As I’ve headed to work in recent days to see abortion patients in my office, I have felt bereft: All the premises of my life, work, education, and future were gone. Something very profound in the meaning of the America I know has been destroyed with the election of Donald J. Trump as president.
One of the reasons I’ve felt this way is that, for the past 45 years, I have dedicated my medical career, skills, and life to the assistance of women who need my services as a physician in performing safe abortions.
It is my definition of practicing medicine: a noble art that involves helping other people at the most personal level. There is nothing more personal, intimate, and private for a woman than deciding whether to have a baby or end a pregnancy.
This lifetime dedication to helping those women means for me, among other things, that I have a home, a family, an office, a staff, deeply satisfying work, and all the connections and financial obligations that those things bring.
But I have lived for the past 45 years under constant stress. Anti-abortion protests have targeted me personally. I have received innumerable death threats because I do this important work.
I have survived, but some of my colleagues and friends have been murdered by anti-abortion fanatics.
Donald Trump has said that women should be punished for having abortions. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, has used attacks on abortion as the principal focus of his public career.
With Trump as president and the sworn enemies of abortion controlling both houses of Congress, I really wonder if I can leave the country for any purpose and be confident that I will be allowed to return. What if the Republicans won’t let me back into my own country? What happens to my life then?
It seems irrational, but the people now in charge of our national government are not rational people. They have expressed their hatred for the work I do for women. It doesn’t matter that I am a citizen and a physician. I feel that I am subject to hostile, unrestrained arbitrary power.
In fact, one week ago I received a chilling letter from Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the most ferociously anti-abortion member of Congress, who chairs the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
The letter demanded that I submit a wide variety of documents, including patient medical records in cases of gestations greater than 22 weeks. I have until Nov. 21 to comply.
The panel is looking for evidence that I am selling “baby body parts.” It has the power of subpoena and can cite me for contempt of Congress if I don’t comply by the deadline.
It is frightening. It is a witch hunt.
I am a physician helping patients, and I am being treated like a criminal.
The star chamber proceedings of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives is a target identification program for the anti-abortion assassins. It is terrifying.
At a deeper level, I have no confidence that Trump and the current Republican leadership will protect my life and liberty because of the work I do to help women. Their public harassment of me increases my risk of assassination.
Trump is a man who seems to care nothing for the protections of the Constitution, including civil rights and free speech. He threatens violence against members of the press and those who disagree with him. His vile, vulgar, and predatory attitudes toward women have been on lurid display from the beginning to the end of his campaign. He threatens the world with nuclear instability. How can he be the president of a country that represents freedom and civility?
Since Roe v. Wade, federal legislation and court decisions have affected us only indirectly. There have been numerous attempts to shut me down at the state level since I began performing abortions in Colorado in 1973. Many of these bills have been directed specifically at me and at my medical practice. I have testified against them dozens of times, sometimes under armed guard. With the help of pro-choice community and political leaders, I’ve seen most of these bills defeated.
But Trump’s election, combined with continuing control of the Congress by anti-abortion Republicans, ratchets up the threat to what we do to help women. It’s now higher than ever before. Trump can sign the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation with impunity. After he has replaced several sitting Supreme Court justices, Roe vs. Wade will be overturned, and we will all be at the mercy of even more conservative state legislatures.
This is profoundly discouraging to me, especially since I want to bring in a young doctor or two who can continue my important work when I cannot do it.
What can I tell a young physician about the future? Every day is a struggle for survival.
During the past month, I have had conversations about my specialized abortion practice in Colorado with numerous idealistic young doctors, nurses, medical students, and other health professionals.
The young physicians, including Americans who are studying in Europe, expressed their desire to serve women by performing abortions. They bought copies of my textbook on abortion care and they said they wanted to visit my practice to learn how I safely perform late abortions for women who are terminating desired pregnancies because of catastrophic fetal abnormalities. But they also expressed concern for the intensity, violence, and power of the anti-abortion movement in the United States.
They had read about the assassinations of American physicians such as Dr. George Tiller, who specialized in abortion services. They knew about the attacks on other clinics and physicians, including the time in 1988 when the front windows of my office were shot out.
What security can I offer young physicians that they can have a fulfilling life and medical career in this work helping women and their families?
Under an unrestrained Donald Trump and this Republican Congress, I fear for my life, I fear for my family, and I fear for my future. I fear for my staff and my patients.
Even more, I fear for my country, and I fear for the world.
Warren M. Hern, MD, is a physician and epidemiologist who directs the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Boulder, Colo.
How can you call yourself a doctor? Don’t you take a Hippocratic Oath to only help your patients? How can you take the life of a child and not think that is wrong? You do it for money so don’t act like you’re protecting women’s rights. I would hate to be you and have to stand before God on your judgment day and tell him why you have killed all of his children. You will surely go to hell for this. I don’t know how you can sleep at night knowing that you have aborted all of those sweet innocent babies for money. A baby is a life from the minute of conception. It doesn’t matter how far along in the nine months it is. It is still a human life and you are destroying it. I won’t pray for you because you are the most evil person I know. You along with all the other doctors who swear the oath and then turn around and kill millions of innocent lives. Good luck to you when you stand before God. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes!
While I share your abhorrence of abortion, let’s be aware of how we’re modeling our belief in the God of Mercy & Love.
I entered your clinic as a terrified teenager in the 90s. My mother was dying, my father was struggling to pay her medical bills, and I was pregnant with absolutely no support network. I was scared, and I just wanted the nightmare to be over. You didn’t judge, and neither did your staff. You gave me the freedom to finish college, to have a successful career, to travel the world, and to be more stable than my parents ever were. I am still happily without children in a loving, long-term relationship. Without you, my life would have been worse. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the personal sacrifices that you have made to make sure that women have access to reproductive health care. I’m sorry for the unbearable pain that you’ve had to deal with as you’ve seen friends and colleagues assassinated for doing the same. Please know that you have changed lives for the better with the work that you do.
WOW! While you are fat and happy, your baby is DEAD!
WHAT personal sacrifices????? He is rich!
Dr. Hern — As a long time pro-Choice Republican, I want to know how I can help you in this fight. I saw your full page ad in the 11/27/16 Denver Post. I have contacted my representative (Diana DeGette), as well as Jan Schakowsky and the National Republican Majority for Choice organization about your plight. I’ve been part of this fight for 40 years — and it did not start with Trump, unfortunately. Far right extremists in the Republican party have been trying to subvert Roe v Wade throughout my adult lifetime, and I have continued to support organizations (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, RMC, etc.) that are supporting a woman’s right to control her reproductive health choices all these years. I worked to defeat the “personhood” amendments in Colorado and I want to help you get this Panel off your (and who knows how many other physicians’) backs. Let me know how I can help you. With Trump’s ability to appoint ultra-conservative “old white boys” to the Supreme Court, Roe v Wade may no longer be the law of the land. I know that Colorado will continue to be a an abortion-safe state, but there will definitely be other other states that will vote to severely restrict woman’s reproductive choices. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to re-engage (yet again) in this very important fight.
– Trump isn’t president yet and he didn’t say women should be punished for abortions. He said if it was made illegal, than they should be punished. Thats a true statement because violations of laws require punishment
-It’s not illegal, it won’t be illegal (because Roe V. Wade won’t be overturned) and all this “Trump is rounding up abortion proponents like the gestapo” is pure and utter hysteria over nothing.
– The vice president has NO authority over policy or direction of the government and can’t do anything legally to ban abortion
– Obama’s still president, and this abortion task force led by Marsha Blackburn started 1-2 years ago with the selling of fetus parts. This has nothing to do with Trump.
People. seriously stop with the nonsense. Nothing is going to change and none of this is related to Mike Pence or Donald Trump.
I stand with you, doctor , in the next four years you will be subject to the extreme harassment of the Trump dynasty I will ceaselessly mount my support and caring for you and for Roe v Wade ☮️
Help me understand why you believe Dr. Hern will be subjected to extreme harassment while Donald Trump is POTUS?
Sadly, I have taken for granted my rights and liberties thank you for your service and I support your work.
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