Pro-life advocates worry that an abortion-friendly political agenda has worked itself into the medical specialty of obstetrics and gynecology.
Now, OB-GYN medical professionals who are pro-life are taking a stand for women and babies as they seek to uphold the sanctity of all human life and push back on the narrative that abortion is essential health care.
“The fact that 85% of women’s health care specialists don’t perform abortion, to me, tells you everything you need to know that abortion is not essential health care because if it was, you wouldn’t have only 15% of OB-GYNs performing it,” Dr. Christina Francis, chairwoman of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says.
AAPLOG, Francis says, “has submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in defense of our members’ conscience rights and on every major abortion case since 1973.” That, of course, is the year the high court issued its Roe v. Wade ruling.
Francis joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to discuss her group’s mission and how the abortion agenda infiltrated the group AAPLOG sprang from: the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG.
Also on today’s show, Janae Stracke, grassroots director for Heritage Action for America, breaks down what’s happening across America regarding election reform and new voting laws. And as always, we’ll crown our Problematic Woman of the Week.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined by medical doctor Christina Francis. Dr. Francis is chairwoman of the board of the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs. Dr. Francis, thank you so much for being with us today.
Dr. Christina Francis: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
Allen: You are a strong pro-life advocate in the medical field. I want to begin by just asking you to share a little bit of your own story with us. Why did you decide to pursue a career as an OB-GYN?
Francis: Sure. I never in a million years thought that I would be doing OB. When I started college, I knew that I wanted to go into medicine, mostly because I always loved science, but I also just loved interacting with people, and just really helping meet needs. And I grew up in an inner-city ministry, actually, that my parents ran. So it was instilled in me from a very young age that it’s important to reach out to especially those who need our help, and to do what we can to help them. For me, medicine just seemed like a really good combination of that and my love of science as well.
In college, I spent some time overseas and lived in Romania for a while, worked in orphanages there, and it was during my time there that I decided that I wanted to do medical missions full time when I finished my training. So actually heading into medical school, I thought that I would do maybe family practice, or internal medicine, or pediatrics. Something that would just give me a pretty broad experience, and be able to take care of the most people. Never even thought about OB-GYN. Then it was actually my second year of medical school. I was shadowing a family practice doctor, and he had a patient who was going to be delivering. And so he said that I could go with him.
I had witnessed the birth of my sister as a younger person, but this was my first time really being into what was happening and paying attention to that. So I went with him to the delivery of this woman who I’d never met before, and stood toward the back of the room as he did the delivery. As she was delivering, I just started bawling because I just thought it was the neatest, most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. And because she saw me crying, this older, experienced, labor and delivery nurse came up to me and she looked at me and she said, “Oh, honey, if this makes you cry, you need to do this for a living.”
And I have wished so many times that I could find her so that she could know that she really changed the course of my life with saying that, because when she said that I thought, “Well, maybe I need to think about this.” Then as I went through my clinicals in my third year, I realized there was so much about the field of OB-GYN that just really spoke to me and that I loved. Not only the delivery part, which is absolutely my favorite part of my job, but I loved that I got to be there for women through many different aspects of their lives.
You know, when they’re teenagers, when they’re having babies, when they’re going through menopause, toward the end of their life, even, a lot of women are still seeing their OB-GYN. Getting to be there for women through many different phases of their life.
I realized, too, that it was actually great preparation for the mission field. You know, many times in developing countries the population there that are hurting the most, as far as medical care goes, are women and children. It actually set me up very well for being able to practice medicine on the mission field.
Allen: Wow. Are you still sometimes traveling and doing missions work overseas?
Francis: I do. I do sometimes. Of course, COVID put a little bit of a halt on that, unfortunately. But yeah, so I actually lived in Kenya for three years following my residency training. Worked at a small mission hospital in rural Kenya, and fell in love with it. Never in a million years thought that I would be back living in the States.
But it was actually the other mission, what I consider a mission field—of reaching women in this country and around the world with the message that abortion is not good for them, it’s not good for their children—that brought me back to the States. But since moving back to the States in 2014, I have gone back to the same hospital in Kenya every year. Of course, pre-COVID. So yeah.
Allen: Oh, I love that. I worked as a missionary for a year in South Africa, so I can totally understand you kind of get bit by the African bug …
Francis: You do.
Allen: … and they’re just an amazing group of people. … Let’s talk a little bit more about your mission now in the area of pro-life, and of talking with individuals about the value of life. Have you always been pro-life? Did you grow up in a pro-life family?
Francis: I did. I did. I’m so thankful that I grew up in a Christian family and a family that instilled in me from the time I was young that all life is valuable and that we are created in the image of God, and because of that we are valuable. My mom actually works for a [National] Right to Life affiliate in Southern Indiana, and so that was in our home.
And so I always was pro-life. But I would say for a long time I never really knew exactly why I was pro-life, or was never fully able to defend that position, at least with anything beyond my Christian faith.
So I was back in the States, actually … During the time that I was in Kenya, I came back to the States for a time to finish board exams and things like that, and it was while I was in the States that a very dear friend of mine, my best friend—and I always say that everyone should have a friend like this in their life—called me up one day. She had been doing some educating of herself, during 40 Days for Life, about abortion.
And she called me and she said, “Christina, we need to talk.”
I said, “Sure. What’s up?”
And she said, “Well, you’re a woman, and you’re an OB-GYN, and you say that you’re pro-life. But what are you really doing about it? I think that you could be doing so much more.”
Like I said, everybody should have a person like that in their life that challenges them to really step up. So she really got me thinking a lot about, “She’s right.” I have said my whole life that I’m pro-life.
And I find myself in this position where I’m a woman, and so regardless of whether this is correct or not, I think that people tend to listen to women a little bit more on this issue. Even though I’m of the opinion, certainly, that men have just as much of a say about whether abortion is right or not. But I’m a woman and I’m an OB-GYN, and so I see these preborn children from their very earliest stages, the earliest that we can see them.
And I see them throughout pregnancy, and I see them when they’re born. And I see all of the emotions that go along with a pregnancy, whether it be a wanted pregnancy or an unplanned pregnancy. Because of that, and because of my medical training, maybe I am really uniquely positioned to be able to address this. So it really was just kind of a searching of my heart, of totally shifting my perspective.
Again, my plan was never to live in the U.S. My plan was I was going to be overseas for the rest of my life. I would have told you that you were crazy if you would’ve told me I was going to be living in the U.S., that was never on my radar.
And so [I] just did a lot of soul searching. And I’ll tell you that the moment that I think I knew for sure that this was what I was supposed to do was: I was in Washington, D.C., for the national March for Life and I went to the Holocaust [Memorial] Museum there. I’m sure many people who are listening have been there. If you’ve been there, you’ll know the room I’m talking about. I was in one of the rooms in the museum that talks about kind of the lack of response to what was going on to this Holocaust, this slaughter of millions of innocent people that was going on.
And the lack of response from the U.S. and other Western countries. And I just remember thinking when I was sitting in that room and I was reading some of the news articles and listening to the audio commentary. I just remember getting very indignant and thinking, “Man, if I would have been alive back then I would have done something, there’s no way I could have been quiet about that.” How could people know that millions of innocent people were being killed and not do anything about it?
The irony of that thought hit me in that moment. And I just thought, there’s a holocaust going on right now. There’s a holocaust of preborn children who are being killed every day for the sake of convenience. And not only are preborn children being killed, but women are being harmed. And they’re being lied to about abortion and about what abortion can, quote unquote, accomplish for them or help them to accomplish.
I know better and so why am I not saying anything or doing anything about it? And so that really was kind of my defining moment, I would say. I’d always considered myself pro-life, but [that’s] where I just thought, “OK, I can’t be silent about this anymore.”
So that’s when I made the decision that I would move back to the States. I didn’t know what that was going to look like. I just thought, “OK, I’m going to do this and I’ll figure out how I can have a voice in this very important subject.”
Allen: Those are sobering moments when a truth really hits your heart in a way that marks you like that. I’m so thankful for those moments in our lives, but they can be incredibly painful as well. You kind of wake up to those realities.
So now you are the Board of the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNS. What was that journey like? You decided, OK, I’m moving back to America, I’m going to protect life and talk about the value of life as a medical professional. And then what ultimately led you to such a prominent role in the OB-GYN pro-life field?
Francis: Absolutely. Well, isn’t it amazing how, I think, sometimes we’re just called to answer a call and to be faithful to what we know that we’re supposed to do. And you don’t always know what that’s going to look like. And so I moved back to the States and I joked that for the first year probably or so that I was back in the States I kept a suitcase packed by the door. Because I just thought I don’t know if this is going to work out or not. And if not, I can always go back to Kenya.
When I first came back, I was very lucky and blessed to receive some pro-life apologetics training from Scott Klusendorf with Life Training Institute. And just really for the first time, I think ever in my life, [I] saw that yes, being a Christian informs my stance on abortion. But also even if I wasn’t a Christian I would still be pro-life, because it just makes sense when you look at true human equality. And when you look at the fact that science tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt that those preborn children are full-fledged, whole, distinct, and living human beings from the moment of fertilization.
So because of that, my duty as a physician is to protect that life as well as the life of the mother. It was just very eye-opening for me to think of it in that way. And to kind of look at how do we look at preborn children as being different from born human beings. But are they really different? So kind of dissecting that.
I just started talking with people just in my circle of influence about that, and had some really great conversations. Then I was introduced by a mutual friend to Dr. Donna Harrison, who is our CEO at AAPLOG, which is a much easier way of saying the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNS. That’s a mouthful so we could just, we can just call it AAPLOG.
So I was introduced to Dr. Harrison, who has become an amazing mentor of mine. And anybody who knows this woman knows that she is a powerhouse in the pro-life movement. She is really a true hero and defender of women and their children. I started talking with Dr. Harrison and found out about AAPLOG, I didn’t even know about APPLOG before that. And then went to my first APPLOG conference.
We hold an annual educational conference every year for physicians and other medical professionals that provide academic-level presentations for continuing medical education about different aspects of abortion and the pro-life movement and conscience protections in medicine.
I’ll be honest, when I went to my first conference, having not really known much about APPLOG, I kind of thought, “Oh, this will be a great chance to network with other physicians who are pro-life as well.” But in my mind, I mean, just being fully honest, I had in my mind that this was probably going to be kind of a “Kumbaya” moment. We’ll like sit down together and we’ll encourage one another and that’ll be great and it’ll be worth going just for that.
But I was blown away at the level of the presentations that were given, the science that was presented. And realizing that science really is on the side of the pro-life movement. Not only when you look at the fact that these preborn children are in fact human beings and deserving of our protection, but also when you look at the overwhelming evidence that exists, that abortion is harmful for women. Not only does it end the life of an innocent human being, but it also sometimes permanently harms the life of that woman who has made that abortion decision, oftentimes under duress, or just in a moment of panic. Not realizing and not being told by the abortion industry, that this is going to harm her lifelong.
And so that was another life-changing moment for me to say not only should I be defending the rights of these preborn children, but man, in my practice and in my interactions with colleagues, I need to be passing this information along. That really, if we’re recommending what’s best for our patients, that’s never going to include abortion.
Allen: Wow. That’s amazing. Would you mind just taking a minute to share a little bit of the history of the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNS, or APPLOG, with us? Why was there a need to start a specifically pro-life association for obstetricians and gynecologists?
Francis: What a great question, because it has always baffled me as to how an OB-GYN, a physician who is dedicated—our specialty is dedicated to caring for pregnant women and their children—how can an OB-GYN either perform abortions or support the performance of abortion? So it’s a great question. It’s very sad to me that we have to have a separate organization. We actually started out as a special interest group within ACOG, or the American College of OB-GYNs.
A lot of people have probably heard of ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, founded in 1951]. They are the largest professional medical organization representing OB-GYNs in the country. They claim to represent close to 60,000 OB-GYNs who are members from across the country. However, where we find ourselves currently, they do not represent their membership whatsoever when it comes to the issue of abortion.
Just kind of a little bit of history behind ACOG and where they started, and just to show you the need for AAPLOG and where we came from. So ACOG when they started back in the mid-’50s, they started again as a professional medical organization representing women’s health care physicians. And when they started, they actually held to the Hippocratic view on abortion. The original Hippocratic oath, that’s the basis of our medical ethics that expressly forbids performing abortion or recommending an abortion to a woman. Because it recognizes that that would be ending the life of a human being and that that practice has no place in medicine.
And so ACOG when they started … they held to this belief. There are documents that we have from back when they started that clearly expressed that the only form of abortion—which I would say is actually not an abortion—that they supported and acknowledged how to place in medicine was what they call the therapeutic abortion. What that referred to at that time was a situation where the life of the mother was at risk and you needed to intervene and end her pregnancy prematurely.
So that was the only form of abortion that they endorsed or said had any place in medicine. They even acknowledged, like toward the late ’50, early ’60s, that because medicine was advancing so quickly that the list of reasons why a therapeutic abortion would need to be performed was becoming smaller and smaller. And that they actually hoped that it would eventually go away completely, that there would never be a need for a therapeutic abortion.
So that’s how ACOG started. That’s in complete congruence with the Hippocratic oath and in complete agreement with how I practice medicine. So there’s very definitely times where a woman’s life is in danger. However, just because you have to prematurely deliver her child even if that’s pre-viability, meaning that child is not going to end up surviving, that can be done in a way that respects the dignity of that child and done in a way that lets that child remain intact and gives that family a child to grieve. So this is basic to the practice of OB-GYN. And thankfully, those situations are very rare where that needs to happen.
Unfortunately, we move into the ’60s and some key members of the ACOG leadership who were very much pro-abortion, very much for the legalization of abortion without the input of members. So this was a top-down initiative at ACOG, [which] started to push for liberalization of abortion laws and started to push for ACOG to endorse more instances where an abortion would be performed. So they took it from the life of the mother being at risk to “Well, if her health is endangered in some way, then we’re going to support abortion.”
I think for any of your listeners who are well acquainted with Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, that health exception probably sounds very familiar. And in fact, that change in language where we’re looking at health, not just [saying] “OK, her physical health is going to be severely impaired.” But when we’re changing that definition of health to include anything in a woman’s environment, her social health, her mental health, her familial health, her age—any of these things could relate to health. And if any of these things were endangered, then that should justify an abortion.
Again, this was coming from the top down. This was not representative of ACOG’s membership and how they practiced or what they thought should be legal. Unfortunately, ACOG wrote a pro-abortion amicus brief for the Doe v. Bolton case in which they were the ones who actually provided that health exception language to the Supreme Court. And then, end of 1972 into 1973, they also submitted a pro-abortion amicus brief in the Roe v. Wade case. So ACOG was instrumental in abortion being legalized in this country.
And this was all done because they were kind of following the cultural tide in the country, not because there was any sort of new medical evidence stating that elective abortions or abortions for these reasons were medically necessary. When all of this was happening, there was an upswell of dissent from within the membership and that went unheeded by the leadership.
Once the Roe v. Wade decision came out, then our founding members pulled together and formed a special interest group within ACOG for pro-life physicians. It started out with about 35 or 40 physicians and then quickly grew to become the largest special interest group within ACOG and had about 2,000 members. And stayed that way until 2013, when ACOG decided to dissolve all special interest groups.
Allen: OK. Wow. So now you all stand separate as your own organization, really representing that pro-life view. Are any individuals within the American College of OB-GYNs—is there still any sort of pro-life, even if it’s underground, faction within that group? Or are all—would you say probably the vast majority of OB-GYN professionals within the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are pro-choice?
Francis: It’s a great question. So we know that about 85% at least of OB-GYNs actually don’t perform abortions. Now it doesn’t mean that all of those physicians would claim to be pro-life necessarily, but the vast majority of OB-GYNs don’t perform abortions and don’t support this sort of radical abortion agenda that ACOG has exhibited and has increasingly exhibited over the last 10 to 15 years.
A lot of our members actually—you don’t have to leave ACOG membership to be an AAPLOG member. So a lot of our members still are dues-paying members of ACOG. So there are a lot of their members—they’ve never polled their membership on this issue. And the reason is because they don’t want to know what their members think about this issue. They want to continue to push their politicalized, pro-abortion agenda without input from their membership.
Actually, the fact that 85% of women’s health care specialists don’t perform abortion, to me tells you everything you need to know that abortion is not essential health care because if it was, you wouldn’t have only 15% of OB-GYNs performing it. And I think the reason for that is very clear. One, that all of us who are OB-GYNs know that it’s not an essential part of women’s health care, but also it’s antithetical to why we went into this profession.
Again, we went into this profession to care for moms and their babies. We didn’t go into this profession to end a life and to harm our maternal patients. So the pro-life position, or at least the anti-performing-abortion position, is actually the majority within the field of OB-GYNs.
Allen: So talk a little bit about what the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs does today? How are you all really protecting life, and fighting for both mothers and babies?
Francis: Absolutely. We are the largest nonsectarian professional medical organization representing pro-life medical professionals in the world. We have mostly members from the U.S., but we also have international members. And we exist to equip and encourage our members to be able to give the evidence-based defense of our preborn patients and our maternal patients. We are doing that through representing our members in the public square.
We have submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in defense of our members’ conscience rights and on every major abortion case since 1973. We’re doing that so we can fight for the rights of our members to continue to practice pro-life medicine. We also exist to give our members, as they’re practicing, as they’re encountering patients in their office who maybe are contemplating abortion, we want our members to be equipped with the, again, overwhelming scientific and medical evidence that exists to say that abortion is harmful for them.
So when you have a woman as a physician or a midwife—we have midwives who are members, we have family practice doctors who are members. When you’re sitting there with a patient in front of you who says, “Do you think abortion is what I should do? Do you think that that would help me in this way or that?” Our members have the evidence to be able to say to them: “One, I can tell you that this is a human being growing inside of you. But two, let me tell you the reasons why making this decision now might have harms for you later on in life.”
I think the importance, one of the things that we like to stress at AAPLOG, is, yes, we are for our preborn patients, but we also are for our maternal patients. And we are just trying to empower women with the information that they need to make an informed choice.
Even if my patient ends up deciding to go and have an abortion, I want her to go into it eyes wide open. I want her to know the risks that she’s taking in doing that, so that at least if she’s making that choice, she knows that she’s making an informed choice. She’s not making a choice based on lies and based on not being given the full information that we have.
That’s really what our main focus is, to equip our members to be able to have those conversations in their practice, with their patients, to be able to have those conversations with their colleagues. And we also are really striving to empower and encourage physicians in training.
You may know this, but medical students, especially, and OB-GYN residents are facing immense pressure to cave to kind of our pro-abortion cultural narrative that women should have unfettered access to abortion. That we should not say anything to them to discourage them from having an abortion. And that they actually should be required to refer a woman for an abortion, or perform the abortion themselves. They are facing immense pressures from their superiors to give into this narrative.
And we want them to, again, be armed with this information that, “Hey, I’m opposing abortion because it’s bad for my patient. I’m not just opposing abortion because I have a moral objection to it; I’m opposing it because it’s bad for my patient. And it’s bad for me as a health care provider to violate my conscience, to violate what I know to be best for my patient, just to give into this cultural narrative.”
We exist to equip and encourage them, and we really want medical students and residents to know that they are not alone. I know that so many pro-life medical students and residents just feel very isolated and they are quiet about their views because they feel like they can’t speak up because they face academic censure.
They’re having to stand up to their attending physicians or their upper-level residents who will determine the course of their career, and say to them, “You know what? I don’t agree with you when you’re saying this about abortion. I don’t agree with you. I’m trying to tell you that it’s bad for my patient.”
If they feel alone—I think they feel like they can’t do that. But we are trying to give them the power of 7,000- plus members behind them, and the scientific evidence that they need to be able to defend their patients.
Allen: That is so, so critical. And we certainly encourage all of our listeners to check out your website at AAPLOG.org to learn more. But Dr. Francis, we really thank you for the work that you’re doing, the resources that you’re providing for individuals, and for the ways that you’re fighting to protect both women and babies.
Francis: Thank you so much. And if I can just say one more thing too: This is going to actually be a “Problematic Women” exclusive. If there’s anybody out there who’s in the field of women’s health care who is listening to this, and you’re wondering about some of the things that I said about ACOG. Or maybe you’ve seen some guidance come out from ACOG recently on abortion, and you’re just wondering where this is coming from.
We actually just launched a new website that is www.notmyACOG.com, and people can go to that website to just see the documentation of a lot of the things that we talked about on the podcast of ACOG really placing the abortion agenda ahead of what is good medicine. I just would encourage people to check that out, especially if they’re involved in women’s health care.
Allen: Excellent. And we’ll be sure to put both of those links in the show notes so individuals can easily look that up. Dr. Francis, thank you so much for your time today, we so appreciate it.
Francis: Thank you for having me.
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