February 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pro-life leaders across the United States and internationally today mourned the loss of one of the greatest pro-life activists of the 20th century - former abortionist and NARAL-cofounder Dr. Bernard Nathanson.

Nathanson, who was personally responsible for tens of thousands of abortions, famously converted to the pro-life cause in the 1970s after he saw an unborn baby on ultrasound recoil from a vacuum abortion device before being sucked from its mother’s womb. The ultrasound footage was later turned into the famous and extremely influential pro-life video “The Silent Scream.”

Jim Hughes, the President of Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition and a vice-president with International Right to Life, said: “I’ve known Bernie Nathanson for 30 years. He was a true inspiration for all.”

“He’ll be greatly missed. His story is an unbelievable story,” said Hughes, who recalled one time when Nathanson debated Canada’s “father of abortion,” abortionist Henry Morgentaler. “It was rather comical,” said Hughes “When Morgentaler put forward his ideas and his defense for the practice of abortion, and Nathanson laughed and said, ‘I invented all those phrases! I invented those statistics.’ It was quite the experience.”

“May the Good Lord accept his soul and say to him: ‘Welcome good and faithful servant.’”

“Today our movement mourns the passing of one of its greatest voices for life,” said Live Action President Lila Rose. “Dr. Nathanson is a testament to God’s grace; that any heart can be transformed into a beacon of love and truth.”

“In his memory, and as the battle in Congress rages these next two weeks, let us work tirelessly to aid Dr. Nathanson’s brave efforts in exposing evil and protecting the innocent. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” she said.

Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life echoed Rose’s comments: “Today the pro-life movement mourns the death of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a true pro-life hero.

“I’m saddened by that fact that this generation of pro-life activists will never get to meet Dr. Nathanson,” she said, “but inspired to know that because of his work this generation has been filled with the truth and will help end abortion in America.”

Judie Brown, the head of the American Life League, said in a statement provided to LifeSiteNews.com: “I think thousands of pro-life people around the world will sorely miss this great man, his honesty, his tenacity and his unwavering commitment to truth.

“I remember his famous visit to the Reagan White House with us in 1982, and the fascination the president had with Dr. Nathanson. Their friendship grew and when the Silent Scream was ready to be debuted, President Reagan asked Dr. Nathanson for a preview showing. After that, the rest is history.”

Brown added: “On a personal note, during one luncheon I attended with him to discuss pro-life matters, I recall him taking his credit card out to pay the bill, and sharing with me a most amazing fact. During one of his talks he had encountered a group of nuns in the audience, and after his talk one of them walked up to him, handed him a small crucifix, and said ‘Dr. Nathanson, we are praying for you. You are a great man and you should be a Catholic.’ He smiled when he told me this story, and as we all know he later became a Catholic.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said today that the life of Dr. Bernard Nathanson is one of the most remarkable stories of God’s mercy and power.

“My own life has intersected with his since the mid-80’s, and our last time together was just last week,” Fr. Pavone explained. “Years ago, Dr. Nathanson said, ‘I uncaged the abortion monster in the United States,’ and then he told us priests that he and his former colleagues ‘would never have gotten away with what we did if you had been united, purposeful and strong.’ That assertion is at the core of our ministry at Priests for Life.”

Fr. Pavone continued, “I will never forget the workshop at which I introduced him at the 1994 Human life International Conference in Irvine, CA. He was supposed to talk about chemical abortion, but at the last minute decided instead to speak of his spiritual journey. At the end of the talk, he said that he was standing on the brink of conversion to the Catholic Church. The room exploded. People were leaping into the air. He said that he hoped God could forgive him, and I said, ‘Dr. Nathanson, He already has.’ And I reminded him of that exchange just last week.”

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) issued a statement saying that it joins in with all its state affiliates in mourning Nathanson, “whose impact reverberates to this day.” As a fellow New Yorker, Jeanne Head, NRLC Vice President for International Affairs and United Nations Representative, knew Dr. Nathanson first as a foe and then as a friend. “Dr. Nathanson was probably one of the individuals most responsible for Roe v. Wade and, once he realized his error, he dedicated the rest of his life to reversing it,” Head said.

Head added, “It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of his book,  “The Silent Scream,” and his later video, “Eclipse of Reason” in driving home the sheer horror and brutality of abortion.”