NECAC Forum: A Woman at Dartmouth College – Waiting to be Heard

John C. Rankin

On January 21, 1986 – just prior to the thirteenth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision “legalizing” human abortion – I was invited by the Dartmouth Area Christian Fellowship (DACF) to address a debate at the Collis Center Room at Dartmouth College. The DACF sought various abortion-rights leaders to debate, but none were interested. I then served as director of the New England Christian Action Council (NECAC).

Thus, we set up a schedule to first show Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s film, “The Silent Scream” (it was the first public ultrasound images showing a fetus reacting to the intrusion of abortion instruments into the womb). Dr. Nathanson was a former abortionist in pre-Roe New York City, and personally oversaw some 60,000 abortions. Then when he realized what he was doing, he did an about face.

Then we were set to show Planned Parenthood of King County’s (Seattle, WA) video response to “The Silent Scream.” And afterward I was going to speak and take questions.

The room was full (maybe 100-120 students, faculty and others). But I became concerned with the copyright warnings on the Planned Parenthood video concerning “unauthorized” use, e.g., for other than private viewing. When we expressed this concern to the audience, they were up in arms — they wanted to see it, I wanted it to be shown, but I also did not want a lawsuit against me. God is good. It turned out that one student there was the daughter of a board member of Panned Parenthood of King County, she called her mom, and we received permission.

During the Q & A period, I was addressing the first question, from a person in the front row. While doing so, I saw a young woman at the upper left, straining anxiously to keep her arm in the air. So I interrupted my answer to the first person, and said, “I see your hand, and after I finish this question, I will come to you next.”

A Christian woman, sitting next to her, told me later that all night the young woman had been agitated, and when I acknowledged her eyeball to eyeball, her body, facial expression and demeanor greatly relaxed. This is the power to love hard questions as the ministry of the Gospel — we always seek to honor the humanity of all people equally, regardless of the issue or context. I forget the question these many years later, but it came from the depth of her soul.

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