The Fight of Their Lives

Page 7 of 23

"I felt defiant. But I also felt afraid of what those people might try to do to me. It was a defining moment."

The next year Hern decided to again postpone his research plans and instead start his own clinic. "I felt that at the time, the most important thing I could do in medicine was perform abortions," he says. "The whole thing hung in the balance."

Hern resorted to subterfuge to find space and get bank loans; he knew that telling a property manager or banker what he intended would doom his venture before it was off the ground. But once he got it up and running, he called his facility the Boulder Abortion Clinic, well aware that the name was both advertising and sending a message to his opponents: He wasn't going to hide.

He placed ads for the clinic in every Colorado Yellow Pages. At first, the phone company balked--especially after Hern demanded that there be a separate listing for Abortion Service Providers. The medical society didn't approve, a phone company spokesman told him. "What do they have to say about it?" Hern replied. He kept up his demands until he got his way.

Hern's in-your-face attitude made him the champion of abortion rights in the state, and often at a national level. Whenever the press needed a quote, Hern obliged. If some pro-choice group wanted a speech, Hern stood at the podium and accepted the jeers along with the applause.

He put a human face on what had long been a dirty little non-secret.
"I believed that calling my practice the Boulder Abortion Clinic and going public was part of the process of societal legitimization of abortion," Hern explains. "It's been part of the human experience for hundreds of thousands of years, but nobody wants to talk about it.

"I was the very devil to some people for trying to say that abortion was a medical procedure that greatly affected the health and well-being of women. That made some people afraid...especially men who fear they can't compete with women on a level playing field in the first place. The reaction to fear is anger and hatred."

Depressed after his divorce, Ken Scott left the state to work construction in Wyoming and Nebraska. When he returned to Colorado, he went back to school, this time at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo. His grades weren't great, but he managed to graduate in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in psychology.

In 1980 Scott attended a party at a country club, where he met nineteen-year-old Tracy, who was tending bar. If his wife had been pretty, Tracy was a knockout, although Scott told the psychologist that it was she who chased after him. (Tracy, which is not her real name, is now in hiding and declined to be interviewed; court documents tell much of her story.)

Tracy and Scott married in 1982. Six months later he hit her for the first time, she later testified. He'd come home from the dog track three hours late for dinner and drunk. When she confronted him, he knocked her down with the back of his hand, then straddled her as he slapped her face.

Tracy went to the hospital. And then she went back home to Scott.
Financially, the couple made a good team. Tracy, who also modeled professionally, went to real estate school. Together they'd buy property, including houses and apartment buildings, using her business sense to close the deal and Scott for the "grunt work."

They'd stay in a new property until Scott was ready to sell it and move on. But despite their growing fortune, they didn't have much in the way of furniture or nice things; Scott apparently didn't want to spend money.

In fact, spending money was a good way for Tracy to get hit. According to court documents, Tracy said abuse continued even after she became pregnant. As her delivery day approached, however, Scott became excited, sure he was about to have a boy.

When Tracy delivered twin girls in May 1983, Scott got angry. He left the young mother and two infants alone for two weeks while he stayed in a cabin they owned in the mountains.

In 1984 he put Tracy's head through a sheet of drywall. She hired an attorney to get a restraining order and file for divorce. She changed her mind when Scott agreed to go to counseling, but then he refused to participate at the sessions.

His moods could swing wildly. According to court documents, Tracy would sometimes come home and find Scott hiding in a closet or sitting fully clothed in a bathtub full of water. She worried that he always carried one of his guns--and he had more than a dozen, a combination of rifles, shotguns and handguns.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Steve Jackson