Sunday, August 07, 2005

Letters from an Abortion Doctor

Every summer Operation Save America takes a massive, weeklong protest to some fortunate city in America where their director, Flip Benham, leads them in “storming the gates of hell.” A couple of weeks ago, OSA swarmed Colorado in Operation Save Denver. But when Benham’s “saints” and “gentle Christian warriors” pack up to go marauding, they carry along so much hellfire and brimstone that they had plenty left over for Boulder, where they focused the wrath of their angry God upon Dr. Warren Hern.

Dr. Hern is a provider of exemplary abortion care. He is also a renowned anthropologist, as well as an internationally recognized authority in his highly specialized field of medicine. Together with Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Dr. Hern has been at the top of the antiabortion mob's hit list for over 20 years.

And this time was no exception.

OSA besieged various Colorado targets for a week--abortion-providing clinics, gay and lesbian groups, mosques, and even a school of theology—but they singled out Dr. Hern for some viciously personal attention by papering his North Boulder neighborhood with what looked very much like “wanted” posters.
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Scary stuff. But if the “Reverend” Flip and his “gentle Christians” thought that Warren Hern would bolt for the basement and lay low until they left town, they mistook their man.

The indomitable Dr. Hern came out swinging, immediately purchasing a
newspaper ad that gave the OSA flyer far greater exposure than Flip Benham could have dreamed of, along with some well chosen words of his own.

Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic
23 July 2005

This flyer was placed in the doors of all my neighbors in North Boulder on Wednesday afternoon (7/20/05) by the antiabortion fanatics who have been screaming at the people of Colorado this week. The purpose of the flyer is to cause hate and fear. Its purpose is to get someone to kill me.

This kind of flyer has preceded the assassination of each abortion doctor in the United States. It is terrorism. Its authors hate freedom. Its authors hate thought. Its authors hate what America means.

On Wednesday afternoon, after demonstrating at my office and another clinic for two days, after harassing abortion doctors in Denver in their private homes, the leaders of “Operation Save America” came to my neighborhood to place these leaflets at every house.

“Operation Save America” wants all my neighbors to hate me. This despicable, threatening, outrageous personal attack is anonymous, although we know who did it, and it is cowardly, because they won’t admit it. It is a dangerous action, and the authors know it. That’s what they intend.

The fundamentalist “Christians” who make up “Operation Save America” are fascists. “Operation Save America” is the face of fascism in America. Americans need to understand fascism. This is how fascists create an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, repression, destruction of individual lives, and the destruction of a free society.

It is right out of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” or “1984.” “Big Brother Is Watching You.” The name of this gang, “Operation Save America,” is a fulfillment of Orwell’s prophecy: a lie in the service of totalitarian repression.

How is “Operation Save America’s hatred and demonization of abortion doctors different from the Nazi’s persecution of Jews in the Germany of the mid-1930’s? How is it different from how white racists and the Ku Klux Klan treated black people in the South before the lynching began? How is it different from the Salem witch-hunts, and how is it different from the hysterical anti-communist McCarthyism of the 1950’s? How is it different from the Taliban’s puritanical repression? It isn’t.

If you think it's different, just give “Operation Save America” more power. Their friends are already running the federal government. American women who want to have reproductive health and freedom and who want to live in the 21st century instead of going back to the 9th century have less to fear from the overturn of Roe vs.Wade by the Supreme Court than from “Operation Save America.”

A little more of this, and doctors just won’t do abortions. Would you?
"A little more of this, and doctors just won’t do abortions. Would you?"

That’s a fair question. If you were an average, everyday OB/GYN with a wife, 2.4 kids, a country club membership and a Golden Retriever, and couldn’t even attend your annual ACOG conference without facing down the menacing presence of dozens of
Army of God goons every year, would you go out on a limb and risk losing all you'd worked for by providing your patients with abortion care?

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Like OSA, the Army of God understands the power of fear: “Abortionists should remember that there could always be another Paul Hill or James Kopp who will do more than just talk. To make that point clear, signs were displayed praising both Paul Hill and James Kopp, both convicted of killing abortion doctors, and other signs calling for the execution of abortionists.”

So if your answer to Dr. Hern's question is no, don’t feel guilty, because this ever-present threat of violence, or even death, is a big part of why most other physicians don’t provide abortion care, either.

But something kind of wonderful happened when Dr. Hern went public with the threat directed at him by OSA. In fact, it was so wonderful that he bought some more newspaper space just to say thank you.


We have received many messages of support by phone, fax, email, and letters since our two full-page ads were published in the Rocky Mountain News (7/23/05) and Sunday Camera (7/24/05) denouncing the hate-message flyer attacking me that was distributed in Boulder on 7/20/05 by the leaders of “Operation Save America.” Most respondents left their names and contact information, which we have omitted to protect their privacy.

This ad is to thank all those many people who have expressed their support. Many have sent unsolicited contributions wishing to help pay for those ads and to help women who need abortions but have limited resources. We do not and will not solicit contributions from the public, but will use these contributions specified for those two purposes.

This statement is paid for by Warren M.Hern, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic,1130 Alpine, Boulder, Colorado 80304
Tel:303 447-1361.
More information on this subject may be found at

If you are interested in knowing how you can work to protect reproductive freedom in Colorado, please call or write to me at the address and telephone number above. I will return all phone calls and respond to all written messages from those seeking to help, and I will help you find the ways of helping that are most appropriate to your beliefs and means.
Warren M. Hern, M.D.

Dr. Hern needed a full page of extremely fine print, but here are just a few messages from the copy of his ad that I received.

”I live in Denver....but would gladly show you to offer support, security, anything. You bear the brunt of this sad, right-wing jihad and I salute your bravery. Thank you for being who you are.”

“Use the enclosed in a way that represents your beliefs. ... I abhor the path our government is taking and the crazies who support the ‘Operation Save America.’ I admire your wording in your ad, admire you as a human being and support what you believe and are doing. Seldom do I reach out like this but Lord knows we must kiss you for your stand.” (Check for $25.00 enclosed).

“Sorry these Nazis are giving you trouble. I was in WWII and know how they operated. Call me if I can assist in some way.”

[Husband] “My wife and I have never had an abortion, nor do we plan to, but we support someone’s right to choose. Operation Save America represents the worst that right wing America has to offer. ... PS: You have some big cojones to run that ad. Thank you for doing it.”
[Wife] “We support what you do and your dedication to keeping women healthy. Thank you for taking such a big risk to provide your services. I know our [$25.00] donation is small, but we both felt very strongly that this is the most important donation we’ve ever made.”

“So many thoughts run through my mind as I sit down to write this. ... The first election I was old enough to vote in, I voted to legalize abortion in Washington state. By then my roommate had had an illegal abortion. I will never forget calling her family after I had taken her to the E.R. Her complications were serious. The work you do is important to women; please know that many of us support you. ... You are a very courageous man. My heart goes out to you and all those who love you. The abuse you are subjected to is really unjust. Be safe. Thank you, K.”

“Thank you for helping women every day, and having the courage to do so in the face of all the threats you receive. I appreciated you publishing the notice in the paper today to shed light on the sleazy work that Operation Save America and others are doing. I’m writing to let you know that I support you as do millions of other women on whose behalf you are working. My thoughts are with you in this dangerous time.”

“Thank you! We love America and as women we need our RIGHT TO CHOOSE! Babies need to be born BECAUSE THEY ARE WANTED! I am a Christian and I am disgusted by the Operation Save America movement. They and the Dobson camp seem to love the word HATE. Jesus would not do what they are doing. Thank you for your courageous article.”

“I was disgusted to read in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News of the recent picketing of your clinic (although that is not news, I am sure) and of your home and of the flyer that “Operation Save America” has been distributing. I fear that there is a moderate possibility that this country will within a few years regress to the time of coat hangers. I am ashamed of my country. Please find a check for $50.00 to be used toward reimbursing yourself for the cost of the ad you placed in the same issue of the News. If you would rather, this contribution can be used for pro bono work done at the clinic.”

“Many years ago you helped me when I needed it. Right after my abortion procedure I began to cry, you touched my face and comforted me. I have thought of that through the years and felt grateful. ... Whenever there is a discussion about abortion I speak up and state my beliefs but I haven’t had to defend my life because of it. I want you to know I think you are a very courageous man. Thank you. Sincerely, S.”

“First I want to thank you for standing up to a religion that is full of hate, they are hiding under God’s name. If you don’t thump a bible and yell what a good Christian you are, you are their enemy. I’m 70 years old and believe we are supposed to have freedom of choice in America, but our government is making it into an Iron Curtain. ... Our religion has become Bush ‘Taliban.’ I understand because I live in the bible thumper country, also called ‘Christian.’ Also I was lucky not to ever had an abortion, but know some special people who had to. If only people could walk in their shoes during their painful situation. Thanks for being there when they needed you and you didn’t judge them.”

“You probably don’t need my support, but I need to give it. I am a Christian Senior citizen a resident of Lakewood Colorado. I am sick and tired of listening to ‘fascists’ claiming to be ‘Christians.’ Christians do not judge other persons based on their choices, medical or otherwise! Christ gave us the gift of ‘free will’ that includes making choices in all areas of our lives, and the consequences of those choices are ours alone with Christ as our only judge. I do NOT support ‘abortion,’ I DO support our freedom as citizens of this country to make our own choices. I do support your work because you are also free to make your own choices, so women do not need to go to butchers. I was in an illegal clinic in the ‘50’s. I pray we never go back to that! Be careful my Brother!”

“Thank you for having the courage to operate your clinic. ... You were right to compare the OSA people to the Ku Klux Klan. They don’t even try to hide who they are. Please use this [$20.00] to help pay for the newspaper ad or to help an indigent woman.”

“Dear Dr. Hern: I am 79 years old and ... I have some thoughts to share with you regarding your recent publication that I feel are important. After reading your announcement in the Rocky Mountain News, I feel obligated to submit the following: In describing the thugs who would do you harm, you omitted three appropriate adjectives: ‘zealots, gangers and criminals.’ The problem you are dealing with if not fomented by our current administration, is at least being given the nod by default. Abortion and other emotional subjects are being used as wedge issues to advance their own political agenda. Our constitution is not the rule and guide of their thinking. Don’t look for support or even sympathy from the occupants of the white house. And I believe the recent nominee for the Supreme Court is a callous indication of the contempt that our president holds for the people who made him our leader.”

When Dr. Hern read a longer version of this article at Liberal Street Fighter, he forwarded to me, through a mutual friend, a letter of his own.

My thanks to moiv for giving an account of our problem with OSA and responses here in Boulder, Colorado. We appreciate this very much, and we also appreciate the support from moiv and others who have made comments.

This is good, but we need to make the next step. As long as the Republicans under current leadership are running anything, there is no hope. Wherever possible, we must convert this energy into solidifying Democratic control over any political institution (such as a state legislature or governor’s office) and to restore Democratic control where it has been lost (legislatures; both houses of Congress).

There is no other solution, and it can’t happen too fast. Some Democrats, particularly among the national leaders such as Howard Dean, do not understand this and are irrelevant to this process, which must come from below. Anti-choice Democrats must be blocked. The political message must be: vote with us, and you get elected; vote against us, you don’t get to be precinct captain next time. Nothing else will do.

Republicans who are not part of the current fascist leadership of that party must throw those bastards out, and that is the most important and difficult task. Only then can we get back to civil discourse and bipartisan consideration of important public issues, particularly on issues of reproductive freedom. It has happened before. We can make it happen again.

Warren M. Hern, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic

Dr. Hern isn’t a politician. He doesn’t buy and sell abstractions. He lives in an all-too-physical world, one awash with the daily sweat and tears of living, breathing and bleeding women to whom reproductive freedom has suddenly become more than just a poll-tweaking talking point. He and all the other physicians who are still hanging in and providing skillful and compassionate abortion care in this country--come hell, high water or the ground troops, fifth column or otherwise, for the Culture of Life--don’t spend their mornings spinning policy, their lunchtimes eating rubber chicken or their afternoons counting their bargaining chips.

They live in my world, the real world, where this is the way it is.


Blogger Bruce Wilson said...

Thanks for posting this !

I missed your diary on the Daily Kos, and I was thrilled to read this recent example of one person's successful fight against Christian right hate speech that amounts to the incitement of domestic terrorism.

If Americans take the Global War on Violent Extremism ( formerly known as the "Global War on Terror" , or GWOT ) seriously, they will refuse to tolerate such incitements to violence.

It was an inspiring read.

9:41 AM  
Blogger moiv said...

Thank you for both the compliment and the kind invitation.

I worry that the "Culture of Life" may foster public acceptance of this kind of behavior and worse.

The crescent moon can be denigrated as a symbol of terrorism, but for some people, such acts as this are only expressions of free speech--just so long as they're committed under the sign of the cross.

4:53 PM  

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