CNN All Platform Journalist
If you let your mind wander for a minute the waiting room at the Boulder Abortion Clinic looks like any other doctors office–Ansel Adams prints on the walls, Tropical fish tank, Year old Reader’s Digests–but the two burly undercover U.S. Marshals and the four...yes four…bulletproof glass doors that lead to the office send a different message: this is a war zone.
This is where Dr. Warren Hern has been performing abortions since the 1970s, including controversial late term abortions. Along with his friend Dr. George Tiller, who was killed Sunday, he is one of a handful of doctors that do late term abortions.
In 1985 a large stone was thrown through his front window, but he didn’t quit. He put up a sign that read, "This window was broken by those who hate Freedom."
In 1988, after years of death threats, five shots were fired into his office. No one was hurt. The shooter was never apprehended. That’s when the bulletproof glass was installed.
“For the past 35 years I have expected to be shot when I walk out of my house.” He says, “I expect to be shot doing anything that I’m doing, because the anti-abortion people have sent the message “Do what we tell you to do or we will kill you” and they do, they have they’ve killed a number of doctors and other people.”
He pulls no punches when describing violent anti-abortion extremists.
“This is a fascist, totalitarian, terrorist movement that will take no prisoners that will stop at nothing, including assassination to impose their will on other people,” He says, “This is what they want, this is a terrorist movement.”
His name and the address of his clinic appear on a number of anti-abortion websites in what Hern calls “Hit lists”, and he says anti-abortion protesters are out front of his office almost everyday, but what strikes me most about Dr. Hern is not how he is dealing with what is happening outside the clinic, but how seriously he takes what is happening inside, behind the bulletproof glass, with the women he serves.
“This is an abortion intensive care unit. We take care of women that have very special needs, many of whom have advanced pregnancies, many of whom have desired pregnancies that have very serious if not fatal complications.” He says.
On the podiums of political rallies and the op-ed pages of the newspaper it is easy to forget that abortion is more than a political volleyball. Standing in an examination room where woman actually go through the procedure it all seems a little different.
“It’s very difficult. It’s emotionally and physically demanding. Patients come here at one of the worst moments of their life, making one of the most painful decisions of their life.” He says.
The defiant energy he had earlier in our conversation, when talking about the people he says want to kill him, has mostly vanished here in the examination room. In it’s place a kind of weariness emerges. He seems tired, though no less determined.
“Nobody, even someone who has all the information, can know what is the correct decision, and this is not a decision anyone else can make for the women, they are the most competent people to make these decisions.”
He says his wife wants him to quit, but he says he isn’t going anywhere.
“This is what I do. This is what I do, so that is not an option.”
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with