Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks often of his religion—but he tailors it to fit his politics, and it focuses on works over faith
Dr. Anthony Levatino’s story is not for the fainthearted. From 1977 to 1985, he performed nearly 1,200 first- and second-trimester abortions as a routine part of his residency and later obstetrics and gynecology practice at Albany Medical Center in New York.
Personal tragedy forever changed his practice and his life. In June of 1984, as he and his wife Cecelia visited with friends in their backyard, a car struck their 5-year-old daughter, Heather, in front of their home. Despite Levatino’s CPR and treatment by paramedics, Heather died in his and Cecelia’s arms in the ambulance.
Grief overwhelmed them. “Our marriage was in crisis. We were mourning apart,” says Levatino.
He had gone back to work, but during his next second-trimester abortion, for the first time he understood what he was doing as he looked at the growing pile of baby body parts he’d pulled from the woman. No longer did he see himself as a great doctor helping a woman with her “problem”: “I didn’t see that I was supporting a woman’s right to choose. I saw that I was killing someone’s son or daughter.”
Levatino says he kept blaming everyone else for the abortions—the women for being pregnant, the hospital for allowing them—but he continued doing them for a few more months. As his marriage worsened and his conviction grew about the reality of abortion no matter the size of the baby, he stopped performing all abortions by February of 1985.
At the same time that God was changing Levatino’s mind about abortion, He was changing his heart. He and Cecelia recommitted to each other. They went from trying to fight the pro-abortion stance of their liberal Protestant church to losing all their friends and eventually finding a pro-life nondenominational evangelical church where they found Jesus and many new friends. “It was a lonely time for a while,” he remembers. “We had to start all over.”
A pastor reminded him God had used many people in Levatino’s life to bring him to salvation. Levatino sought out a woman who for seven years delivered a “Jesus loves you” message to him while he was still doing abortions. He thanked her for those messages, told her about his change, and found out she used to picket his office, praying for him.
For more than 30 years now, Levatino, age 67, and Cecelia have ardently supported pro-life causes, speaking at gatherings, conferences, medical and law schools, and colleges around the country. In 2015, Levatino testified before a U.S. congressional committee on what an unborn child at 24 weeks experiences during an abortion. The pro-life bill passed the committee but failed in the Senate when Democrats filibustered.
He testified again in 2018 before the House Judiciary Committee in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Congress still funds the organization through Medicaid—our taxes.
Last year, Levatino played the role of the abortionist in the pro-life movie Unplanned, and though he relished that moviemaking experience, what drives him these days is urging people to vote pro-life.
Levatino expresses frustration: “People will support pro-life clinics, picket at Planned Parenthood, and say they support unwed mothers. Then they’ll go out and vote for a pro-abortion candidate.” He also bristles when he hears congressional bills promoted that say late-term abortions are OK if the health of the mother is jeopardized.
“You never have to do an abortion to save a mother’s life,” he says. “They may have to deliver the baby early, but you don’t have to kill it … and the term ‘health’ can mean anything.”
He is outspoken on voting pro-life, whether speaking before the Catholic Medical Association, evangelical groups, or in foreign countries like Malta.
Levatino says he’ll keep talking until God lets him know he’s done. He’s grateful for his Christian faith that gives him assurance: “I know with absolute certainty that when my time comes, our daughter will be standing right there.”