partial-birth abortions exist?
Dueling letters from Colorado
abortionist Dr. Warren Hern and NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson
(Boulder Camera, June,
1. Letter from
abortionist Warren Hern, M.D.,
published in letters column in the Boulder, Colorado, Camera (newspaper),
June 18, 2003
'Partial-birth' law is a fraud
[by Warren Hern, M.D.]
John Bales' scurrilous personal attack on me (Open Forum, June 12) was
apparently prompted by passage of the fraudulent legislation intended to
outlaw so-called "partial-birth abortions" by the U.S. Congress. The
deliberately sickening rhetoric used by its congressional sponsors conceals
the fact that the legislation can be used by anti-abortion zealots to
prohibit all abortions. President Bush's signature of this bill into law
will signal the beginning of the end of safe and legal abortion in the US.
There is no such thing as "partial-birth abortion" or any of its
alternative folklore names described anywhere in the medical literature.
There is no solid, verifiable evidence that any abortions of the kind
described in the law are being performed anywhere by anyone. Even
exaggerated (and highly questionable) estimates by the Alan Guttmacher
Institute would mean that less than 0.1 percent of all abortions are
performed in this way. I do not know anyone who performs abortions in this
manner. I don't, and neither does the one other physician in the United
States who does late abortions.
This leads us to question the motives for this cruelly purveyed and
mindlessly applauded legislation as well as the venom of Mr. Bales' attack
on me. Both the legislation and Mr. Bales would inflict great pain and
suffering, as well as higher risks, on the women who need late abortions.
Many of these women have desired pregnancies that have gone catastrophically
wrong, sometimes threatening their very lives. This legislation is about
electing Republicans to Congress.
Mr. Bales' description of me as an "abortion enthusiast" is as obscene
as calling an orthopedic surgeon a "fracture enthusiast." His sadistic
letter is typical of anti-abortion fanatics, whose monstrous antipathy
toward women can only be explained by the observation that some people feel
good by making other people feel bad.
WARREN M. HERN, M.D., Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic
(2) Response from Douglas Johnson, legislative director
of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), in the Boulder, Colorado
CAMERA, June 22, 2003
The truth about 'partial-birth'
Hern, colleagues know
By Douglas Johnson
In his spittle-flying diatribe against the soon-to-be-enacted federal
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Boulder abortionist Warren Hern asserts that
there is "no solid, verifiable evidence that any abortions of the kind
described in the law" are actually performed (Open Forum, June 18).
Ah, Dr. Hern, don't you know that in this day of the Internet, you
really have to be a little more careful about what you say, because it is so
easy for people to check up on you? The bill (H.R. 760) bans a specific
abortion method for which Congress has adopted the legal term of art,
"partial-birth abortion." Anyone visiting the congressional website
(http://thomas.loc.gov) will find that in the bill, "partial-birth abortion"
is explicitly defined as "an abortion in which the person performing the
abortion deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus"
until "in the case of breech [feet-first] presentation, any part of the
fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother," before
killing the baby.
Hern would have you believe that no such abortion method, involving
delivering most of a living baby feet-first, actually exists. But the
method first came to public attention when an Ohio abortionist, who boasts
of performing hundreds of such abortions annually, wrote a step-by-step
instructional paper. It is posted on the internet at
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood,
recently estimated that 2,200 such abortions were performed in one recent
year -- but that was based on voluntary reports. Other credible estimates
are much higher. Nobody knows for sure, because only one state -- Kansas --
requires that partial-birth abortions be reported separately from other
types of abortions. The first year that requirement was in effect, Kansas
abortionists reported that they had performed 182 partial-birth abortions
after the point that the baby could survive independently of the mother --
and that all 182 were performed for "mental health" reasons.
In fact, "In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on
a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along,"
according to the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion
Providers, interviewed by The New York Times. The medical writer for the
Washington Post reached a similar conclusion after interviewing numerous
abortion providers, saying in a PBS documentary, "Cases in which the
mother's life was truly at risk were extremely rare. Most people who got
this procedure were really not very different from most people who got
All of these documents, and many others that support the same
conclusions, are assembled at the National Right to Life Committee Web site
Hern says that he does not use this method. He neglects to mention
that this is because he prefers methods that involve the progressive
dismemberment of the well-developed unborn child. Describing his technique,
Hern himself once explained, "There is no possibility of denial of an act of
destruction by the operator. It is before one's eyes. The sensations of
dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current."
Someone who gets a pseudo-electrical "charge" out of an unborn child's
death throes should probably be more cautious about referring to his critics
as "sadistic," as Dr. Hern did in his recent letter.
National Right to Life Committee