An Open Letter About the Future of Abortion in U.S. and Medical Students

Medical Students for Life of American sides with Life in all cases. Some physicians who consider themselves pro-life will perform an induced abortion to “save the life of the mother” as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Most pro-life physicians understand these types of pregnancies often spontaneously abort themselves and will provide close medical supervision to their patients during the process. With that said, the following letter appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The doctor’s in the letter gives an expansive view of the abortion debate since 1973 and a word oencouragement to Pro-Life Medical Students. 


No matter what your position on the rights or wrongs of abortion, the Roe vs. Wade decision, made 40 years ago today, was one of the most momentous in American history. It has had profound personal, social, political and demographic effects.

Since 1973, more than 50 million abortions have been performed in the United States. More than 30 percent of all women have had an abortion. That last fact alone explains why a dispassionate discussion of this topic is difficult. We all carry intensely personal baggage on this issue. Even from my male perspective, that is true.

During my 33-year medical career, I have done abortions. More accurately, I have ended pregnancies in very rare instances when they posed a risk to the life of a mother. However, my intention has always been to preserve the life of a mother, never to end the life of an unborn child. I will never forget the anguish of those choices.

Yet abortion didn’t trouble me in 1973. I went into medicine and OB/GYN partially because of my neighbor in Tucson, Ariz. He became the first Arizona physician willing to perform abortions when they became legal. As a premed college freshman, I wasn’t bothered by the logic of Roe. I was certainly in the demographic that is (still) most likely to support abortion — young men who would not mind having someone else make a little problem go away.

In 2013, some believe that the debate over abortion is over. You would think that the re-election of a president who unapologetically supports publicly funded abortion without restrictions ends the argument. Yet it rages on.

Why? Because the last 40 years have brought advances in medical care, as well as a surprising change of heart among the American people.

When I started medical school in 1976, babies born below 28 weeks were not resuscitated. They were not considered viable. Today, the lower limit of viability is 23 weeks. The incredible detail of ultrasound makes it difficult to ignore the obvious humanity of a life before birth. Intrauterine fetal treatment and surgery is an expanding option.

But when fetal status as a patient depends on the decisions of others, we have clear evidence of an unresolved moral tension.

Opinion polls have borne this out. Slate’s William Saletan recently noted that liberal attitudes have increased on a range of issues — with the exception of abortion. “When public opinion turns toward gay marriage without abandoning fidelity and family formation … [a]nd when public opinion turns toward reproductive freedom and equal rights for women but continues to oppose abortion, it punctures our dismissal of prolife sentiment as a vestige of right-wing sexism. Spin and soundbites won’t make the evidence go away. Sooner or later you have to face it.”

So how do we face abortion in 2013? Though economic issues are at the top of most everyone’s agenda, abortion is not far down the list, for supporters and opponents. At the federal level, we will have intense debate over abortion in health care reform, and any Supreme Court nomination will once again put abortion at center stage. On the state level, restrictions on abortion are proposed in many of the 27 states with prolife legislative majorities. The debate that Roe supposedly ended continues.

Is there any room for optimism? I believe there is.

As a clinical faculty member at the University of Minnesota, I have the privilege of reading essays submitted by students after their OB/GYN rotations. Many thoughtfully reflect on their clinical experiences with abortion. There are admissions of changed perspectives. Most encouraging to me is my volunteer role as faculty advisor to the self-organized Medical Students for Human Life group. They and their colleagues in the Medical Students for Choice group host respectful counterpoint panel discussions that are well-attended and beneficial.

The most recent discussion addressed the now-undeniable evidence that the choice of an abortion significantly increases the risk for preterm birth in a subsequent pregnancy. This effect is at least as strong as maternal smoking — which we tackle with intensive public-education programs. As the public-policy debate continues, it makes at least as much sense to enact informed-consent requirements and regulations for abortion as it does to put in place gun laws that might decrease the risk of horrific mass shootings.

Who knows what the status of abortion will be in 2033, when my granddaughters are young women? Knowing their grandmother and their mothers, I am sure that they will support the substantial prolife resources already available across this country.

As the 40th anniversary of Roe is celebrated and lamented, I am optimistic, because a growing majority of Americans believe that abortion is not the right answer.


Steven Calvin is a Minneapolis physician.

2012 Fall Tour Video: Dr. Calhoun Lectures on Perinatal Hospice at Wayne State Univ.

During our Fall 2012 Medical Students for Life tour, we were privileged to facilitate a lecture  at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Byron Calhoun, the pioneer of perinatal hospice spoke on the issue of perinatal hospice. Well over 70 medical students attended the lecture. Dr. Byron C. Calhoun, MD, FACOG, FACS, MBA is a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is board certified in general Obstetrics/Gynecology and the sub-specialty of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Here is the lecture in it’s entirety:


Dr. Calhoun has authored 60+ peer review articles in the obstetric and gynecologic literature, presented 100+ scientific papers, participated in 40+ research projects, and published several articles on perinatal hospice. He is an original author of the perinatal hospice concept, which provides a multidisciplinary care to families with a lethal prenatal diagnosis.

Dr. Calhoun serves as Professor and Vice-Chair in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at West Virginia University-Charleston. He is also the National Medical Advisor for NIFLA, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.

What does 2013 look like for your Med Group?

We recently received an email from Sally, a med student at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She was sharing her group’s successes over the last four months. One thing her group set forth as a goal was to host one pro-life medical luncheon per month. She reported:

“We achieved our goal of one lunch lecture per month, with a total of 4 lectures this year. Our first lecture was on legal issues surrounding the end of life. Many of the third year students who attended found the information very relevant for some of the situations they are dealing with in their clinical years. Our second lecture was on perinatal hospice. It was a very informative, yet quite emotional lecture. Several students remarked on how they didn’t know something like perinatal hospice was even an option and were so happy to know they could recommend something like that to future patients. Our third talk was on embryology and abortion, which reviewed the stages of development and various abortion procedures. The lecture was minimally graphic, but got the point across. And our last lecture was on recognizing factors contributing to adolescent suicide and prevention. Again, several students commented on how useful this information was – in their personal lives and with patients.”

If you have not planned your spring schedule for your group, please consider hosting lecture luncheons. We know these lectures change hearts and further solidify the commitment of future pro-life physicians. If you need help securing a pro-life medical lecture at your Medical School, please contact us and we will be happy to help you obtain a speaker. Also, please visit our website to get event ideas by using our Medical Students for Life planning calendar. 


Planning for the Spring? Resources are now available for your Medical Group!

Did you know Medical Students for Life of America provides your medical group with medically accurate pro-life resources for your school year? We are proud to announce free online resources for your group at our Med Students for Life website.  We know you are busy with medical school and we are here to help your group educate your peers and grow.

Under the med resources tab you will find:

  • Medically accurate flyers on issues such as Perinatal Hospice, Conscience Rights, Fetal Development.
  • Print off our Local Medical Resource Sheet for Medical students in their 3rd and 4thyear so you can refer your patients to prolife physicians and resources
  • We also offer free webcast you can share with your group members on relevant issues facing med students.
  • Need help planning your school year for your Med group? Check out our calendars with event ideas and identified medical awareness months.
  • We also offer references to pro-life peer-reviewed articles in our online library to help you with research for your papers

We are here to serve you and to help you excel in your education. Please let us know if you have any other resource ideas you have for your school year. Check back often as we will be increasing the number of free resources available to you.


Fall Med Students for Life Tour Swings Through Mayo Medical School

Tomorrow, The Med Students for Life Tour will be at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, MN. Mayo CMA & CMDA will present Dr. Bill Toffler @12:00PM CST at 2-35 Kendall Hench Hall Guggenheim Building 3rd Ave SW Rochester, MN 55905. Dr Toffler will be speaking about Physician Assisted Suicide from the doctor-patient relationship perspective. .

Dr. Toffler has been with the Department of Family Medicine at Oregon Health Science University since 1985 and serves as the Director of Predoctoral Education. He is the co-founder and National Director of Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation (PCCEF), a non-profit organization that promotes compassionate care for severely-ill patients without sanctioning or assisting their suicide. PCCEF physicians affirm an ethic based on the principle that all human life is inherently of value and that the physician’s roles are to heal illness, alleviate suffering, and provide comfort for the sick and dying. He is committed to defending the long-standing, medical prohibition against doing harm and has worked actively to support human life from conception to natural death. He is frequently invited to speak about these and other medical ethical issues at both regional and national conferences. Dr. Toffler has been a member of Focus on the Family Physicians Council for the past six years.

Also, please pray that Dr. Toffler will reach the hearts and minds of the many medical students he will meet. If he can change just one heart tens of thousands of lives will be saved!

So far in the tour Dr. Toffler has spoken at UC Davis, Dartmouth and University of Minnesota. Mayo will mark his 4th appearance out of five on our Fall Med Tour. If you are in the Rochester area, please join us for tomorrow’s lecture.

What a Great Start to our SFLA Fall Med Tour!

We are over a quarter of the way through our 2012 Fall Med Tour and already we have provided pro-life medical lectures at North Texas University, UC Davis, Texas A&M, Dartmouth, University of Minneapolis and Jefferson College.

To date, over 400 med students from across the country have heard a pro-life medical lecture in the last two weeks. We have seen hearts changed and medical students taking a new interest in caring for both mother and preborn baby as patients. We are serious about changing the dialogue on med school campuses to help bring the field of medicine to a patient centered focus, where life is affirmed and valued.  Over time these lectures will result in a dynamic shift towards life on Medical school campuses.

Special thanks to Dr. Anita Showalter, Dr. Maureen Condic, Dr. Bill Toffler and Dr. Byron Calhoun (pictured above) for being our guest lecturers. Without your willingness to travel, those 400 students would have never been reached. And thank you to our financial supporters, who have generously supported this tour so far, we are blessed to partner with you.

2012 Fall Med Tour Announcement

MedSFLA is proud to announce our 2012 Fall Medical Students for Life Tour. We will be traveling to over 15 medical schools across the country with pro-life physicians who will provide medically-accurate lectures on issues such as perinatal hospice, counseling patients with an adverse diagnosis, things you should know as a Pro-life OBGYN, and counseling the abortion-minded patient.

Partnering with doctors from around the country, we will be working with Medical students to prepare them for a career as a pro-life physician. Every lecture will either be live broadcast or recorded and available at, so mark your calendars now!

The fall lecture schedule is as follows:

September 18 
University of North Texas Health Science Center with Dr. Showalter

Septemeber 25
University of California Davis School of Medicine with Dr. Toffler
Texas A&M Health Science Center with Dr. Condic

September 26
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth with Dr. Toffler

September 27
University of Minnesota Medical School with Dr. Toffler

October 1
Jefferson College of Health Sciences with Dr. Calhoun

October 8
University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston with Dr. Lanfranchi

October 9
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston with Dr. Lanfranchi

October 11
Oregon Health Science University with Dr. Showalter

October 18
Loyola University- Stritch School of Medicine Maywood with Dr. Persaud

October 19
Wayne State University School of Medicine with Dr. Calhoun

October 23
School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona- AT Still with Dr. Lanfranchi

October 29 
George Washington University with Dr. Calhoun

November 6
Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine with Dr. Showalter

November 9
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences with Dr. Calhoun

November 15
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine with Dr. Toffler

For information about our Fall Med Tour speakers, go here. If you plan to be near one of these medical schools and would like to be at the presentation, please email me to RSVP.

For updates, including time and room for each event, go here.