Pro-life OB-GYNs Left Out in the Cold
MaterCare Founder Robert Walley Hopes to Change That
Zenit, May, 2001
Reproduced with permission
It is clear to us that there
is discrimination against Catholic and pro-life
doctors in many countries who wish to specialize but
who refuse to participate in abortion or birth
control. They are coming under a lot of pressure to
compromise and this has serious consequences.
ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland, MAY 1, 2001 (Zenit.org).-
Pro-lifers are being squeezed out of obstetrics and
gynecology, and an upcoming conference in Rome wants
to do something about the problem.
From June 17-20 a group of international experts
will gather for a seminar on
"The Future of
Obstetrics and Gynecology: The Fundamental Human
Right to Be Trained According to Conscience."
Organizers are the World Federation of Catholic
Medical Associations and Newfoundland-based
International. The Pontifical Council for Health
Pastoral Care is the sponsor.
ZENIT interviewed Dr. Robert L. Walley, professor
of OB-GYN at Memorial University in St. John's,
about the reasons for the conference.
Q: Why are you having a conference on
OB-GYNs' "right to be trained according to
Walley: It is clear to us that there is
discrimination against Catholic and pro-life doctors
in many countries who wish to specialize but who
refuse to participate in abortion or birth control.
They are coming under a lot of pressure to
compromise and this has serious consequences. [See
Repression of Conscience - Administrator - ]
In general terms, students are not going into
OB-GYN basically for three reasons: The lifestyle
and work is quite hard; they are concerned about
litigation especially in North America and Europe;
and thirdly, doctors really do not want to get
involved in abortion -- it is regarded as unpleasant
In particular, we intend to discuss the serious
decline in Catholic pro-life obstetricians. This
should be a grave concern for the Church, for
pro-life organizations and most importantly for
mothers who want to feel that they can have both
life and hope rather than death and despair, which
is what the abortion doctor offers.
Q: What are the prospects for a Catholic
medical student who wants to enter obstetrics and
gynecology today? Can he or she practice the faith
and still get the required degrees?
Walley: This is what we want to find out
and that is why we are organizing the international
meeting in Rome. Many of us have had our careers
affected by refusing to carry out abortion.
We have a lot of evidence that the prospects for
Catholic medical students in many countries who want
to practice in obstetrics and gynecology is quite
bleak. They are easily manipulated by professors and
soon lose whatever knowledge of Catholic morality
The Catholic view is regarded as old-fashioned,
conservative and even unethical -- for example, if a
doctor refuses to refer a patient for abortion. It
is becoming much harder and in some countries
impossible to get a specialist degree and then to
practice one's faith and continue in practice. [See
No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in
Netherlands - Administrator -]
Q: Medical advances are coming rapidly
today. But is the scientifically possible always
Walley: The current view in medicine is:
"If it is feasible and legal, then it must be
ethical." At MaterCare, many of us would say that
the ethical rule for us is outlined in [the
encyclical] "Evangelium Vitae."
We have been founded to carry out the "work of
the Gospel of Life" -- I hope that does not sound
too pretentious. We are struggling to do just that.
MaterCare is not a talking shop. There is nothing
theoretical about having a baby, or dying in the
process, as so many mothers do in the developing
And there is nothing theoretical about having an
abortion. MaterCare wants to be there to provide the
best of care for mothers and their babies, to which
they have a right.
Q: The Pope has warned about democracies
falling into "thinly disguised totalitarianism." Is
medicine falling into this kind of totalitarianism?
Walley: Doctors these days have control
over life from its very beginning until death. They
have great power within universities, medical
associations and specialist colleges to re-create
What this leads to is not only unethical
practices but also what I call the "sameness of
practice": All that can and will be offered to
mothers in distress is the termination of pregnancy,
and there is no room for an opinion. Those who have
a pro-life view are kept out of positions of
influence in departments and specialist
That state of affairs would not be tolerated in
any other branch of medicine. For example, in cancer
treatment, having only one line of management would
not be tolerated, but that is what is happening in
Q: Many pro-life women have trouble
finding OB-GYNs who support natural family planning.
What advice do you have for these women? Can these
women do anything to "convert" their own OB-GYNs?
Walley: One of the problems I believe is
that NFP has been viewed as nonprofessional
alternative medicine. With the so-called convenience
of the pill, the idea that couples should be
successful in practicing family planning by
fertility awareness, or indeed should want to, seems
impossible and ridiculous to most doctors these
Most doctors have heard little of NFP except
through jokes, usually in poor taste. For example,
there is no NFP medical journal that medical school
libraries have to take because the publications
currently available are nonmedical and not included
in Index Medicus.
Despite all the advances in the science of NFP,
the knowledge is kept from doctors -- in my view
because of the vested interest of the large
pharmaceutical companies. Since there is nothing in
NFP for them, they do not fund academic activities,
research, etc., in OB departments.
Yes, we ask women to support MaterCare and we
intend to convert our colleagues but we need their
support. They could fund academic activities,
research and publications. They could join with us
to force governments to fund more research that
Q: How is the West helping -- or hurting
-- women in the Third World?
Walley: The West is forcing its anti-life
philosophy on mothers in developing countries
through agencies of the U.N.
MaterCare is offering to provide emergency
obstetric services for mothers in East Timor. At the
end of June there will be no obstetrician in the
country with a population of 700,000 and only 23
local doctors none of whom are trained in
The U.N. officials -- mostly from the West --
have expressed concern that MaterCare will try to
impose its ethical values on the country. Meanwhile,
the U.N. is promoting reproductive health, which is
the euphemism for abortion and contraception to the
population. Who is imposing whose values? The U.N.
wants one choice to be available: the choice to
abort. [For information on the situation in East
United Nations, US officials accused of oppression .
. . and
United Nations Committee: Conscientious Objection
"an infringement of. . . rights"-Administrator-]
Q: RU-486 and the "morning after" pill --
how will they change the landscape of abortion?
Walley: Both of these medications in a way
trivialize abortion. To make them acceptable, it has
been necessary to devalue the early embryo and call
it a pre-embryo, and to convince women that these
medications are contraceptives rather than what they
really are -- abortifacients.
In addition, they are great for hospitals because
they save beds, operating room time and staff. The
woman is left alone, often in a very emotional
vulnerable state, to cope with the pills and the
loss of her baby.
Q: In a health-conscious age, how is it
possible that so many women's groups so ardently
embrace obviously dangerous abortive drugs?
Walley: Simply put, they are not getting
the whole truth. There is too much vested interest
both for the medical profession and the
pharmaceutical industry. Women should know that
there is no such thing as a free lunch. They should
ask more questions.
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