Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop Dies, Leaves Pro-Life Legacy

C. Everett Koop, a former U.S. Surgeon General who served under President Ronald Reagan from 1982 to 1989 and was known for his pro-life views, passed away on Monday at his home in Hanover, N.H.

The National Right to Life, one of the oldest and largest pro-life organizations in the country, said in a statement on Tuesday that they were "deeply saddened" by Dr. Koop's death.

"In an era when pro-abortionists tried to declare that the abortion issue was 'settled law,' Dr. Koop provided a voice for the voiceless," said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.

The former surgeon general co-authored a pro-life book titled Whatever Happened to the Human Race with the late Francis Schaeffer, which argued for the value and dignity of all human life, and opposed practices such as abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.

"To this day, Whatever Happened to the Human Race is a must-read for its almost prophetic anticipation of the world we live in today," Tobias added.

The pediatric surgeon, who was 96 years old when he passed away on Monday, was outspoken on a number of issues, and drew criticism both from conservatives and liberals alike.

Reuters noted that Koop, who campaigned passionately against the dangers of HIV and AIDS, urged the use of condoms for men if they were unable to practice abstinence, in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly blasted those efforts for "teaching of safe sodomy in public schools."

At the same time, he was targeted by some feminist activists for his pro-life views and opposition to abortion, even being labeled "a monster" by one such feminist leader. As a Presbyterian Christian, Koop opposed the practice based on personal and religious views.

For many, however, he was an inspirational figure and a household name who did a great deal for health education in the U.S.

"He saved countless lives through his leadership in confronting the public health crisis that came to be known as AIDS and standing up to powerful special interests like the tobacco companies," U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said on Monday.

"Dr. Koop was not only a pioneering pediatric surgeon but also one of the most courageous and passionate public health advocates of the past century," added Dr. Wiley W. Souba, dean of the Geisel School.

Slate magazine noted that one of his lasting legacies is his groundbreaking seven-page brochure, "Understanding AIDS," released in 1986, when the deadly disease was spreading throughout the country and many people were lacking in information about its causes and effects. The pamphlet was distributed to over 107 million households by 1998, making it the largest public health mailing in history.

"In hindsight, that brochure may not be perfect, but it represented the best available information the country had about AIDS at the time," Slate reported. "Perhaps most importantly, it made sure to refute the notion that it was an epidemic that only some communities had to worry about."

Koop is survived by his three children, one of whom is a pastor at a nondenominational church, his wife, Cora, and eight grandchildren.