In a recent interview with Elaine Godfrey for The Atlantic, abortionist Warren Hern doubled down on his lifelong commitment to abortion, insisting that any reason is a good reason for a woman to have her preborn child killed. But despite — as Godfrey described it — Hern’s abortion absolutism, he admits he has suffered from the reality of what he is doing — killing.
In 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade was decided, Hern was 34 and committed his first abortion. He carried out a dilation and curettage, or D&C, abortion, and both he and the woman cried afterward. And as he began committing more abortions, Godfrey said it began to affect him.
“He would often retreat to his office to compose himself after an abortion,” she wrote. “Partly, it was the high-stakes nature of the procedure. But he also needed time to process how the dead fetus looked, how removing it felt. Sometimes he’d sit in his office and think, What am I doing?”
Hern said that, in the 1970s, he had several babies survive abortion attempts, though they died shortly afterward. He began having nightmares. “But for a long while after, a vision of that fetus would wake Hern from sleep,” Godfrey wrote. “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.”
In 1978, he presented a paper to the Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians in San Diego about staff reactions to procedures like dilation and evacuation, or D&E, abortions — a violent procedure that usually takes multiple days, and literally involves ripping the preborn child’s arms and legs from their torso. He wrote:
Some part of our cultural and perhaps even biological heritage recoils at a destructive operation on a form that is similar to our own, even though we know that the act has a positive effect for a living person … We have reached a point in this particular technology where there is no possibility of denying an act of destruction. It is before one’s eyes.
Hern admitted to Godfrey that his colleagues in the abortion industry didn’t approve of his paper. He stands by his description of abortion as destruction — but for him, this doesn’t make abortion a bad thing. “Why not face the truth that abortion late in pregnancy is, at least in one way, destructive?” Godfrey wrote. “He still believes that such destruction can be a profoundly merciful act.”
This isn’t the first time that Hern, or his staffers, have been open about the negative effects abortion has on them. A recent profile in the Los Angeles Times found Hern admitting that his line of work is not easy on his staffers.
“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,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Some said they dreamed that they vomited fetuses.”
This is not unusual; many in the medical profession have spoken out about having serious negative reactions after abortion. Many said they had been traumatized or continued to have nightmares, even decades later. Others said they struggled to square the reality of saving a baby’s life one moment, and intentionally taking a baby’s life in the next. It’s not surprising, as even abortionists have admitted: people go into medicine to save lives, not take them. As abortionist Benjamin Kalish said: “Even now I feel a little peculiar about it. Because as a physician I was trained to conserve life, and here I am destroying it.”
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