A late-term abortion doctor says in a new interview with The Atlantic that at least half of the procedures he performs are on women whose babies are healthy and are not facing life-threatening medical conditions.
That doctor, 84-year-old Warren Hern, told the publication that he performs abortions well after viability, sometimes up to 30 weeks gestation. Colorado, where he resides, has no limits on abortion.
He also has performed sex-selective abortions.
“Hern is reluctant to acknowledge any limit, any red line,” the story said. “... Hern considers his religious adversaries to be zealots, and many of them are. But he is, in his own way, no less an absolutist.”
Hern only performs late-term abortions. Some patients fly in from other states.
About half of the patients come to him with a fetal diagnosis of some sort of medical condition – multiple brain anomalies, for example.
“Abortions that come after devastating medical diagnoses can be easier for some people to understand,” the story said.
Hern, though, “estimates that at least half, and sometimes more, of the women who come to the clinic do not have these diagnoses,” the story said.
The story’s author, Elaine Godfrey, asked Hern, “So if a pregnant woman with no health issues comes to the clinic, say, at 30 weeks, what would you do?”
“Every pregnancy is a health issue!” he responded. “There’s a certifiable risk of death from being pregnant, period.”
The reason for the abortion, the story said, “doesn’t really matter to Hern.”
That includes sex-selection abortions, where a woman gets an abortion because the unborn baby isn’t the sex she desired.
“Hern said he had done abortions for sex selection twice: once for this woman; and once for someone who’d desperately wanted a girl. It was their choice to make, he explained,” the story said.
Hern believes that the “viability of a fetus is determined not by gestational age but by a woman’s willingness to carry it,” The Atlantic reported.
His appointments have increased by 50 percent since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Abortions in his clinic take three or four days and involve the insertion of a needle into the woman’s abdomen to “stop the fetus’s heart,” the story said.
“When the cervix is sufficiently dilated after another day or two of adding and removing laminarias, Hern will drain the amniotic fluid, give the patient misoprostol, and remove the fetus,” the story said. “Sometimes, the fetus will be whole, intact. Other times, Hern must remove it in parts. If the patient asks, a nurse will wrap the fetus in a blanket to hold or present a set of handprints or footprints for the patient to take home.”
Long ago, before such procedures were used, he said, he once removed a fetus with a still-beating heart. It beat for a few seconds before stopping. He had nightmares about it for a while, but those eventually disappeared.
Even some pro-choicers oppose Hern’s actions. Frances Kissling of Catholics for Choice told The Atlantic she would tell women who have healthy babies, “I’m terribly sorry, but I cannot perform an abortion for you. I will do anything I can to help you get through the next two or three months, but I don’t do this.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pornpak Khunatorn
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.