1st Edition

Abortion in the Age of Unreason A Doctor's Account of Caring for Women Before and After Roe v. Wade

By Warren M. Hern Copyright 2025
    378 Pages 11 Color & 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This vivid account by a nationally prominent doctor reports the daily challenges of offering and receiving abortion services in a volatile political and social atmosphere. In stories from the front lines—from protecting patients and staff from protesters’ attacks to the dangers to women of restricted access to abortion services, and the pertinent findings of his remote research in Latin America, Hern’s book is strikingly   detailed just as it exposes the needs of women and the U. S. national interest. Dr. Hern—an abortion specialist, researcher, scholar, and highly visible public advocate--shows how abortion saves women’s lives given the many risks that arise during pregnancy—remarkably more than most people realize. He points to political and national solutions to reverse a reawakened crisis that now threatens democracy. Throughout the book, Dr. Hern shows how the current emergency was largely created by political actors who have exploited and distorted the abortion issue to increase and consolidate their power.

    A vital component of women’s health care, the crisis over abortion is not new. Yet the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the steady accumulation of power by America’s right wing has put the issue at a level of urgency and national prominence not seen since the days before legalization. Women’s need for safe abortion services will continue as the struggle to secure their rights intensifies. This book is about that struggle during what has evolved, over the last fifty years, to an Age of Unreason.

    Introduction: abortion in the age of unreason

    1. Terror on the labor deck      

    2. Abortion and public health in the Americas

    3. Focus on family planning

    4. Abortion becomes an issue in America

    5. Making safe abortion real for women

    6. “Please don’t ever stop doing this.”

    7. Abortion in the Seventies

    8. Abortion politics and public policy in Colorado

    9. Doing something radical in the most conservative way possible

    10. Know the tree by its fruit

    11. Anti-abortion violence: assassinations and stochastic terrorism

    12. The illness of pregnancy

    13. When is an egg not an egg?

    14. Abortion and the Supreme Court

    15. Partial truth abortion: political pornography for Republicans

    16. The language of abortion

    17. First, kill all the doctors

    18. The international role of abortion in women’s health and population growth

    19. Choice comments    

    20. I can’t wear a tank

    21. Keep your paws off my pussy and your laws out of my uterus

    22. The voices of women, their families, and those who help them                                               

    23. After Dobbs and post–Roe                                                                


    Warren M. Hern, M. D., is known to the public through his many appearances on CNN, Rachel Maddow/MSNBC; Sixty Minutes, and in the pages of The Atlantic Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, and dozens more media. A scientist, Hern wrote about the need for safe abortion services before the 1973 Roe V. Wade decision and was present at the first Supreme Court arguments. In his research and medical work, he pioneered since 1973 the modern safe practice of early and late abortion in his highly influential books and scholarship. A tireless national activist for women’s reproductive rights, he is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and holds a clinical appointment in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado medical center. He holds doctorates in medicine and epidemiology. Dr. Hern received the Christopher Tietze Humanitarian Award and awards from the American Public Health Association for his scientific contributions and defense of reproductive freedom. He lives in Boulder with his wife and son.

    Those who devote their careers, even their lives, to advancing reproductive self-determination are often characterized, even caricaturized, as devoid of basic human compassion. None have been more vilified than Warren Hern. Nevertheless, his enduring and unyielding service, on the front lines of one of the most intense social, political, ethnic and economic conflicts in American history, is undaunted by his personal vulnerability and often professional isolation. Warren's revelations unveil the foundation and fiber on which he has amassed admiration as a public health visionary and medical practitioner. The most powerful lessons are the insights gained from his human journey, a path lighted by exceptional life experiences and undaunted determination not to return women to the dangers and injustices of 17th Century servitude.

    Faye Wattleton, President/CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 1978–1992

    There is no one in the United States who knows more about abortion practice and politics than Dr. Warren Hern. And there is no one who writes more cogently and trenchantly about these matters. Dr. Hern has lived through and in the midst of every phase of the abortion wars, building a unique practice and dedicating his life to (and risking it for) what he believes in. Remarkably, Dr. Hern has the fortitude, the focus, and the capacity to write about abortion politics with special insight, clarity, and style.

    Rickie Solinger, author of Pregnancy and Power: A History of Reproductive Politics in the U.S. (2019, rev. ed.) and Reproductive Justice: An Introduction (2017)

    Reasons to publish Warren Hern’s book—or anything he writes: Dr. Hern wears a bullet-proof vest to work because he is one of the last medical practitioners of the last line of skilled help and healing for women whose lives and pregnancies are in danger. You will also find him testifying in the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, the World Health Organization and many other influential places about women’s health and the scary politics of reproduction. Now, more than ever, we need his voice, his compassionate stories, and his political analyses from the front of the great debate over reproductive health for women.

    Martha Ward, author of Poor Women, Powerful Men: America’s Great Experiment in Family Planning; Professor of Anthropology, University of New Orleans

    For sixty years, Dr. Warren Hern has stood in the front lines of the battle for women's reproductive health care, one abortion patient at a time. His passionate commitment and medical skill make him a beacon of hope for women with nowhere else to turn, and he has never shied away from confronting the hypocrisy and cruelty of those would deny women and their doctors the right that the Supreme Court once recognized. This book is his story, a testament to his courage and to the knowledge acquired through a lifetime of activism.

    Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize in Journalism, 1998; Author, New York Times reporter and columnist; Co-author of Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling

    This lively and well-written book has much to offer those who are interested in the history and evolution of abortion care in the United States and elsewhere. Dr. Hern takes the reader into the early struggles within the medical community over how to incorporate this essential—albeit controversial—service. Also, the author was among the first in abortion providing circles to recognize the threat to reproductive freedom posed by the emerging religious right and he shares his astute observations of the damage that continues to be done to this day by that movement.

    Carole Joffe, Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, U. of California, San Francisco, co-author, Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America

    "No single American has more totally lived through this country’s unending struggle for the availability of safe, legal abortions than Dr. Warren M. Hern. While several of his close professional colleagues have been shot dead by political assassins, Warren Hern has both survived and prospered, operating what is without question America’s most important reproductive health facility for late term abortions. What’s more, Warren has also quietly led an absolutely fascinating ‘second life’ as an anthropologist and photographer who has studied and published professionally on some of South America’s most remarkable indigenous peoples. In a life that has allowed me to meet countless memorable people, ranging from Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern through Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, no human being has ever impressed me more than Warren Hern."

    David J. Garrow, author of Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (1998) and Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1986), Pulitzer Prize for Biography, 1987