Forty-three states ar some limitations on abortions after ~ a specific point in pregnancy, however Colorado isn’t among them


In the spring of 2016, Erika Christensen and also her husband walked previous a tall, wood fence that obscured the Boulder office the Dr. Warren Hern native the street and also into his waiting room.

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Printed indications taped come bulletproof glass told her all electronic gadgets — even cellphones — to be prohibited and also asked her to tell someone on staff if she required to leaving for any type of reason. The just items she could bring through the door were a published book, she identification card and also a check for $10,000.

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Dr. Warren Hern is pictured top top Oct. 3.

Hern is one of a grasp of physicians in the nation who carry out abortions later on in pregnancy, and also Christensen was at just about 32 mainly gestation when she walked with his prior door delivering a child diagnosed v fatal complications.

Abortions late in pregnant — specifically those in the 3rd trimester — are rare, expensive and also politically charged. Forty-three states location some constraints on abortions after ~ a details point in pregnancy, however Colorado isn’t among them. Yet. Teams are collection signatures to put a question to Colorado voters in November 2020 that would certainly outlaw all abortions after 22 weeks other than those to conserve the life of the mother.


Fetal abnormalities are just one reason for late-term abortions; about 30% that Hern’s patients listed at least one abnormality in the many recent data that published, and great national research isn’t available. But these abortions room the ones whereby the ladies couldn’t have actually made the decision earlier. Indicators of trouble regularly don’t revolve up until the conventional 20-week ultrasound, and opponents the a 22-week ban say it would leave nearly no time for second opinions, additional tests and also reflection.

Giuliana Day, co-sponsor that the Colorado initiative, stated the decision no to administer an exception for fetal diagnoses was intentional. Doctors can be wrong and developments in medication are continually boosting outcomes.

“We have constructed a grassroots coalition of civilization with varied interests and also backgrounds who think that abortion approximately the date of bear is also extreme,” she composed to The Denver article in solution to questions.

“Incompatible with life”

At 32 weeks, a healthy fetus weighs about 3.5 to 4 pounds. Offal are totally formed other than for the lungs, and also his or her skin is no much longer transparent. Much from one amorphous ball of cells, the fetus looks choose a newborn, complete with 10 small fingers and toes, and that renders many civilization deeply uncomfortable around abortion at that stage.

But Christensen’s son, whom she and also her husband referred to as Spartacus because that his fighting spirit, hadn’t emerged normally.


She had ultrasounds every other week, and each one revealed an additional problem. They had actually started out small and correctable — her boy would have clubbed feet, the pair learned at 16 weeks. But the concerns grew best alongside him and also culminated in a devastating diagnosis from her high-risk obstetrician and also geneticist around 31 weeks: she son’s abnormalities intended he wasn’t viable. He to be “incompatible through life,” her doctor told her.

“The expansion had fallen off a cliff, and also my fluid was very high since the baby wasn’t swallowing,” Christensen said. “It’s how a fetus practices breathing. No swallowing means no breathing.”

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That’s when her OB in brand-new York discussed Hern.

The Boulder Abortion Clinic was one of 5 in the nation that would certainly take someone favor Christensen on in ~ this stage in her pregnancy. Her residence state had a half on practically all abortions after 24 weeks. The only exemption was to conserve the life that the mother.

“We didn’t also know we had an abortion legislation in brand-new York,” Christensen said. “So, once we came up versus the law, the was really jarring. … Literally, in one instant, it ended up being a legal event instead the a health care event.”

Christensen boarded a plane with she husband a mainly later and also traveled come Colorado for a $10,000 shot — not extended by her insurance — to avoid her son’s heartbeat. She took medicine to prevent labor, slept because that a couple of hours in an plane hotel and also boarded a red-eye flight ago to brand-new York, where she had a stillbirth the following day. The entirety trip took about 36 hours.

“The travel component was so enraging the it proceeds to infuriate us to this day,” Christensen said. “We to be so angry we had actually to do it but at the exact same time grateful. We’ve met world who weren’t maybe to get care and also were compelled to carry doomed pregnancies come term.”

Christensen spent the next three years convincing brand-new York’s lawmakers to adjust the state’s abortion law. In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive health Act, legalizing abortions past 24 weeks in the absence of fetal viability. Yet now Colorado, the state Christensen said she turned to “when my state rotate me away,” can pass a half on abortions past 22 weeks.

The ballot measure was it is registered by Day and another mrs who started an concern group called Due date Too Late. They’re collection signatures to placed a question prior to Colorado voter to ban all abortions after ~ 22 weeks, other than those necessary to conserve the life the the mother. Women captured getting abortions past the deadline wouldn’t it is in penalized, but doctors might be charged v crimes and also lose their medical licenses.

“This initiative will succeed since 73% of american think that abortion should have limitations, follow to a recent Gallup poll,” Day wrote in an e-mail to The Denver Post.

Lots the emotion, small data

According come the national Centers for condition Control and also Prevention, the variety of women obtaining abortions in the unified States has actually steadily declined. A full of 638,169 abortions to be reported to the agency in 2015 (the many recent year of available data), and practically two-thirds the those happened prior to eight weeks’ gestation. Ninety-one percent arisen by 13 weeks. Just 1.3% — or about 8,300 abortions — took location at 21 weeks or later.

Little an extensive data exist on the factors women look for abortions after the fifth month the pregnancy. Among the biggest studies was done by college of California at san Francisco Professor Diana Greene Foster. She team discovered that ladies who decided later abortions for reasons other than fetal abnormalities quote substance abuse, mental health problems, difficulties raising money and finding a clinic, and difficulty making the decision. Based upon the minimal research available, she to trust fetal anomalies “make up a small minority of later on abortion.”

Hern kept in-depth records ~ above his patients’ reported fetal anomalies end two years — approximately 2012 — and also published his own file detailing 160 different problems cited in seek abortions.


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Some that the problems were rare, choose Leigh syndrome, which causes the lose of physical and mental abilities and is typically fatal within 2 to three years. However the most usual anomaly pointed out was Trisomy 21, or under syndrome: practically one in four of the 1,005 patients provided this genetic disorder as among her reasons for seek an abortion. Down syndrome can encompass heart and also stomach malformations, however Hern’s data didn’t get in that level the detail.

Most of his patients, though, provided a reason other than a fetal abnormality. Follow to the paper, “the ratio of all patients seek pregnancy termination for fetal disorder enhanced over time native 2.5% come 30%.”

For him, the decision to abort comes under to a straightforward question: Is the woman safer carrying come term or not?

His answer to be yes for a 13-year-old girl in her third trimester who’d to be raped by a household member. It was an awful instance with no easy solution, Hern said. The girl had actually a long road to recovery from the trauma she competent no issue what her family members decided. But, the physician said, that turned far a mrs who involved him in ~ the same gestational age after she damaged up through her partner.

“I’m not going to execute that,” the said.

He said he thinks there’s a most misinformation around how he and also other doctors perform abortions later on in pregnancy. ~ 18 weeks, it’s standard practice at his clinic come induce fetal demise through an injection that stops the heartbeat. The medical reason, Hern said, is it provides the procedure safer. The emotional reason is women tell the they don’t desire the fetus come suffer.

He defined the born-alive defense bills happen in various other states together “nonsense.” A woman’s cervix needs to dilate for as much as 72 hours for a third-trimester abortion because she’s essentially having a stillbirth. The ultrasound Hern does prior to he starts makes it apparent to any observer through a medical background that the fetus has actually been dead for days.

“Trying to execute this on a life fetus would certainly be incredibly difficult, to say naught of unnerving,” the said.

Wanted pregnancies

Many that the women that visit Hern’s clinic organize their baby after delivery. They want tiny footprints and also locks of hair. They bring onesies and knitted blankets. And also Hern, whose hobby is photography, takes photos for them if they ask.

“A very large portion of my patients room women who have actually a preferred pregnancy,” Hern said. “They don’t desire to have an abortion. They desire to have a baby.”

That’s what Nicole, 38, wanted as soon as she went in for her 20-week ultrasound the week prior to Christmas 2016. The Denver-area mommy asked the her last name no be used for safety and security concerns.

“It started out great, yet then the nurse practitioner to be taking much longer than you would expect,” Nicole said. “She acquired quieter and also then she had actually to go obtain the specialist.”

The specialist sat down and gently told Nicole the the little girl cultivation inside of she had occurred without kidneys. She baby’s lungs needed functioning kidneys to create the amniotic liquid she’d use to discover to breathe. There was a zero percent survive rate. This was a non-viable pregnancy.

Nicole cried.

“It’s together a weird point to discover out that the pregnancy you were having actually was a baby that was never going come be,” she said.

The medical professional said she might carry to term, however her daughter would certainly die during labor or suffocate in the moments after birth. It sound awful, Nicole said. That’s why she determined to abort. V her parents in town for the holidays, she and her husband left your toddler with grandma and grandpa and went for induction the work after Christmas.

“We acquired to host her afterward,” Nicole said. “I don’t even know just how to define how small she was.”

An unforeseen delivery

Jeff Hunt, one outspoken doubter of abortion and vice chairman at Colorado Christian University, to know all also well how tiny babies space in the second trimester. His first child, a daughter, to be born simply shy of 27 weeks once his wife emerged a life-threatening blood push condition. They checked out the hospital since his wife had actually a many swelling and suddenly discovered themselves in an operation room with dozens that doctors and nurses.

“There was this intense focus on conserving this baby’s life and also down the street, a baby the specific same size can be killed,” hunting said. “Where that difference happens simply isn’t appropriate to us.”

Hunt’s daughter spent 94 work in extensive care, but she made it through without lasting complications. Currently 10 years old, she’s a book lover and also the artist of your family. But even in those first moments, through all those tubes and machines functioning to keep her alive, hunting said, he saw flashes of her personality. He experienced a human.

“Colorado is just means too extreme on this,” hunting said. “There’s a life there, and it must be respected.”

Hunt’s faith teaches the to provide God control of watch out-of-control situations like very early delivery or a fatal fetal diagnosis. Occasionally doctors space wrong and sometimes surgeons deserve to perform miracles.

“Spina bifida and also heart defects are instances of problems that have the right to now be operated on in-utero,” job wrote.

That’s true, yet a high-risk obstetrician interviewed by The Denver article said she thinks human being who do that dispute don’t take into consideration what life looks favor for those families. The Denver-based doctor asked the her name no be used because of safety concerns due to the fact that she uses abortion solutions to patients later on in your pregnancies.

“People think, ‘Well, you can just settle that, and also things are going to be fine,’ ” she said. “When you room talking about anomalies that are not lethal but are serious, she talking around taking top top a life the is medicalized forever, and a boy that might spend half of that time in a hospital.”

She spoke through a potential parent as soon as who to be born with a serious medical condition. The person had 38 surgeries through 11 years old and was adamant about not transporting a baby v the same genetic abnormality come term.

“I’ve heard it claimed that no child ever wished they had actually never been born, but they have. Castle do,” the physician said.

She plans come vote against the 22-week ban if it makes the ballot due to the fact that she doesn’t want her patient rushing v the decision come terminate.

“They come in because that their regimen anatomy scan (around 20 weeks), and we say, ‘I’m so an extremely sorry i’m seeing something wrong with the mind or the heart or the anatomy.’ and then we start the process of figuring the end what the is,” she said.

That process can take weeks.

Patients want genetic trial and error to check the ultrasound, and those results take around two weeks. They want to meet with pediatric love surgeons or get a fetal brain scan or discover a support group for parents with their certain genetic disorder to understand what life might look like if they select medical intervention over palliative care.

The Denver physician said it’s not unexplained for couples to take it a month to reach their decision. Hern’s data top top women that aborted since of fetal abnormalities showed much more women terminated at in between 24 and also 25 weeks’ gestation than at any type of other time in the last 2 trimesters.

Continuing through a nonviable pregnancy

Day told The Denver article she understands the fatal fetal abnormalities room “extremely difficult” but also rare. Due day Too Late decided 22 weeks since that’s the sheet of viability. Palliative care is an option for women who obtain a diagnosis later in pregnancy, she noted.

That’s what Laura Huene, a labor and also delivery nurse, made decision to do as soon as doctors diagnosed she daughter, Pearl, with serious facial abnormalities in 2006. The Colorado mom said she felt favor her medical professional presented discontinuation as her just option.

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“I knew that wasn’t going to it is in the best thing because that our family, however you deserve to see how households get pulled right into that decision,” Huene said.