proscribed in this country for probably 150 years prior to that time. And I came out in favor of abortion on demand. Well, that was audacious, to say the least! And it so provoked my colleagues in the medical establishment that I was really an outcast. And in fact, there were moves made to revoke my hospital privileges. Somebody made a serious suggestion to revoke my license for preaching this kind of heresy, medical heresy. So for years I was a pariah. Many people wouldn’t speak to me. They used to refer to me sneeringly as the abortion king. And, in fact, in the newspapers, that’s the way I was referred to in the city and elsewhere.
So, when I switched to the other side—you see, by that time everybody, now in the medical establishment, is pro-abortion—and when I decided that abortion was no longer ethically acceptable, based on these new data we had from ultrasound and other technologies, I became an outcast again. Here I was lonely again, out there as a pariah, challenging, again, the medical establishment. So for me it’s a comfortable place to be, to be a pariah. I mean, I’m really quite familiar with that terrain.
But there’s no question that this latest switch, like my early one, has cost me immensely in professional prestige; that is, my colleagues, many of them, don’t even speak to me anymore. It’s cost me economically in terms of patients who are prochoice not wanting to come to me anymore, even though I’ve had many letters saying, “You are a wonderful doctor. But I’m not going to come to you anymore because of your politics.” And many doctors who used to refer me patients for treatment and for delivery don’t do that any more. In fact, very few do, based primarily on this switch I made, and the posture of pro-life which I’ve taken up.
So it’s costly. But, of course, it’s different here. We’re in New York here, and New York is historically a liberal, pro-abortion town. And I probably have suffered more deeply here than were I practicing somewhere else in this country.
Ankerberg: These three men have all taken a courageous stand to protect unborn children in the womb. Where do you stand on this important issue? Have you done what you can to protect human life in the womb? I hope that, as a result of hearing these men tell their stories, that you will have the courage to get involved and to help stop abortion.

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