Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Catholic church and school that was recently the subject of national headlines for its refusal to teach the children of a same-sex couple in Boulder, has now become the target of an abortion doctor in Colorado's liberal metropolis. He says they're harassing his patients.
As part of its recurring "40 days for life" anti-abortion demonstration -- the parish's website calls it "the largest and longest coordinated pro-life mobilization in history" -- church members are camped outside of the Boulder Abortion Clinic all day today. And the director of the clinic, Warren Hern, says he's "pissed."
Reverend William Breslin, the parish's pastor who Hern says has violated the privacy of abortion patients in letters to church members, did not immediately return calls from Westword. We'll update the blog if and when he provides comment.
As for Hern, who's been the target of anti-abortion threats since he opened the clinic in 1975, he says, "I'm really totally frustrated with these idiots bothering my patients. This is madness -- it has to stop."
According to Hern, the church's protests have been disrupting his practice since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. That's much longer than forty days, and he's concerned for the safety of his patients. "We want to be left alone. People can express what they want about the subject, but they need to leave my patients alone. We feel terrorized by these people."
Though no violence at the events have been reported -- the church website advertises its effort as "a peaceful vigil" -- Hern maintains the protests, which keep him and his patients from using the front entrance and driveway, are a historic prologue to attacks against abortion clinics and their doctors. "Every one of these acts of violence started at first with a so-called peaceful rally. I don't know which one is just gonna pull out a gun and shoot me.
"It's just outrageous," he adds.
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Hern claims the protests are a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 and the Boulder "Buffer Zone" Ordinance, which is supposed to allow patients breathing room from protesters, and he's prepared to take his complaints to the Department of Justice and the Boulder City Attorney. "I'm gonna ask them to investigate to see if this violates the FACE act," he says. "As far as I'm concerned the mere presence of these people is a violation."
Meanwhile, Hern says inside the clinic, it's business as usual, but he's sure the fear of violence is real. "This is just over the top," he says. "It's just an invasion of privacy. It's unconscionable."
Check out Hern's press release about the protests below:
Boulder Abortion Clinic, P.C.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Boulder is orchestrating a mass anti-abortion demonstration today at the Boulder Abortion Clinic at 1130 Alpine Avenue across the street from Boulder Community Hospital. The announcement was made by Father Bill Breslin, pastor of the church, in the church bulletin dated 28 February 2010 and posted on the church's web site at http://www.shjboulder.org/SHJ_Parish/upcomingevents.htm.
Father Breslin encourages his parishioners to participate in the "40 Days For Life" "prayer vigils" that began with the election of President Barak Obama in the fall of 2008 and have continued since then with occasional interruptions.
The same church bulletin of 28 February 2010 carries a detailed description of the appearance, behavior, movements, office visits, statements, and conversations with at least one patient of Boulder Abortion Clinic on the afternoon of Friday, 19 February 2010. Harassment of the patient and protesters' interaction with her companion is described in the letter by Breslin.
"This harassment and gross invasion of the privacy of my patients is intolerable, and publication of this description of my patient's movements and behavior in the church bulletin is outrageous. These anti-abortion fanatics have no decency," said Dr. Warren Hern, Director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic.
"Many of my patients come from distant parts of the country to end desired pregnancies that have become tragically complicated and risk the lives of the women carrying them. They are in deep anguish, it is an extremely painful time for them, and the self-righteous harassment of the demonstrators makes a horrible situation even worse for my patients. They are humiliated and frightened by the presence of the demonstrators, who ought to leave my patients alone," Hern said.
Dr. Hern's office has been the target of anti-abortion demonstrations and violence for 35 years since he opened his private practice in January, 1975. Dr. Hern has himself has been the target of anti-abortion death threats since 1973.
"We cannot use the front entrance of my office, and we can't use the front driveway exit of my office with the demonstrators present," Dr. Hern said. "My friend and colleague Dr. George Tiller was shot by a "peaceful" anti-abortion demonstrator in August, 1993 as he drove out of his office driveway in Wichita, Kansas in an assassination attempt." Shelley Shannon, the woman who shot Dr. Tiller, wrote to Dr. Hern from Kansas state prison telling him, "You're next."
Dr. Tiller was assassinated in church last May 31, 2009 by Scott Roeder, who has been convicted of first degree murder.
"The anti-abortion protesters in front of my office terrorize me, my staff, and my patients. 35 years of anti-abortion violence and assassinations have taught us that there is no such thing as a 'peaceful' anti-abortion demonstration. Every single act of violence, every single clinic bombing, every single assassination and murder by anti-abortion fanatics has been preceded by 'peaceful' demonstrations and 'prayer vigils,' Hern said. "This is target identification for anti-abortion assassins. The mere presence of the demonstrators is, as far as we are concerned, a 'threat of force' because of the history of anti-abortion violence," said Hern.
"The '40 Days For Life' demonstrators and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church is giving Boulder an unwarranted international reputation for anti-abortion fanaticism," Hern said. "The priest is orchestrating this medieval madness."
"The Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church was involved in the disgraceful theft of fetal ashes from my patients from different religious traditions for burial in the church cemetery on January 22, 2005, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade," Hern said. "This was outrageous political and sectarian exploitation of personal tragedy and willful violation of the privacy and personal grief of my patients," said Hern.
Hern plans to ask the Department of Justice and the Boulder City Attorney whether the verbal harassment and proximity of the demonstrators of a few feet from patients entering and leaving his clinic represent a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 and the Boulder "Buffer Zone" Ordinance passed in 1986.
"This is intolerable interference with the private activities of my patients and their families," Hern said. "These fanatics need to leave other people alone. There are plenty of other ways for them to express their disagreement with abortion without terrorizing us."
Warren M. Hern, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Director, Boulder Abortion Clinic