The pro-life essays of Nat Hentoff

On January 7, Nat Hentoff died. (Wesley Smith’s tribute does him justice.) He was a writer, a syndicated columnist, a lover of jazz, an atheist, a passionate civil libertarian, and a pro-lifer. I will always be in his debt, although I never met him. Reading his work while I was in my early twenties was subtly life-altering. His writing was one of many influences that made me think about things I’d rather not have thought about, eventually forcing me off the fence and into the pro-life movement.

If Hentoff’s name is unfamiliar to you, prepare to have your horizons broadened.

The Human Life Review, which published many of Hentoff’s pieces on the life issues, has done honor to him and service to readers by setting up a memorial web page. On it is a link, good through January 17, to a free download of a collection of Hentoff essays spanning twenty years.

Hentoff came around to a pro-life position only gradually, and not without pushback. From My Controversial Choice to Become Pro-life:

I didn’t see that an actual baby, a human being, was being killed by abortion for years because just about everyone I knew—my wife, members of the family, the reporters I worked with at the Village Voice and other places—were pro-choice. But then—covering cases of failed late-term abortions with a live baby bursting into the room to be hidden away until it died—I began to start examining abortion seriously.

I came across medical textbooks for doctors who cared for pregnant women, and one of them—The Unborn Patient: Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment by Drs. Harrison, Golbus, and Filly—turned me all the way around: “The concept that the fetus is a patient, an individual (with a DNA distinct from everyone else’s), whose maladies are a proper subject for medical treatment . . . is alarmingly modern. . . . Only now are we beginning to consider the fetus seriously—medically, legally, and ethically.”

I also began to be moved by a nationally known pro-life black preacher who said: “There are those who argue that the [woman’s] right to privacy is of a higher order than the right of life. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence of slaves on the plantation because that was private [property] and therefore outside of your right to be concerned.” (His name was Jesse Jackson, but that was before he decided to run for president, and changed his position.)

So, in the 1980s, in my weekly column in the Village Voice, I openly and clearly declared myself to be pro-life. That was—and still is—the most controversial position I’ve taken.


Do yourself a favor and read an essay or two. (Betcha can’t stop at one.) You’ll go back for more. You won’t always agree with him, but you’ll recognize his courage and commitment. You’ll be challenged.

Be careful about sharing his work with young people. Very dangerous stuff there. Look what it did to me.


Freebie for collegians; post-abortive dad speaks out; sidewalk advocacy: Pick of the web 12/20/13

WRZYG6AFG5AA The Human Life Review is the oldest journal of its kind, promoting a culture of life. I was a subscriber for many years. HLR wants to give FREE subscriptions to college students. If that’s you, send your name and a valid .edu email address to (h/t Ava Voissem)

On the heels of this week’s assisted suicide hearing in Massachusetts comes this news from National Right to Life about a move in France to legalize such “aid in dying.” 

Irene Ogrizek is a Canadian anti-euthanasia activist and, in her words, a committed leftist. She finds herself at odds with some of her liberal neighbors over respecting the lives of vulnerable people within shaky healthcare systems. In her post Buffet Liberals and Champagne Charlies, she casts a critical eye on end-of-life attitudes and practices in Canada and Belgium.

Jeff Bradford, a post-abortive father, has a mission. “I believe God is calling men to get involved and to stand up for the child and for women and make a difference, and really call us to be what God’s called us to be. And that’s protectors.” Read John Jalsevac’s profile of Bradford and his work. (h/t

A former leader of 40 Days for Life has launched a new ministry to train sidewalk counselors. Check out Sidewalk Advocates for Life. Signups for the first round of training will begin in February.

Give yourself a Christmas present by reading the blog posts from The Radiance Foundation. Ryan Bomberger’s post this week (“What Would {a Prochoice} Jesus Do?”) is an exceptional Nativity meditation.

I confess that this one came to me in the mail, not on the web: my most recent newsletter from the Birthright office closest to me reminds me of some of the things families in crisis could use this Christmas (and all year ’round). If you’re doing any shopping this last weekend before Christmas, consider picking up something as small as a box of disposable diapers or as large as a new car seat for babies. Take it to your nearest Birthright, CareNet, or crisis pregnancy center. Your church may have a collection point, too. and picked up Leaven’s report on the Massachusetts assisted suicide hearing.

Have you found a link worth sharing? You can post it in the comment section below. Thank you!