Grand Rapids -- A former New York abortion practitioner described how a personal tragedy took him from being morally neutral on the issue to an outspoken critic of abotion.
Anthony Levatino and his wife, Cecelia, were the featured speakers Monday night at the 12th annual Focus on Life fundraising dinner for Grand Rapids Right to Life at the Grand Center.
More than 1,700 people turned out to hear the couple's story.
Anthony Levatino began the talk by describing in detail the process of removing body parts piece by piece and piling them on a table as part of a second trimester abortion procedure.
Unfazed by the task, he said he believed his job as an abortion practitioner in the early 1970s was to provide for all of a woman's medical needs, including abortions. However, when he and his wife began trying to adopt a child, he said he began to feel uncomfortable about the work he was doing.
"That was the only time I had any qualms at all and they were totally selfish," he said.
Once the adoption went through, he said all of those feelings disappeared. Nearly six years later, their adopted daughter, Heather, died after being struck by a car.
Levatino said he took two weeks off and then tried to go back to his normal routine.
While performing a second trimester abortion, he said he became physically ill and was nearly unable to complete it.
"I looked down at that table and for the first time in my life ... for the first time, that was somebody's son or daughter," he said. "Suddenly I was looking at that pile very differently."
Cecelia Levatino, who had always been pro-life, said her husband became unbearable to live with during that time. Finally, she broke their unspoken rule not to discuss what he did and confronted him about the toll his actions were taking on the family.
Anthony Levatino said he initially stopped doing only second trimester abortions, but later realized that he could no longer perform any abortions. He said he stopped doing abortions in 1985, quit practicing medicine in 1990 and became a Christian a year later.
Cecelia Levatino said prayer is one of the most powerful tools the pro-life movement has to use. She said violence has no place in the pro-life movement, stating that the murder of Buffalo abortion practitioner Barnett Slepian robbed that man of the same opportunity her husband had to find redemption.
"Violence is precisely what we are fighting against," she said.
Levatino now helps women by providing counseling at local crisis pregnancy centers and, along with his wife, promotes abortion alternatives. He also provides medical advice and opinions to women seeking help at Pregnancy Centers Online (http://www.pregnancycenters.org), a web site dedicated to helping women with crisis or unplanned pregnancies.