From late-term abortions to NICU: Nurse shares her pro-life conversion story

An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown following the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016.
An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown following the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Ilana Panich-Linsman)

A Christian nurse recently spoke about the guilt she has felt for over three decades after working for well-known late-term abortionist Warren Hern, a founding member of the National Abortion Federation who has written a book on how to perform abortions. 

Julie Wilkinson, who worked for Hern for a couple of years during the 1980s before going on to other nursing opportunities, recounted her experiences in Tuesday’s episode of the 40 Days for Life podcast

The podcast is hosted by 40 Days for Life founder Shawn Carney and former Planned Parenthood manager Sue Thayer.

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Wilkinson recalled that Hern — now 81 years old — seemed driven by a “mission” at a time when many abortion doctors seemed to be in the industry for the money. 

“He feels passionate about doing abortions. That was clear to me even in the mid-80s,” she explained. “This was something that he sort of feels is a noble cause.”

Hern operates a clinic in Colorado, which is among the eight states that have no limits on abortion, and, along with New Mexico, has clinics that will perform abortions up to 32 weeks and later on a "case by case basis."

While there has been a push in Colorado to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, Hern has been written about in the media as a champion for women told late into their pregnancies that their baby might have abnormalities. 

Last year, it was reported that Hern helped a mother from New York abort her baby at 32 weeks after the mother was told by a doctor that the unborn child was not “viable.”

But Wilkinson, who assisted Hern in the abortion of children as late as 24 weeks of pregnancy, told the podcast that Hern aborts healthy babies as well.  

She recalled one time when a “yuppie” couple wanting to give birth to just one child aborted twins after consulting with Hern. The reason, Wilkinson said, was because twins didn’t “fit their lifestyle.” 

She said the pregnancy was 16 weeks old when the twins were aborted.

“[Hern] sort of catered to them because anyone who had a higher level of education was something that appealed to him,” she said. 

“He put on the kid gloves, showing them everything. Sadly, they did return and decided that twins weren’t going to fit their lifestyle. They had perfectly healthy twins aborted. We [nurses] were all pretty shocked. Even the counselors, you could tell, we were kind of shaking our heads because [the couple are] fine and they can afford this. But they decided not to.”

Wilkinson said she was a bit “naive” when she took the job at Hern’s family planning clinic. She also considered herself to be a Christian at the time. 

According to Wilkinson, she got along with the staff, nurses, and counselors that she worked with. But she remembered Hern not being a “people person.” She added that Hern didn’t seem to express much empathy after conducting abortions. 

“He was very emotionally distant from the aspect of what he was actually doing,” she remembered. “He was much more interested in the outcome. That he was reducing pregnancy.”

Wilkinson said there wasn’t a single moment when the “scales fell from [her] eyes” to help her to see the immorality of abortion. But eventually, she stopped working at Hern’s office because she felt the job wasn’t fulfilling her career desires as a nurse. 

Wilkinson said that working in a place where no one is being healed and lives are being lost every day was an emotional drain.

At that time, she said she was still not opposed to abortion being legal. But her thoughts on the subject shifted over time as she began working in a neonatal intensive care unit caring for premature babies. After working in the NICU, Wilkinson moved to Wyoming with her husband and got a job working in labor and delivery. 

“After I had been there a couple of years, I believe God was working on my heart and I wasn’t even aware of it,” she explained.

“I considered myself a Christian. Don’t ask why I thought that was an OK place to work. The next place I worked was at a NICU — level three intensive care nursery. That’s got to be God’s sense of humor: ‘Here, let me put you in a place where you can see babies the same size.’ I loved [working there].”

Although she loved working in the NICU and labor and delivery, Wilkinson said it only gave her more reason to “bury and hide” what she experienced while working at Hern’s office. 

“I thought of myself as a compassionate person. To know that I had willingly taken a check for the things I had done in Boulder is just horrible,” Wilkinson explained. “I know I am forgiven by God but it's still hard to take that burden off your back. I don’t know if it will ever go away.”

Wilkinson said that for a long time she didn't talk openly about her experiences at Hern’s office. 

“I saw lots of things in the clinic but I put those things in the box,” she said. “It was bad enough that I knew I never wanted to talk to people about it. That’s why I kept it such a secret.” 

Wilkinson attended a retreat hosted by And Then There Were None, an organization founded by pro-life activist Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager. The organization provides support and counseling to former abortion workers. 

The retreat connected Wilkinson with others who’ve left the abortion industry and are going through similar emotional conflicts. She said the retreat gave her “someone else to talk to.” 

“There are lots of bad things that we can do in this life. We are sinners. But being a person who willingly helps end the life of the most innocent, what’s worse than that?” she asked.

“That’s how I felt. So to finally get to talk to somebody who wouldn’t have that flicker in their eyes that made me feel even worse about myself was a big deal. Because then I could start building the foundation with connections and relationships.”

Since Wilkinson recently began speaking publicly about her experiences working at Hern’s office, she said God has “blessed” her with some of her “finest friends.” 

“God just unloads blessings when we follow His way,” she said. “It’s too bad it took me so many years to figure out.”

Wilkinson played an abortion nurse in the popular 2019 pro-life film “Unplanned.” She also spoke about her experiences at the 2020 March for Life in Washington, D.C. 

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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