Dr. Anthony Levatino: Abortionist Turned Pro-Life
Some events in life buoy us. Some events in life fill us with wonder. And some events drive us to our knees and shatter us. For Dr. Anthony Levatino, that event happened on June 23, 1984.
Dr. Anthony Levatino graduated from Albany Medical College in 1976. He then began medical rotations during his internship at Albany Medical Center to determine where his specialty would lie. He ultimately settled on obstetrics and gynecology. As he said in a September 2020 Focus on the Family interview, it was more fun to tell people “‘it’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl’” than to have to sit down and explain a terminal illness.
As part of his training, Dr. Levatino learned how to do abortions. At the time, he was staunchly pro-choice and felt that abortion was a decision only a woman and her doctor should make. He didn’t even think the father should have a say in the matter.
When he was still an intern, he met Cecelia, an ICU nurse who would later become his wife. Unlike Anthony, Cecelia believed abortion was wrong. She says that her rejection of abortion came from neither religion nor faith, but from something inside her that told her that “there’s something wrong with a woman being able to kill her child.” She recalls that, in one of her nursing classes, the students were asked if they wanted to help with an abortion. Only she and one other person declined.
About a year after meeting, he and Cecelia got married, and soon Dr. Anthony Levatino began working in private practice as an OB/GYN. He delighted in delivering babies, but also saw no problem with doing abortions. He states that, as a doctor, when doing abortions, you have to dehumanize the baby and keep both an emotional and professional distance. He would tell himself: “I’m just doing a medical procedure. I’m helping this woman.”
And he really did believe he was helping them. However, he did admit that dealing with a woman wanting an abortion was easier and a better moneymaker than a woman going through all nine months of her pregnancy and then a delivery. He explained that, for a pregnancy, he’d have to see a woman eight to nine times over the course of her pregnancy, then possibly be called in the middle of the night to deliver. In addition, there could be legal ramifications if something went wrong during delivery. In contrast, his abortion patients all had to pay in cash. The procedure took less than 20 minutes, and then the women were gone. At the time he did abortions, in the early 1980s, his office charged $300-500 for a first trimester abortion. A second trimester abortion, which kills a baby up to 24 weeks—and which they also did in the office—was more expensive.
Anthony and Cecelia always knew that they were on opposite sides of the abortion debate, but instead of addressing this, they chose toa void the topic. In a 2016 speech, Cecelia admits that was a mistake and discusses how hard it was on their marriage.
Yet abortion was becoming a regular part of Anthony’s routine. “You can get used to almost anything if you do it enough,” he said.
At a pro-life event after he stopped doing abortions, Dr. Levatino explained the reasons why doctors perform them. “It’s profitable,” he stated, and there’s “a lot of money in it.” He also explained that people who consider themselves “pro-choice” or who are “morally neutral” see no problems with abortions and believe they are helping women. These doctors say they are doing abortions for the women, but Dr. Levatino stated that there is nothing pro-woman about “destroying a life.”
Soon after they married, the couple decided they wanted to start a family. But month after month, Cecelia couldn’t get pregnant. She said it was then that she really began hating the fact that Anthony was doing abortions. She remembers standing in the shower crying and praying, even though she wasn’t religious and had no faith at the time. And she remembers thinking to herself, “Here we are trying to have a baby, and my husband’s killing them.”
Cecelia saw specialists, hoping to find the reason for her infertility. One doctor recommended a surgical procedure that he thought might help, but the surgery wasn’t as successful as he had hoped, and he told the couple that they shouldn’t get their hopes up for a family of their own.
Disappointed and devastated, the couple decided to adopt. They went through the normal channels, but hit roadblock after roadblock after waiting period. The process was terribly frustrating.
It was at this time that Dr. Anthony Levatino began having his first doubts about doing abortions. He remembers clearly one D&C abortion (dilation and curettage—in which a baby is literally sucked out of the womb through a tube) where he looked at the suction machine afterward and saw all the pieces of the baby, then thought to himself: “My gosh, I’m throwing these kids in the garbage.”
At home, he was desperately trying to conceive a baby. At work, he was tearing them apart and throwing them away.
Anthony then got the idea to contact all of the OB/GYNs in the area and put the word out that he and Cecelia wanted to adopt. He thought for sure that one of the doctors would encounter a patient willing to give a baby up for adoption. Not too long after, he received a message that a 15-year-old girl was in labor and wanted to give the baby up for adoption. Was he interested? Absolutely!
The young mother had had no prenatal care, but had taken care of herself and was in good health. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The families did a private adoption, and all went smoothly. Anthony and Cecelia named their daughter Heather.
The couple was in for a huge surprise when, just a month later, Cecelia got pregnant! She gave birth to a baby boy nine months later.
For the next several years, family and work life went smoothly. The practice was going well, and the kids were healthy.
That all changed on June 23, 1984.
A Tragic Loss Casts Abortion in a New Light
The family had spent the better part of June 23 together. They went to an amusement park then out to dinner. When they got home, another couple stopped by. While they chatted, the kids played in the backyard. Suddenly, they heard a squeal of brakes. They ran out to see what happened and found that the children had wandered into the street and Heather had been hit by a car. In Anthony’s words, “she was a mess.” He did everything he could to save her, but her injuries were just too severe. She died in her parents’ arms in the back of the ambulance.
The couple that had begun to grow apart because of Anthony performing abortions grew even more apart now. They mourned, but they mourned separately. Some days, they weren’t even sure how they could go on. But they knew they had to go on for their son.
A few weeks after they buried Heather, Dr. Anthony Levatino went back to work. One day, he went to the hospital to do a second trimester D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortion. He describes it as a “gruesome procedure” where the doctor uses a tool to blindly grab parts of the baby and pull them out. He started the abortion and “literally ripped out an arm or a leg as I had over 100 times before in second trimester abortions….I got sick.”
But he knew he couldn’t stop because the mother would be at risk for infection or even death. He had to make sure he got all the pieces of the baby. He states: “You literally stack parts on the side of the table so you can keep inventory.” He finished the abortion, but remembered, “All I could see was somebody’s son or daughter.”
That event stayed with him, yet he continued to do abortions.
Things at home were getting worse, and the couple was growing farther apart. Cecelia said she knew whenever Anthony was scheduled to perform an abortion because he would become angry the night before. His temper was becoming explosive. He would yell at her, at their son, and at his staff. It was too much for her to bear. She thought their marriage was over, and unbeknownst to him, she packed a bag to leave. That night, he became angry again, and unable to take his explosiveness any longer, Cecelia yelled back that it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but his that he was performing abortions.
Astounded at her outburst, he was forced to think. And he realized she was right. For the first time in a long time, they talked about the abortions and the toll it took on each of them and on their marriage. By the end of the discussion, Anthony decided he had done his last second trimester abortion. And Cecelia decided to stay.
The very next day, he went into the office and explained to his partners that he could no longer do second trimester abortions. He was still doing first trimester abortions, however. But soon that even became too much to bear. So, in February 1985, he said enough is enough. Dr. Anthony Levatino quit doing abortions for good.
He now estimates that he killed 1,200 babies over the course of his early career.
Dr. Anthony Levatino Becomes Pro-Life
Neither Anthony nor Cecelia had ever really taken part in the religions they were raised in. In fact, at that time, they would have described themselves as agnostics, even though they attended a Presbyterian church. But they admitted that they didn’t really know Christ.
One night, Anthony came home, and Cecelia showed him a flyer advertising a pro-life potluck dinner. Anthony said he literally laughed and asked why he would want to go. He had been trained to think that pro-lifers were “kooks.” Because of a prior commitment, they could not go. However, the route they took to the other event led them right by the venue for the potluck, and Anthony suggested they stop in. They stayed an hour.
Anthony and Cecelia recall meeting wonderful people there. It was both a beginning and an end for them: the beginning of a new life and the end to years of darkness and death.
They left their current church in search of a Bible-based church. And that’s where they found Christ and really accepted Him.
For over 30 years now, Anthony and Cecelia have passionately supported pro-life causes. They have spoken at conferences, at colleges, and even at medical schools and law schools throughout the US. Anthony even put on his actor’s hat and played the part of the abortion doctor in the movie Unplanned – the story of Abby Johnson’s pro-life journey.
As Anthony once said:
Everybody does their thing for pro-life. For me, it is trying to educate people….I want the general public to know what the doctors know: That this is a person. This is a baby. This is not some kind of blob of tissue and it does make a difference.
In addition, Dr. Anthony Levatino has spoken before the House Judiciary Committee twice—once in October 2015 and again in 2018—in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. He still regularly speaks before audiences and tries to teach about the horror of abortion.
Dr. Levatino’s Testimony to the House Judiciary Committee
In 2015, Anthony testified before a House Judiciary Committee investigating Planned Parenthood. Because he wanted the committee to see the horrific reality of abortion, he explained what happens to a preborn child of 24 weeks during an abortion. He wanted to prove that abortion is not healthcare for women. And he wanted people to truly understand what happens to a baby in an abortion.
During his talk, he walked the committee through the abortion, step by gory step. He also showed an instrument called a Sopher clamp—a grasping instrument with rows of sharp teeth on the part that grasps—and demonstrated how it works. He described to the committee:
A D&E [dilation and evacuation] procedure is a blind abortion. So, picture yourself introducing this [the Sopher clamp] and grabbing anything you can blindly, and pull. And I do mean hard. And out pops a leg about that big [he holds up his fingers to indicate about 3 inches] which you put down on the table next to you. Reach in again. Pull again. Pull out an arm about the same length, which you put down on the table next to you. And use this instrument again and again to tear out the spine, the intestines, the heart, and lungs. A head in a baby that size is about the size of a large plum. You can’t see it. . . . You know you did it right if you crush down on the instrument and white material runs out of the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. Then you can pull out skull pieces.
In 2018, he testified again. Sadly, his words did not change enough hearts and minds. Our tax dollars still fund Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the nation.
Dr. Levatino is not the Only One
As more and more people come to understand the horrors of abortion, the pro-life movement has seen more doctors leave and become pro-life.
Dr. John Bruchalski is one such doctor. Bruchalski is an OB-GYN who believed that performing abortions helped women. When he first began practicing medicine, he had no problems with abortion and did not understand that each abortion takes the life of a baby. But after a few years, he had a miraculous conversion, returned to the Catholic faith, and now owns and operates a pro-life practice in Virginia.
Dr. Patti Giebink used to perform abortions at Planned Parenthood. Like other abortionists who eventually came to see that abortion kills a baby, she thought she was helping women. But, through the intercession of pro-life advocates and friends, including a truly special nun, God changed her mind and helped her see the destruction she was being part of. She now speaks about abortion and helps post-abortive women heal.
Perhaps the most famous abortionist who became pro-life was Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011), who helped found NARAL, joined with other doctors to lobby for Roe v. Wade, and was responsible (either by his own hand or by presiding over them) for 75,000 abortions. After many years, his hardened heart softened, and he not only became pro-life but converted to Catholicism. He narrated a film entitled The Silent Scream, in which viewers watch a real abortion via a sonogram – and they see the 12-week-old baby try to get away from the abortion instruments and then open his mouth in a scream. It’s truly horrific and shows the reality of abortion.
Exceptions for the Life or Health of the Mother?
HLI’s Brian Clowes’ states:
Pro‑abortionists grossly overestimate the alleged “dangers” of pregnancy and childbirth in order to frighten people into supporting public abortion funding. Perpetuating the lie, they define a threat to the life of the mother in the same terms as a threat to her health. This way, abortion when the mother’s life is in danger leads to abortion for any reason at all.
In an interview with Lila Rose, president of Live Action, Dr. Anthony Levatino was asked for his thoughts about the pro-abortion argument that abortions should be available and legal in cases of maternal health or to save the life of the mother.
“You never need late-term abortion to save a woman’s life,” Anthony said. “I never had to kill deliberately a single child to save a woman’s life during pregnancy.”
He stated that, though it may be necessary to deliver the baby to save his mother, doctors never have to intentionally kill the baby. Sometimes the baby does not survive, but doctors do their best to save both the baby and the mother.
And, as Anthony explained, the word “health” encompasses a broad spectrum of things, both physically and emotionally. By allowing a health exemption, lawmakers are basically opening the door for abortion for any reason, as long as it’s under the guise of preserving the mother’s “health.”
Dr. Anthony Levatino’s goal now is to help people understand that they must vote their pro-life convictions and put people into office who are pro-life. He has become very outspoken about this and tries to reason with the people he speaks with here in the US and in foreign countries.
He explains the frustration he feels when he hears about people who donate to pro-life causes and stand in front of abortion clinics, but who then turn around and vote for pro-abortion candidates. It doesn’t make sense to him.
If we want change and if we want to protect life, we must elect people who also want that change and who value life.
As Christians, we know that God forgives our sins if we make a sincere confession and try to sin no more. But it’s forgiving ourselves that can be the most difficult part. Living with the guilt and the knowledge that we’ve done hideous deeds can be overwhelming, even crippling at times.
Dr. Anthony Levatino still carries guilt from all of the abortions he performed, but he finds solace in God’s endless mercy. He knows that someday he will be with God and reunited with Heather. But he worries too.
He said thoughtfully: “I know with absolute certainty that when my time comes Heather’s going to be standing right there. I know that….But sometimes I’m afraid that those 1,200 kids are going to be there too.”
Yet, we know that, if they are, they will be standing there offering their forgiveness as well.
This article was originally published in October 2020 and was most recently updated in February 2024 by Susan Ciancio.
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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. Since 2003, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials, and website content. Fourteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of its Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program, an educational nonprofit program for k-12 students.