Infamous late-term abortionist says he was inspired by Albert Schweitzer

By Dave Andrusko

Abortionist Warren Hern
“After Tiller” screen grab

Yesterday, March 10, was The “National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.” While we did write about this, I would have composed something very different had I known that the same day the Los Angeles Times would run a nearly 4,000 word testimonial to Warren Hern, the infamous late-late term abortionist. 

Clearly, from reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske’s perspective, who better to feature in “the first in an occasional series of stories about the state of abortion as Roe vs. Wade faces its most serious challenge” than the 83-year-old Hern who has aborted 20,000 babies? Hern is a “pioneering abortion doctor.”

Her profile of the Boulder, Colorado abortionist is flattering, unctuous even. You know where this is going early in the story: We are to know that Hern was inspired in his formative years by reading a biography of Albert Schweitzer no less! 

“Like the Alsatian German Nobel Prize laureate, Hern had broad interests, including music, photography and theology,” writes Hennessy-Fiske’s. “Schweitzer ultimately dedicated himself to medicine, and Hern decided he would too.” During a break from medical school, “Hern spent several months in Peru, where he worked at a small jungle hospital founded by a protege of Schweitzer.” 

In case we mistakenly think all he ever done is abortions, we see a picture of him as he “listens to a baby’s lungs in a Shipibo village along the Ucayali River in the Amazon rainforest in Peru in 1984.” (Hern graciously provided the photograph to Hennessy-Fiske.]

AND “Elders gifted the athletic, blue-eyed American seed necklaces that would become lifelong staples of his wardrobe.”

What a guy! 

When he performed his first abortion on a 17-year-old girl

“I was terrified, and so was she,” Hern wrote in a medical journal. “She cried after the operation for sadness and relief. Her tears and the immensity of the moment brought my tears.”

What did he learn?

“I felt I had found a new definition of the idea of medicine as an act of compassion and love for one’s fellow human beings, an idea that I gained from learning about Albert Schweitzer.”

Hennessy-Fiske writes that Hern was a trailblazer. “Dr. Warren Hern pioneered new approaches to make late-term abortions safer. ‘It’s difficult work, and not everyone can do it,’ he says.” 

“At the time [the early 70s], most doctors believed abortions couldn’t be done after the first trimester without risking women’s lives,” Hennessy-Fisk writes. “Hern proved them wrong, pioneering new approaches to make later abortions safer, including dilating cervixes with Japanese seaweed tubes called laminaria.”

He described the grisly D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortion at the Associations of Planned Parenthood Physicians meeting in San Diego on October 26, 1978 as a procedure in which “the sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.”

Aborting a child after 18 weeks takes a certain kind of personality. 

Hern starts by giving patients the abortion medication mifepristone. Next he injects digoxin into the fetus, which stops the heart. Then he begins dilating the cervix.

Then they wait. 

On day three or four, Hern releases the amniotic fluid and then uses two drugs — misoprostol and oxytocin — to make the uterus contract.

Then he can remove the fetus. 

Hern gives no evidence that what he does have exacted a toll. Referring to abortions performed after the 18th week, Hennessey-Fiske tells us that

It’s precisely because they are so controversial that Hern considers them foundational to democracy. On this he sees no room for compromise. A fetus is never a baby, a pregnant woman is not a mother, abortion at any stage should never be illegal — and anybody who disagrees is simply wrong.

Not so for his staff. “The work has caused some of his employees ‘serious emotional reactions that produced physiological symptoms, sleep disturbances, effects on interpersonal relationships and moral anguish, Hern reported in a medical journal. Some said they dreamed that they vomited fetuses.”

He did admit the work was “intense”:

“I felt a sense of awe, fear and trepidation being at the intersection of life and death, something like I might feel if I were standing on the edge of a cliff with a high risk of falling.”

Finally, has he slowed down or shifted focus? “Since last summer, Hern’s clinic has only accepted patients who are at least 20 weeks pregnant — abortions few other doctors perform,” Hennessy-Fiske writes. “‘This is an abortion intensive care unit,’ Hern said.”