Few people have ever heard of Ana Rosa Rodriguez. But that is not the fault of Nat Hentoff, the renowned jazz critic, author, and syndicated columnist who died in Manhattan on January 7 at 91. You see, Mr. Hentoff was also a superb investigative reporter, one who was relentless at digging out the truth and fearless in telling it.
What does that have to do with Ana Rosa Rodriguez? Everything. Because along with the other hats he wore, Nat Hentoff was a dedicated and principled pro-lifer. And in his column, “Can a Nonperson Be a Victim?” in the Washington Post of March 27, 1993, he told his readers about little Ana Rosa Rodriguez:
Ana Rosa Rodriguez was born in 1991 without a right arm. Actually, she was not supposed to have been born. Her mother, 19-year-old Rosa Rodriguez, a Dominican immigrant, 7 1/2 months pregnant, had gone to Dr. Abu Hayat on New York’s Lower East Side for an abortion. It was botched; Ana Rosa was born the day after. But in the course of the doctor’s attempts to dismember her the day before, Ana Rosa’s right arm had been torn off.
Yes. Torn off. Mr. Hentoff went on to relate that a jury convicted abortionist Hayat on several counts, including committing an illegal abortion of a late-term baby – Ana Rosa – and assaulting her by severing her arm. Mr. Hentoff noted that one of Hayat’s lawyers appealed the assault conviction on the grounds that because a) New York state law said only a “person” could be assaulted, and b) under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, babies in the womb are not considered persons, then ripping off infant Ana Rosa’s right arm was not assaulting her.
Mr. Hentoff concluded his column about the abortionist’s unspeakable attack on Ana Rosa with these heart-rending words: “If the operation had been successful, there would never have been an individual, Ana Rosa Rodriguez, who has learned to pull herself up and drink from a bottle with her remaining hand.”
Mr. Hentoff, who often described himself as “a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer,” defended other children endangered by the culture of death: all infants in the womb; disproportionally targeted black babies; and babies born with Down syndrome, spina bifida and other conditions and left to die. Saying “all life is sacred,” he embraced the cause of all disabled and medically vulnerable people. He wrote about the euthanasia cases involving Nancy Cruzan and Karen Ann Quinlan. His was a lonely, impassioned, and indignant voice for years as he fiercely defended Terri Schiavo from the judicially ordered execution by dehydration and starvation that eventually took her life.
Over the years, Mr. Hentoff spoke up for a wide variety of underdogs. Many of his causes were unpopular, but none of them elicited the outright hatred that his becoming pro-life in the 1980s did. He lost friends; he lost jobs – but he always stuck to his guns. As his friend and fellow pro-life stalwart Wesley J. Smith reports, when Mr. Hentoff, then 80, accepted a “Great Defender of Life” award from the Human Life Foundation in New York City in 2005, he reflected, “I am still here, making trouble.”
Those words could serve as Nat Hentoff’s epitaph. So could these, which I would bet that that able paladin for the defenseless would appreciate: “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves one who pursues justice.” – Proverbs 15:9
Daniel J. Engler is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan. He later co-scripted Hollywood animated films for children.
Postscript: Ana Rosa Rodriguez’s mother testified in court that Hayat had refused her request to stop the abortion. He served about 13 years of a sentence of up to 29 years and was paroled in 2006. Ana Rosa’s whereabouts are not known today.