Stephanie Gray

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Notorious abortionist Garson Romalis has died: over a decade ago, I sat with him in his office

Stephanie Gray

Another infamous Canadian abortionist has died.  The Vancouver Province reported that Dr. Garson Romalis died from illness on January 30, incidentally almost a full pregnancy gestation since abortionist Henry Morgentaler died last May 29.

When I learned of Dr. Romalis’ death, I couldn’t help but recall our encounter sitting in his medical office more than a decade ago when I was an 18-year-old UBC student. 

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My classmate and I wanted to organize a debate on abortion; having heard of Dr. Romalis as a local abortionist, we went to his office and asked his secretary if we could speak with him about participating in a forum.  After a few moments she returned to escort us down a hallway where we were brought to a room to speak with Dr. Romalis.  He was unwilling to debate, but recommended I contact Joyce Arthur—who also ended up being unwilling to debate.  We chatted for about 20 minutes and one thing he said was that women are always going to get abortions, so they can be legal and safe or illegal and unsafe.

That concern for women that he expressed to me back then was consistent with a reflection he gave in a January 25, 2008, speech at the University of Toronto Law School’s Symposium to mark the 20th anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler:

“I have been an abortion provider since 1972. Why do I do abortions, and why do I continue to do abortions, despite two murder attempts?

“The first time I started to think about abortion was in 1960, when I was in second year medical school. I was assigned the case of a young woman who had died of a septic abortion. She had aborted herself using slippery elm bark.

“...The young woman in our case developed an overwhelming infection. At autopsy she had multiple abscesses throughout her body, in her brain, lungs, liver and abdomen.  I have never forgotten that case. [Emphasis added]

“After I graduated from University of British Columbia medical school in 1962, I went to Chicago, where I served my internship and Ob/Gyn residency at Cook County Hospital....I will never forget the 17-year-old girl lying on a stretcher with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina.” [Emphasis added]

It is a tragic and powerful image that undoubtedly and profoundly affected Dr. Romalis.  My guess is that he didn’t get into abortions because he loved killing babies (in the speech above he said, “I had originally been drawn to obstetrics and gynecology because I loved delivering babies”).  My guess is that he got into abortions because he was moved by the plight of desperate women.

That is consistent with what two other abortionists I have since met (and formally debated) have conveyed.  Both Dr. Baram in Minnesota and Dr. Fellows in Ontario cited the impact, early in their pursuit of medical careers, of seeing women brought to the hospital, hurt by botched abortions, and their desire to help these women.  In fact, at our debate at the University of Western Ontario’s medical school, Dr. Fellows said, “[D]oing an abortion is not something I take great pleasure in; however, helping a woman solve the conundrum that she is presented with is something that I take pride in.”

Believe it or not, I have common ground with these abortionists—I agree that the tragic, horrifying, and very real situations they encountered most certainly warrant a serious response, and that the crises they saw should be prevented.

Where we differ is over how.

What kind of society have we become when we ensure no more women have their own small bowel hanging out of their vaginas by pulling and ripping the bowels (and other body parts) of their babies through their vaginas?

What kind of society have we become when we think we can eliminate a woman’s crisis by way of eliminating a woman’s child?

What kind of society have we become when the hands trained to heal become hands trained to kill?

When Dr. Romalis said abortions can be legal and safe or illegal and unsafe, he made a false dilemma.  There is a third option—illegal and unthinkable.  Abortions don’t have to happen at all.  There is a better way.

That better way is through supporting teenagers like Nadege who was abandoned by her father, five brothers, and boyfriend, and whose mother was dead, but who nonetheless embraced her pre-born son.

That better way is through empowering students like Veronika who was single, 22, and pressured to abort, yet said she “went from being very directionless to a full time student with a direction because of [her] daughter.”

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That better way is through walking with parents like T.K. and Deidrea, who were faced with a poor prenatal diagnosis and chose to maximize what minimal time they had left with their son—embracing every moment of their pregnancy, carrying to full term, and loving Thomas until he died five days later.

If only Dr. Romalis embraced this better way.

In a few days, his funeral will be held.  I wish it could be like that of another abortionist—Dr. Bernard Nathanson.  He was a founder of the National Association of the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) in the United States and was responsible for committing more than 75,000 abortions.  But in 1979 he committed his last one.  He became pro-life and his funeral in 2011 was filled with pro-lifers, including Joan Andrews Bell, a woman who had been jailed for peacefully protesting outside clinics.  In a gesture of mercy and trust, it was Joan Andrews Bell who had asked this redeemed doctor to deliver her baby girl years earlier, knowing that what matters most is not our past, but our present.

In his autobiography, Dr. Nathanson explained that he “discovered that the New Testament God was a loving, forgiving, incomparably cosseting figure in whom I would seek, and ultimately find, the forgiveness that I have pursued so hopelessly, for so long.”

May Dr. Nathanson’s sentiment be ours as well.

Reprinted with permission from UnmaskingChoice

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