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A Former Abortionist's Journey to Becoming Pro-Life (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
September 24, 2020 6:00 am

A Former Abortionist's Journey to Becoming Pro-Life (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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September 24, 2020 6:00 am

Former abortion provider Dr. Anthony Levatino explains how the tragic death of his young daughter and the grace of God led him to become the staunch pro-life advocate he is today. His wife, Cecelia, describes the profound impact her husband's journey has had on their marriage. (Part 1 of 2)

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So let me ask you to take a second and look at your right hand and hold your index finger in your thumb about an inch apart and consider you were once small even when you are that small. You were perfectly married and you were seen and loved by God and that realization has changed one man's life forever.

And you can hear his powerful story today on Focus on the Family your hostess focus presidents and other Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller, John. It's truly amazing to think of how detail oriented, God is. He holds the whole universe in his hands and still takes the time to carefully notice altogether, our fingernails, our ears or eyes are. That's one of the reasons for an ultrasound of a pre-born baby in the third trimester this Saturday evening in the premiere of sea life 2020. This is the online version of what we did in Times Square.

Last year when we showed an ultrasound of a baby on the big screens that picture of a pre-born baby is really one of the best and most persuasive arguments for why it really is and you can find out more about sea life 2020, which is our free online event this Saturday 8 PM Eastern by going to our website and we've got the link in the episode note and Jim are guests today have the perspective of the pro-life movement that is really crucial for us to understand.

That's true in today were going to share a powerful conversation that we had with a doctor who used to perform abortions, thousands of them and I can guarantee you won't be able to listen to his story without being impacted and reminded of the amazing grace we all are offered through Jesus and his name is Anthony Leva, Tino and his wife Cecelia joined us in the studio as well, and Dr. Leva. Tino has 40 years experience as an OB/GYN.

Cecilia is a former medical professional as well and as we get into the content.

There will be some tender and perhaps even graphic content in the broadcast appearance that you might want to use your earbuds for this one. Let's go ahead and listen in now to the first of this two-part conversation on Focus on the Family. Tony and Cecelia, welcome to Focus on the Family, thank you, thrilled to be so good to have you. You two had similar childhoods but you entered adulthood with the different beliefs about abortion and describe what you believed in Tony Start with you. I graduated from medical school in 1976 and I didn't know exactly what I was in a do when I went to medical school. My mother, who had six children had always said all maybe you become a baby doctor is in no way mom never say never never say never. When I did my third year rotations.

His third year. My first one was in obstetrics and gynecology and I learned pretty quickly that this was really great stuff. I really enjoyed doing this was only my first rotation as well.

Like all my rotations well turned out he didn't and different personalities go to different areas of medicine and mine was. It was so much more fun saying it's a boy it's a girl rather than yell you know your mom's in bad shape, maybe you better come to the hospital so I graduated in 76 when Ann had already picked Toby Jenna's my route, my specialty, if you'd asked me how I felt about the abortion issue. I wouldn't have hesitated to for a second to tell you I was pro-choice. This was a decision between a woman, her doctor and no one including the baby's father had anything to say about and you defended that absolutely there is little Cecelia you were the medical profession as well.

Nurse or yes I did, renal transplants, and in that context. You had a different perspective. You didn't think abortion was a good thing to do. I didn't.

I remember very vividly abortion was legalized in New York State three years prior to Roe versus Wade. And I was in nurses training at the time, and our instructor came to us that a group of us who are going into our OB rotation and said the hospital is going to start performing abortions and it's up to you as a student to decide whether you want to learn how to assist and in my entire class was only one other nursing student besides myself who said nothing to do that right is encouraged in the class to be one of two people to say no. Not for me. Did you get any pushback.

Now we really didn't back that I mean this was 1971 right and our instructors were very supportive of the fact that we had the right to make that decision. Where was God for both of you, just to paint the picture for the listener of you know your go-getter 70s doctor you're coming out of med school OB/GYN. You're the nurse you guys meet unassuming in a medical environment did you reworking at the same hospital. Yeah when he was interned okay. It is doing surgical rotation on the transplant floor and that's how we net and then spiritually. I mean, was there anything there. What in the world is the Lord in your heart at that time or was it just just wasn't part of your life. It wasn't. We had both walked away from the faith that we had been raised and and I think pretty much at that point we would probably have categorized ourselves as agnostics okay and then you get married and again you're coming from different perspectives on this issue.

Course you're marrying a doctor who does OB/GYN. He's also doing abortions at this time. How did you feel Cecelia, I mean did did you ever bring it up around the dinner table now is not a topic of discussion and it really didn't become an issue until we decided to start a family and we are having an infertility problem and I wasn't getting pregnant and so Tony sent me to the best infertility specialist in town and after a lot of tests and some surgeries and other experimental things he he said you know there's one Mart there's one more surgical procedure.

We can try to only take about an hour and 1/2 and when he walked out of the LR three and half hours later.

He looked at Tony and he said you now I never say never but don't plan on having any children of your own. We are devastated yeah and I want to pick up on that but I want to continue to build kind of the environment you're in working to come back to pick up part of the story of Tony you as a doctor. One of things that I understand your taught you have to somewhat distance yourself emotionally from your patient sometimes you have to do things that are tough and grueling. All those things but particularly in the abortion industry have to dehumanize the baby's you do that you absolutely do plumbing that dehumanization is such a tough term okay but keeping an emotional distance from your patients is essential to our work and there is there is a certain professional distance that must be maintained professionally. On the other hand, that distance can get a little bit too far and you're right and you know in terms of abortion.

I'm just doing a medical procedure. I'm just hoping this woman right stop selling itself, will you tell yourself that, but in unison I'm not actually tearing babies apart. But then again at the end of even a suction D&C abortion you have to do is suction machine is a little sake, and there the collective parts at the end of the procedure you have to take that open that up empty it and literally take inventory to make sure that you got to arms to legs and all the pieces so you tell yourself that day in and day out, but your face the reality of it every single procedure you do.

I think some people Tony hearing that the they can't fathom how you get that distant from humanity that you know is you're doing the D&C which is cutting this baby apart right and pulling the baby out piece by piece.

I assure you, and I'm sure your audience realizes you can get used almost anything to do it enough when it's amazing the other side of this is the profit motivation I've met with some people in Planned Parenthood and they were bold enough to simply say to me that it's the money abortion is very profitable. Speak to that and what you experienced in your own practice. When it came to the profit incentive as an understand something I was not running an abortion clinic so I was all of the abortions that I don't in my career were part of a routine OB/GYN office like probably almost every woman in the audience is been to a one time or another. We did everything we do. Hysterectomy's we do deliveries and we did a portion now there's a little bit of a different focus when you're doing that if I'm running an abortion clinic and you come in and you change your mind.

I don't make any money that day in my office we didn't care we really didn't care. You want to have an abortion. Great you want to have your baby great. We were perfectly happy either way. On the other hand, obstetrics is a very high risk specialty in terms of medical malpractice is one of the noise at the highest end of the malpractice hit parade along with neurosurgery, maybe orthopedics so there's a lot of legal liability involved and I could at the time I could do a delivery I would see you eight or nine times during your pregnancy, I would you call me in the middle the night, I'd show up in the hospital I sometimes I would wait for hours for the baby will be born, and for all that effort. I made about $1200 say average at the time.

Or I could do an abortion.

I wish we were charging for a first trimester abortion we were charging may be in again. This was this was early 80s, but no. 302, maybe $500 depending on how far along you were there was more.

If you were if we were doing a second trimester abortion is a hold of the story, but I could do an abortion in 15 minutes if I did three abortions. I may just as much, as I made with all those months of effort with the author, obstetrics and analyte I'm done in less than an hour and I could be on the golf course you know in no time flat and face essentially no legal liability because you know things do happen to her during abortions, but it was relatively rare to get a lawsuit is no woman wants to sit in a court of law and talk about her abortion yeah Tony. I mean, I am sure some listeners is there hearing you your doctor your medical professional or even speaking of this very clinically but it is what it is right. This is this is the business. This is the industry. This is what happens in that environment. Cecelia I now want to come back to that opening that you gave me regarding your family desires where you're at.

How long were you married when you wanted to start having children weekly kind of we kinda laugh now on. I think I was 29 or something and and that we thought we were really old and needed to get started right away. Nine 2930 go to sell Leo's days are long yeah so so we didn't wait very long we he came from a family of six. I had two sisters. We having kids was part of what we saw our future sure so getting back to your original question, it wasn't until I was going through the infertility that the fact that he was doing abortions started to impact me emotionally what that connection feel like to hear you're trying to get pregnant your husband's doing abortions taking the lives of babies is quite a contrast. It wise and that's exactly how I was processing it. I can remember literally standing in the shower just crying my eyes out and and even though we weren't affiliated with any church or anything.

I mean I can remember vividly just crying to God and saying you know, here I am trying to have a baby my husband is killing them. Please large you know it was very emotional. It was because I knew what was going on but something I guess for some they wouldn't necessarily make that connection. It's amazing the Lord, you know, allowed you to see that contrast. You feel it the way he felt a lot of people would have gone right by that this is what my husband does. We were still finding it difficult to talk to Tony about it right.

Oh yeah, we we didn't talk about it so I off-limits it was it was off-limits.

I remember vividly bringing it up, we are out to dinner with a couple of other doctors in their lives and foolishly saying something pro-life and one of the doctors want. I mean, he practically came over the dinner table and said what he wanted to go back to the days of the of coat hangers like blow okay you know my husband just starting his practice. We we can't talk about these things well just put you in the corner. It really did walk and I was totally intimidated by it. Tony, as you're pursuing the family and you're going through infertility options. Was there any kind of conflict for you here trying to have a baby and you're taking the lives of other women's babies. It was not a problem initially mean seal was going through the whole infertility thing and when her doctor and walked out as a set hours after this procedure had begun, and said you know I never say never but don't count and having a family of your home. That's when it first hit me, and very soon after that. As you know we we decided well all right of these are the cards we've been dealt will adopt a baby in anyone who is trying to adopt a baby knows how difficult sure it's a process as well is incredibly difficult and you we went to state agencies religious agencies County agencies. The best we could do. After months of effort was get on a five-year waiting list to get on the actual waiting list and that was when I had my first else mean they would strictly selfish, but it was you know, here I am. I'm perfectly willing to take any child you know to love and care for as our own. And that's when I had my first else about it. I remember I remember very distinctly a particular abortion. I can see the room and doing a first trimester D&C abortion. And, you know, opening the machine looking at the pieces and thinking my gosh I'm throwing these kids in the garbage in a wooden even one of these women allow us to take her baby home and care for as our own. But of course it doesn't work that way. That was a first else ahead. There were very selfish but that's the doubt crept in know and I can imagine.

However, there came a moment in that adoption pursuit where someone became available, what, what with the details regarding that Tony and I were talking about the adoption process one night and and he said he now I know 52 OB/GYN sent a first name basis quietly to start advertising does go to the doctors call them you see him in the hospital in the delivery room. Just let them out with her baby to adopt and he did and it wasn't long after that that he was in the OR. One day, and the circulating nurse tapped him on the back of the shoulder and held up a little piece of paper that said call Marsha Marsha was ahead of the human resources at the hospital and down when he was finished in the LR he called her and she told him that there was a 15-year-old girl in labor and delivery on had had no prenatal care until the day before that, it looks like she know her parents had taken good care of Erin and the baby was going to be a nice healthy baby and she was doing fine 15 years old 15 days of she was in labor at the time and so she said, are you interested in. Tony said you bet. And we are able to adopt a little girl named Hannah Heather and and was relatively easier. At that point, I mean the money is rolling out all you need to get to release the baby for adoption and everything went very very smoothly. The so often we hear the story so couple is deemed infertile. The seek adoption with all the heartache of the babies available is not available and even out of foster care. You know, if you trotted up through the foster care which we advocate, we have a program called Wade no more that helps couples consider adoption from foster care. But there's no guarantee those kids come to you.

The parents may not terminate the rights of the courts may not totally terminate the rights they fight. Is all this heartache is the point in the especially for those couples that are infertile boom something happens that happened to you, you got it sure is that a joyful moment for you. It was a shocking moment. Save adopted Heather and she was pregnant a month later, a month on the month we had two kids 10 months apart will after the infertility ups and downs and there's a lot of emotion wrapped up in that. So it must've been quite a jewel to your system to not just adopted and find out you're pregnant all within such a short space of time. It was it was it was pretty overwhelming at first. I meet with wonderful but it was overwhelming exactly back to the adoption. One thing in taking a look at that history that have you mentioned in speeches that you've given in other venues. One of the reasons people struggle with adoption is number of abortions that are occurring, eliminates obviously a pool of children were loving home can be found for them.

And that was part of your struggle right so absolutely not an idiot. I knew I was difficult to find children to adopt a big part of it was people like me doing abortions mean connecting the dots. It just for some reason the culture struggles the elites in the culture seem to struggle connecting the dots as you did that, you know, we eliminate children through abortion. There's nobody for adoption that I think that is very much the case. I can just tell you when you're pro-choice and you are dedicated pro-choice a lot of what might seem like obvious facts to other people on so obvious to you right so you have Heather, you're pregnant with your son right and he's born what's his name Sean Thomas. So Sean is born and how are things going at this point I have that an adopted child. You're naturally born child and you're still taking the lives of children with any conflict free guys at this point what is said earlier, remain on my conflict came when we were trying to adopt a child were having so much difficulty.

Now all of a sudden I have a son and a daughter. Any doubts I had about doing abortion simply evaporated and I went back to business as usual. That's really something. In the end you just continued. No further conflict spiritually what was happening either of you kinda coming to a greater awareness of God.

At that time on it couple years but then there became a point when the kids were toddlers that I really wanted to start going back to church. I wanted them to have the experience of having faith foundation and so we joined a Presbyterian Church and started attending and getting involved in teaching Sunday school and all the things you do. It was a PC USA church, which of course their creed no.

Zero problem with my being an abortionist, so yeah that was it.

Now the tragedy Mrs. you know something we have to cover, but Heather after you adopted her and Sean is born much going along pretty well and then one day you experience something horrific would happen. June 23, 1984 was a beautiful day in Albany was a Saturday.

I was on call got very busy at make browns and got spend the rest of the day with our kids.

We took him to an amusement park that day. We had dinner together and the kids were playing in the backyard when we had friends come over for cake and coffee and we were speaking with our friends and at 725 that night we heard the screech of brakes out from the house and ran out and found out that the kids are gone and the road hazard been hit by car. She was a mess and you rent out to find her own, Dr. am supposed be able save people's lives. My wife was in intensive care nurse and this was our living we did, obviously, what we could have made no difference and she literally died norms in the back of an ambulance that is tragic moment and I'm sure some parents have experienced something similar. It's hard to even talk about him in all these years later, the tears are there in your eyes.

Yeah, she was exactly 2 months away from her sixth birthday time when you when you feel that when you go through something like that tragic loss. How how did you cope, especially being who you are as a doctor. Well, I wasn't even thinking of it in terms of the abortion industry or what I was doing anyone in the audience has kids may think they have some I know how much they loved her children they may think they have some idea of what it's like to go through that and I promise everyone that if you have been through this yourself. You have no clue and I hope you never, ever find out you know what to do when the problem for us as a couple was that you know is sealed talked about earlier.

We made a decision early on in our relationship that this was of a forbidden topic the problem when a couple stops talking about. One important topic. The summary may find out that it's a lot easier stop talking about other important topics as well becomes something you do and we been drifting apart and in more than one way. Sure and it didn't really hit me until we were almost literally morning apart. It was incredibly difficult. It's almost impossible to describe but it didn't hit me till I don't know how long it was after Heather died just a few weeks.

What you do you bury your child to take some time off and you try to get back in your life and it was just a few weeks after her death. I showed up at our number nine at Albany medical Center. I was doing second trimester abortions up to 24 weeks at the time I arrived at the hospital do a second trimester Dini abortion and these are absolutely gruesome procedures and because you're not talking about a baby in inch-long anymore 20 week baby is the length of your hand from the tip of your middle finger to your wrist. That's head to romp 20 weeks, not counting the legs and your tearing these kids apart literally, bit by bit with the instruments, I wasn't even thinking of this is anything special is was routine obviously had other things on my mind. So I went in and I started the abortion. I literally ripped out an arm or leg as I had over 100 times before and second trimester abortions, and I just stared at it in the clamp and I got sick but when you start an abortion. You can't stop I said earlier, you have to keep inventory. You have to make sure that you get to arms to legs and all the pieces you don't, your patient will come back infected bleeding or dead. So I finished the abortion in our talk a big baby or not some little tiny one and you literally stack parts on the side of the table so you can keep inventory and for the first time in my career and I know it sounds strange to people but we always promise telling people it every thing were saying this firsthand in true for the first time I looked, and I really, really looked at that pile of body parts and I didn't see her wonderful right to choose and I didn't see what a great doctor. I was helping her out and I didn't even see the $800 cash which is made in 15 minutes.

All I could see was somebody son or daughter. And it occurred to me in that instant you know that this patient had come to me figuratively, never literally and said here's $800 kill my son or daughter.

And I was the kind of person that was looker right in the eye and with no compunction whatsoever say sure I'll do that, Tony. That's a heavy burden to carry. Right at the end of the program today, but I do want to come back next time, pick up the discussion. Cecelia want to hear your heart is mom going through the tragedy with Heather in the loss of her life with just before six birthday, so can we do that, can you come back let's do that. But we've covered some really heavy ground today and some difficult topics on Focus on the Family and I'd like to remind you that we have carrying Christian counselors on staff here and it would be our privilege to schedule a time for one of them to talk with you completely free of charge and you can just call 800 K in the word family and request that service or weave a counseling request form.

The link is in the episode notes and I do also want to let you know a better option ultrasound. We talked about a number of times here in the broadcast. It's her ministry to women with unplanned pregnancies who are considering an abortion.

We've got the statistics and research and $60 saves a baby's life through option ultrasound, you can join that support team and save a life, literally, by giving us a call or donating at the website on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back. As we continue the conversation with our guests and what's more, help you and your family thrive in Christ

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