Dr. Anthony Levatino speaks with attendees of the Pro-Life WI Gala on Thursday, Sept. 21. (Submitted photo)

Cecelia Levatino noted the irony in her marriage to Dr. Anthony Levatino.

They wanted to begin a family right away, but they experienced infertility issues. Dr. Levatino sent his wife to the best infertility specialist in town.

Levatino, a former abortion doctor turned pro-life, told his gripping, sometimes graphic, story on Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Pro-Life WI Gala at the Brookfield Conference Center.

“It was difficult, painful and embarrassing — she would come home, lock herself in the bathroom and cry,” he said. “First, she was married to an OB-GYN and second, here she was trying to get pregnant, and her husband was killing babies in abortion.”

Cecelia was a nurse and on the other side of the abortion issue, but it wasn’t something they discussed.

What Dr. Levatino described, sometimes in graphic detail, was how he performed second-trimester D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortions. It was a blind procedure, meaning he did it by feel, rather than with an ultrasound.

Back in the mid-1980s, Dr. Levatino would earn $800 for 15 minutes of work, which is equivalent to $2,300 today.

Graduating medical school in 1976, Dr. Levatino believed abortion was solely the decision between the mother and her doctor and no one, including the baby’s father, had any say in it.

After several fertility procedures and no pregnancy, the couple looked to adopt. They quickly learned that it was difficult to adopt an infant despite checking with religious, state and county agencies. The best they were offered was a five-year waiting list to get on the actual waiting list.

“I am not an idiot; I realized there were so few babies to adopt because of people like me,” said Dr. Levatino. “I remember one day when doing a specific abortion and thinking ‘Gosh, I am throwing kids in the garbage, wouldn’t even one of them let us take their child home and care for it?’”

As time and frustration mounted, the couple eventually adopted a baby girl they named Heather. The mother was 15 and had no prenatal care until her delivery. Ironically, a month after they brought Heather home, Dr. Levatino’s wife became pregnant with their son, Sean.

Dr. Levatino’s practice grew, and they moved to upstate New York, where he and his partner perfected second-trimester D & E abortions. He was happy they could afford a nice home and furniture, and the kids were great, until June 23, 1984, when Heather was hit by a car in front of their home and died in their arms.

Broken-hearted to perform abortions, Dr. Levatino continued, despite beginning to feel sick about what he was doing. It took a toll on his marriage, until one day, his wife planned to leave with their son. Instead of leaving, they spoke for hours, and he agreed to stop doing second-trimester abortions.

“I soldiered on for a while until I just had to stop,” said Dr. Levatino. “I finally figured out that killing a baby for money is wrong.”

He told his partners he would do no more abortions, and slowly got involved in the pro-life movement.

“I thought they were a bunch of kooks, but they weren’t. They understood meds, the law, and giving time, treasure and talent,” he said. “Most of all, they want to stop one of the worst human rights abuses of all time. We joined that group and have been in it for many years.”

Along the way, he turned his heart over to God and never turned back.

“You are here for a purpose. Abortion is back in Wisconsin; we have a law that says no.  Unfortunately, there are district attorneys and law enforcement who are not willing to enforce the law and what good does that do for the babies,” he asked rhetorically. “It’s tempting to quit, but don’t. It is not your fight; it is his fight.”