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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Tim Von Dohlen | author
Aug 01, 2020
Filed under Culture of Life

Where young doctors can train in good conscience

Pope St. John Paul II’s guidance from the Holy Spirit allowed him to accomplish miraculous feats. His dynamic leadership for life inspired the formation of the amazing St. John Paul II Life Center in Austin, Texas.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the center’s physicians, nurses, sonographers, and staff have been among the “heroes in uniform” across America sacrificing to help expectant mothers receive necessary medical care.

Pope John Paul II said that “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” At any stage of gestation, an unborn child has his or her own DNA and unique fingerprints; therefore, saving the baby’s life correctly exercises one’s freedom.

Meet Dr. Ashley Stone, a wonderful young woman, intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated to the future she has chosen — to be a physician, an obstetrician. She loves children and wants to help bring babies into the world. She graduated from medical school and was accepted at a matched top choice location for her four-year ob-gyn residency.

Ashley started her second year and was in the family-planning rotation. One morning, she was told by her instructor that she would be going to a Planned Parenthood clinic where they perform abortions. She was fearful because she knew she would never participate in any aspect of abortion, yet she wanted to respect her instructor. She thought maybe she could do some good by going, but it became clear that her participation in their biased counseling and their pre-abortion ultrasounds would leave no opportunity for change. Rather, she would be informally cooperating with abortions. Even though she would not verbally assent, her actions would speak otherwise.

Her heart started to race as questions began flying through her mind. How could she live with herself and her conscience if she did participate? What would happen to her for refusing? Could she be removed from the residency program? What would be her rights as an American citizen and the Constitutional protection of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?

Thankfully, Ashley knew her rights. The instructor was insistent that she participate. Ashley pushed back despite worries about future attempts at intimidation. Ashley boldly told the instructor that she knew she could opt out of the abortion training and that she also must be provided an alternative curriculum. The medical school and hospital told Ashley that these are not their requirements but those of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) — a nationwide, non-governmental organization (NGO) that sets the standards for residency programs and administers licensing certification programs for physicians. Their program requires training and hands-on experience on performing abortions. A student can opt out, but there are often minimal efforts to advise the residents of their rights.

To help young doctors like Ashley, the St. John Paul II Life Center, in cooperation with the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and Ascension Seton Hospital, has developed an alternative multiyear curriculum of instruction on women’s natural reproductive science. These residents are taught at the center by the center’s physicians who are adjunct professors. This alternative program commenced in July 2020, and one of the five incoming residents is participating.

The St. John Paul II Life Center plans to offer this alternative curriculum for the family-planning rotation to residency programs across America. If there is ever to be a way for future generations of physicians to bring back respect and dignity for human life in the womb, this is it! The center will proceed by the words of St. John Paul II, “Be not afraid!” Please pray for the program’s success.

TIM VON DOHLEN is a past president of Legatus’ Austin Chapter as well as an attorney, pharmacist, businessman, and former legislator. He and his wife, Pat, are co-founders of the St. John Paul II Life Center in Austin, Texas, where they reside. Their new book, In Life the Journey Is Everything, is available at or on Amazon.


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