Family Matters

Late-Term Abortions: Q&A With the Last Remaining Doctor Who Performs Them

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No doubt, being an abortion doctor is a stressful and dangerous profession. Being an abortion doctor who performs abortions well into the second and third trimesters only ups the ante. Ask Warren Hern, the only doctor in America who admits to performing delayed abortions.

Worry and fear accompany Hern like a parent accompanies a small child crossing the street. They are always right there, hovering. He can never let down his guard.

When his friend and fellow abortion doctor, George Tiller, was murdered in May 2009 as he handed out pamphlets in his Wichita, Kan., church, Hern drove to his memorial service escorted by U.S. marshals. Less than a month after Tiller’s death, a man from Spokane, Wash., called Hern’s office in Boulder, Colo., to say that two people were headed for the Rockies to harm his family. Donald Hertz, who made the threat, was sentenced last week to five years of probation for threatening Hern’s family. (More on Time.com: The Grass-Roots Abortion War).

Hern specializes in abortions late in pregnancy that are performed due to fetal disorders, although he makes it clear that he doesn’t see it as his role to pass judgment on why a woman shows up at his clinic doorstep.

Healthland caught up with Hern — in the wilds of Patagonia, no less — to talk about why, and how, he continues to do what he does in the face of threats and violence. For now, he is a world away from his bullet-proofed workplace, on vacation touring places Charles Darwin visited when he made his voyage in the 1800s, but his work is never far from his thoughts. (More on Time.com: Person of the Year 2009: George Tiller).

Healthland: Why is it important for you to do the kind of work you do?

Hern: I am a doctor. I help my patients. What I do matters for the health of the woman, for the health of her family. It matters for the health of our society, and it matters for freedom.

Healthland: How did you get interested in this line of work?

Hern: I was asked to help start a nonprofit, free-standing abortion clinic in Boulder in 1973, and I responded to this request even though I was not planning to practice clinical medicine. I am trained as an epidemiologist in public health. After a year, when the clinic I helped start decided to eliminate my job as medical director, I decided doing abortions was the most important thing I could do in medicine. I was responding to an important need, for women who need help. (More on Time.com: Health Check-Up: Women & Health)

Healthland: Tell me about Donald Hertz. How did he threaten your family?

Hern: He called my office on the afternoon of June 23, last year, three weeks after Dr. Tiller was assassinated. Dr. Tiller was a very dear friend of mine and a colleague, and his assassination was not just a personal loss for his family and his friends but very, very frightening because the same group of people that urged his assassination have also urged this to happen to me.

[Hertz] called and he told a person in my office that two Vietnam veterans were leaving Utah to come to Boulder to hurt my family. It scared us to death. My 92-year-old mother was evacuated from her home in the middle of the night because law enforcement authorities were afraid for her safety. They increased the level of protection for me and my family.

The FBI and federal marshals tracked the phone call to Donald Hertz and he was arrested and brought to trial. He terrorized me and my family, and all he got was a slap on the wrist. (More on Time.com: The Complicated Link Between Abortion and Mental Health).

Healthland: Are you scared?

Hern: I am a physician. I practice medicine. I have been committed to this work since I started in 1973. I will continue doing it. The people who disagree should leave me alone. It is the clear policy of the American anti-abortion movement to kill every doctor who does abortions. It is not a secret.

Healthland: How are you able to continue your work if that’s the case?

Hern: I show up at my office and see my patients.

Healthland: Do you just try not to think about it?

Hern: I can’t help but think about it. That’s what I do for a living.

Healthland: Is it true that you are the only U.S. doctor who performs late abortions?

Hern: I take care of my patients who come to me for help. I can not tell you what other people are doing.

Healthland: You are 72. Are you inching toward retirement?

Hern: I have no plans to retire.

Healthland: So you’re in Patagonia. I take it this has nothing to do with your job.

Hern: We are learning about Darwin and evolution, which many of the people in the anti-abortion movement don’t believe. They don’t believe in freedom. They don’t believe in the fundamental premises of American society.

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10 comments
ChristineCoddington
ChristineCoddington

Killing newborn calves so that humans can have cheese and icecream and veal is also evil!!  Animals have a right to life!!

MaryJohnson
MaryJohnson

I like how the doc says anti-abortion folks don't believe in freedom or fundamental premises of American society. We are all about freedom. It's just that we are for the freedom and life of the ones they are killing in the name of the woman's freedom. Fundamental premises of society? Don't kill? Be responsible for your own choices? Love and protect your children? Are those not fundamental premises of society?

Covering your eyes, ears, and mouth don't remove the evil. Killing is killing. The killing is for selfish reasons for the mother as well as the doc. Fast money made on the death of the innocent. Open those eyes and see what is going on. Incest and rape account for 1 percent of the 1.5 MILLION abortions every year.

BarbaraLoeppke
BarbaraLoeppke

This is a lie. He is not the only doctor left in America who does late term abortions. They ate done in many cities and in fact are done in a clinic on Lomas Ave in Albuquerque New Mexico. Where did you do your research? It is terribly inaccurate!!

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@MaryJohnson 

And if we consider abortions to be killing organisms that are not fully human because we reject your idiot catering religion what then? These are not children, they are fetuses and they suffer less than the death of a cat induces.

I do think late term abortions should control fetal pain out of humanity... Suffering should be prevented or at least minimized

We must remember that this doctor is aborting diseased fetuses with severe complications should they be born... this guy isnt killing perfectly healthy fetuses very often.

You do not have the right to put a gun to the head of a woman and force her pregnancy to term. 

Believe whatever you want and mind your own damned business... YOUR PREGNANCY YOUR CHOICE - NONE OF YOUR DAMNED BUSINESS 

MaryJohnson
MaryJohnson

@Hadrewsky @MaryJohnson


They are human from the moment they are fertilized. Prove otherwise.It has been proven to be truth by dozens of scientists. They are tiny human beings at one of thousands of stages of life. Less suffering than a cat endures? Do you have any education regarding abortions? Cut up in tiny pieces, burned to death or pulled out and left to die or have their neck sliced open? I don't know of any vet or animal control or SPCA who does these things. Let the baby  be born or pull it and then give it a death shot... that is your idea? Its not killing?

There is no way to prevent suffering of the baby in abortion. It is what it is. Its cruel.

"Hern specializes in abortions late in pregnancy that are performed due to fetal disorders, although he makes it clear that he doesn't see it as his role to pass judgment on why a woman shows up at his clinic doorstep."

He SPECIALIZES in fetal disorders, but does not pass judgement meaning that he will abort for whatever reason. A paycheck is  probably the number 1 motive.

You do not have the right to decide who lives and dies, either. This is all a cloud of misinformation that even allows abortion to  carry on. Abortion is the darkest and most pathetic thing this country has ever allowed and it will end sooner or later. The lesson we need to teach society is that life is not something that should be taken for granted or tossed in the trash when a person can't be bothered to deal with 9 months of inconvenience. We wonder why kids kill and there is no respect for life... no sympathy... no care or consideration. What do we teach our children about the value of life when we pick and choose who lives? Its wrong.Period and we will continue to pay the price as a society until we stop this behavior.

Believe what you want but I will not mind my own business when NO ONE SPEAKS FOR THE DEAD BABIES. Deal with it because I am SO SO SOOO not alone. You are becoming a minority and the more people learn about what abortion really is,, the less it will be tolerated. Get ready. Its almost time.

Remember that an entire country turned their heads when Hitler murdered millions as well. Sheep will be sheep. Keep on ignoring the facts like a good follower. The world will wake up one day and mourn the loss of millions of babies and realize what they did to them.The pain they caused and the torture these tiny humans had to endure before they died. Then the entire world will mourn.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@MaryJohnson @BarbaraLoeppke 


If a major complication happens during birth they will essentially cut the baby in half in save the mother... Ive helped do it personally and it was required to save the mother.


Still had nightmares

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@MaryJohnson @Hadrewsky 

Ive personally "helped" 3 abortions as a nurse... I was greatly disturbed as they were late term to save the mother's life... the infant could not be saved it was understood.

It was terrible...but necessary and it will always be necessary because of rape,incest,birth-defects .... in these three cases you do not have any right to carry a woman to term... a rape victim will be traumatized regardless of the baby's fault. Think that would be a good life? Some might survive but many mothers and baby's would die and suicides would skyrocket.


also sometimes birth-defects cause abortion to be necessary. Ive done 4 of these and they were much easier.


Ive been there and I think the fetus should be pumped with morphine - but the abortions save young women's lives sometimes and we all benefit... even if some dont, but remember they have never had a thought before.