I recently completed a two-week national bioethics tour through 23 medical schools and universities with Medical Students for Life of America, during which we hoped to let some of America’s top medical students know that they are not alone in facing discrimination based on their pro-life beliefs. Nearly 1,000 medical students from both sides of this debate joined us to engage this question, from Harvard Medical School to Mayo, from the University of Pittsburgh to the University of Virginia. Some of the stories we heard may startle you.
Take “Christine,” who said that none of her professors talk about relationships in medicine, only the ideology of just performing the procedure. We also learned of “Ryan,” who was punished by his own mentor. He was the only one among his peers to suggest adoption for a woman in a troubled pregnancy; everyone else recommended abortion as the first and only option. A memo by his professor later surfaced in which he declared that “Ryan” would be a future abortion-clinic bomber. This memo was never sent to Ryan but went straight into his student file, the hub of school performance evaluation that becomes critical when students apply to residency programs. He was blacklisted for believing women deserve options.
Then there’s “Mary,” who said she felt intellectually assaulted during her OB/GYN rotation in her school’s training hospital. She recalls being inundated with professor instructions to promote abortions continually for pregnant patients, never mind her personal beliefs about it. The same was recommended for sterilization and abortifacients, drugs intended to prevent pregnancy that kill a new human embryo before a woman knows she’s pregnant.
This nationwide discrimination makes countless students hide their beliefs — and their identities — for fear of risking their grades and careers. This means fewer pro-life doctors are available to the increasing number of patients who consider themselves pro-life and seek like-minded doctors. As the wife of one GWU medical student asked after our event there, “What about my conscience rights as a patient?”
Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its initial posting.
— John Bruchalski, M.D., is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.