By Jonathon Van Maren
With the fall of Roe v. Wade, journalists are working to lionize abortionists, who are presented as the heroic defenders of reproductive rights on the frontlines of a heated culture war. The latest is a profile of one of America’s most notorious abortionists, Warren Hern, in The Atlantic. Hern literally wrote the book on abortion (Abortion Practice) and has been blunt about what he does. Destroying babies in the womb at 22, 25 or even 30 weeks can be hard work — “the sensations of dismemberment,” Hern has noted, “flow through the forceps like an electric current.”
Hern begins the interview by noting that a baby is a “fetus” until it is “born alive.” Fetus, of course, is Latin for “young one” or “offspring,” and so he is simply calling it a baby in a very old language. The purpose of the terminological insistence, of course, is that “fetus” serves a dehumanizing purpose in this context. Hern wants us to know that he doesn’t kill babies. He kills fetuses. It is only a baby if he or she survives the pregnancy, and survival is unlikely if Hern enters the picture. At age 84, Hern is still running his abortion clinic in Boulder, Colorado. There are no restrictions on abortion in the state.
Elaine Godfrey, his interviewer, is happy to assist Hern in his dehumanization, referring to babies up to 13 weeks in the womb as resembling “a small clot of phlegm” or “an alien-like ball of flesh.” This is so far from the truth that Godfrey must be lying intentionally. Any pregnancy website will show you that a baby at 13 weeks (and much earlier) bears no resemblance whatsoever to those descriptions. She does, however, admit that the late-term abortions Hern carries out are a different matter, and that they “result in the removal of a body that, if you saw it, would inspire a sharp pang of recognition.” Pictures of these bodies, she notes, “can be difficult to look at for long.”
Hern’s business is booming — as abortion laws pass across the country, his clientele has increased by 50%. Hern, Godfrey notes, is an absolutist on abortion. If the woman wants one, regardless of gestation, then Hern will provide one. A late-term abortion will cost around $6,000, and the National Abortion Federation or other abortion funds sometimes cover some of the costs. Hern will sometimes cover some of the costs himself. The procedures take three or four days — first, Hern finds the baby on an ultrasound, and then injects her in the heart with digoxin in order to “induce fetal demise.” The cervix is then dilated over several days with laminaria, and Hern removes the baby.
According to Godfrey, “Sometimes, the fetus will be whole, intact. Other times, Hern must remove it in parts. If the patients ask, 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.” Some of the women Godfrey interviewed referred to their late-term abortions as “mercy killings”; one told her bluntly: “I put my baby down. It’s euthanasia. That’s the kind of killing it is. But I would do it a million times if I had to.” As horrifying as that is, half or more of Hern’s patients — by his own admission — are procuring late-term abortions despite there being nothing wrong with the baby. We are constantly told that “nobody” gets a late-term abortion for anything but extraordinary circumstances. That is simply not true.