Dr. Warren Hern, the Colorado doctor who’s one of the few in the United States willing and trained to perform late-term abortions, is being investigated by an openly anti-abortion Congressional panel. Hern told a Boulder newspaper that the investigation is effectively painting “a target” on his back, and could lead to an anti-abortion zealot murdering him.
Hern is 78 years old and has been performing safe, legal late-term abortions for decades. In June, Jezebel ran an interview with one of his patients, a New York woman we called Elizabeth. Like many women who need a late-term abortion, her pregnancy had severe complications, making the fetus nonviable. Here’s how she described her experience at Hern’s office:
Everyone treated us with respect and sensitivity. There’s a lot of people saying “You’re doing the right thing,” which is something that we hadn’t really heard yet. It is an empowering place: there are pamphlets there that say, “You’re a woman. You know what’s best for you.” They’re just there to help you get through the worst day of your life as easily as possible, basically. That’s really how it felt.
The Daily Camera reports that Hern is now being investigated by a special Congressional panel, the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. It’s led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and has been busy pretending for a while now like there is one shred of evidence that abortion providers sell “baby parts” (fetal tissue”) for profit. Blackburn is now also serving on the presidential transition team for Donald Trump
There is, of course, no evidence that anybody is actually selling fetal tissue, unless you count the heavily edited, roundly debunked videos produced by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. Every state that has investigated the allegations made in the CMP videos has turned up nothing, but the panel is still operational and very busy. They have even recommended criminal charges and contempt proceedings against medical providers Blackburn accuses of not cooperating fully with their “investigations.”
Now they’ve begun targeting Hern, the Daily Camera reports, suggesting that maybe he’s trafficking in fetal tissue:
According to a letter from Rep. Marsha Blackburn that Hern provided to the Daily Camera, the panel is seeking information on the procurement and transfer of fetal tissue, whether Hern has been paid for tissue and whether he or any of his staff has held positions at an institute that receives such tissue from his clinic.
Hern, who does not mince words, told the newspaper that he is effectively being singled out for assassination by any unhinged anti-abortion zealot who’s following the proceedings: “This is legislative harassment. When they do this kind of thing—this has been the pattern for decades—they identify doctors to be assassinated.”
That was certainly the case with Dr. George Tiller, who was the subject of legal harassment by anti-abortion groups as well as a media blitz by Fox Host Bill O’Reilly, who referred to him on air as “Tiller the baby killer” and suggested there was “a special place in hell” for him in dozens of segments. Tiller was murdered on the steps of his church by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion “activist” who had attended a trial against Tiller where he was accused—and acquitted—of performing unlawful procedures at his clinic.
A few days after Trump was elected, Hern wrote in an essay for health and medicine news outlet Stat that he feels the government is now controlled by, well:
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.
Update, November 21:
In an email, Hern offered one correction to our post: he was not “trained” to perform later abortions, but rather pioneered several methods at a time when there were few protocols and little interest in training doctors to perform safe abortions:“When I started performing abortions in 1971, 45 years ago, there were no training programs.” Among them, Hern pioneered the use of laminaria, seaweed sticks used to safely dilate the cervix before a first-trimester abortion. He writes, “ I then started developing the techniques of serial multiple laminaria dilation of the cervix over 2-3 days in order to perform second trimester abortions more safely.”
Nobody trained me. There have been no abortion training programs until recently. I have developed the techniques, instruments, and protocols for second trimester and later abortion over the past 40+ years, and these instruments and protocols are used by other physicians. Unfortunately, I have been excluded from these new training programs because my work is controversial and politically charged. But that’s another story.