March 7, 2011

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, once a leading figure in the movement to legalize abortion, later spent decades raising awareness about the horrors of abortion and repenting for the tens of thousands of abortions for which he felt responsible.

Nathanson, who died of cancer Feb. 21 in New York at age 84, described himself for many years as a Jewish atheist but was baptized a Catholic in 1996.

He was a founder of the organization now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, a major U.S. abortion rights group, and director of what he described as the largest abortion facility in the Western world.

He first began expressing doubts about his involvement in abortions in a 1974 article in the New England Journal of Medicine in which he said he was "deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths."

Nathanson stopped performing abortions in the late 1970s.

He later narrated The Silent Scream, a film depicting the abortion of a 12-week-old fetus.