Warren Hern: A portrait in abortion absolutism– Part One

By Dave Andrusko

Give her her due. Elaine Godrey flatly calls late-late term abortionists Warren Hern what he clearly is: “The Abortion Absolutist.” Her profile in the Atlantic of the 84-year-old Hern minces no words, although at some level she admires what he does “for women.”

“Hern is reluctant to acknowledge any limit, any red line,” she writes. “He takes the woman’s-choice argument to its logical conclusion.”

These much later abortions “are the less common cases, and the hardest ones,” Godrey writes. “They are the cases that even stalwart abortion-rights advocates generally prefer not to discuss.”

Indeed even Frances Kissling, the founding president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association for abortion providers, will draw a line. She “admires Hern and his commitment to women. But she has misgivings about his work.”

“Later-term abortions are more serious, ethically, than earlier abortions,” Kissling, who left NAF after a few years and went on to lead Catholics for Choice, told me—and only more so in cases that involve women who have not received any serious fetal diagnoses. “My ethics are such that I would say to them, ‘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,’” she said.

 Usually, profiles of Hern talk about how he aborts unborn babies with devastating anomalies. And so does Godrey but who adds

Abortions that come after devastating medical diagnoses can be easier for some people to understand. But Hern estimates that at least half, and sometimes more, of the women who come to the clinic do not have these diagnoses.

“At least half, and sometimes more.” In these other cases, healthy babies, healthy moms.

Pro-abortionists understand that to even indirectly acknowledge what Hern is doing—and to whom– is risky. The following paragraph explains why:

During the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, when about 90 percent of abortions in America are carried out, the fetus’s appearance ranges from a small clot of phlegm to an alienlike ball of flesh. At 22 weeks, though, a human fetus has grown to about the size of a small melon. The procedures that Hern performs result in the removal of a body that, if you saw it, would inspire a sharp pang of recognition. These are the abortions that provide fodder for the gruesome images on protesters’ signs and the billboards along Midwest highways, images that can be difficult to look at for long.

“A sharp pang of recognition”? What else could it be? That’s one of us!

Finally, a quote from his early days as an abortionist. is a testimony that Hern didn’t always have a heart three times too small:

He had bad dreams too. In the 1970s, physicians did not induce fetal demise during abortion, and once or twice, during a procedure at 15 or 16 weeks, he used forceps to remove a fetus with a still-beating heart. The heart thumped for only a few seconds before stopping. But for a long while after, a vision of that fetus would wake Hern from sleep. He could see it in his mind, the inches-long body and its heart: beating, beating, beating. In one dream, Hern angled his own body to shield his staff from catching a glimpse. 

We’ll pick this up tomorrow.