Anna Abbott is a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has written for Catholic World Report and Canticle. She had a weekly column on religion for four years at the Napa Valley Register, the Weekly Calistogan, the St. Helena Star and the American Canyon Eagle. She is aunt and godmother to two boys, as well as a newborn girl. She currently resides in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Contraception and abortion are falsely promoted as “women’s health”, so to confront this deceptive form of “medicine,” a courageous doctor has gone to the front lines. The Women’s Wellness and Fertility Center, led by Sarah Bascle, MD, promotes pro-life healthcare in Manchester, New Hampshire. It opened this February and in March, Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester blessed it at its open house. Dr. Bascle said, “I’m from New England. I didn’t want to leave my faith at the door.” The principal provider for the culture-of-life-affirming practice wanted an authentically Catholic OB-GYN practice, explaining, “A lot of Catholic hospitals offer contraception and sterilization. A lot of gynecological care centers on contraception and sterilization. We wanted to provide services, not just deny them.”
Bascle grew up in Natick, Massachusetts. Her medical training includes attending the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Phoenix Integrated Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in Arizona, and attending the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha. She studied under Dr. Thomas Hilgers. At the Women’s Wellness Center, she is the sole physician; there are two nurses, one of whom is a teacher of the Creighton Model of NFP. There is a practice manager and a full-time NFP instructor, as well as a certified midwife.
While many couples resort to IVF and surrogacy to deal with fertility problems, her center offers NaPro technology, a fertility treatment model that is in complete accord with Catholic teaching. Bascle explained NaPro, saying, “We investigate the cause of infertility and restore normal fertility. Artificial reproductive technology is invasive, and depends on the patient’s moral and religious compass. NaPro employs modern medicine.” She added that if it is the man who has the fertility issue, he is directed to the urology department for optimizing male fertility. The center also promotes adoption as another form of family building.
Other facilities around the country that offer NaPro technology include St. Joseph Health System in Mishawaka, Indiana, In Touch Fertility Care Services in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville, St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Kansas, and Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Manchester center also offers support for NFP (Natural Family Planning). Natural Family Planning Awareness Week was recently observed in the last week of July. Bascle said of NFP, “The lack of use of NFP comes from a lack of awareness and knowledge. There are different methods like Creighton and Couple to Couple League. It is crucial for couples to have support, know other couples that are struggling and thriving with it. We work through communication issues. It’s about listening to each woman, each patient.”
On women’s health, Bascle commented, “There’s more to it than abortion services. There’s more to our field, lost in the noise of politics. We offer something different, such as non-hormonal treatment options for heavy bleeding. Getting the word out is the most important.” She said it’s great that the diocese supports physicians with conscience concerns. Regarding NFP, she said it’s important to let parishioners know that it’s available and that there should be access to instruction. NFP goes beyond a “Catholic birth control” or “green” contraception. Bascle explained that women turn to NFP for many reasons, saying, “There are women who have side effects from hormonal contraception, tracking their cycles for medical reasons, and who don’t want to take the Pill.”
Currently, the Women’s Wellness Center is in a medical office building attached to the Catholic Medical Center hospital. The suite was renovated, and there are plans to expand within it.
Dr. Joseph Pepe, President and CEO of the Catholic Medical Center considers the Women’s Wellness Center as a perfect fit for their Catholic identity. He credits the center’s support to Bishop Libasci. Dr. Pepe said, “Once we found Dr. Bascle, we grew the program around her. There was such a need in the region that word got out before we knew it, there were close to 100 women on the waiting list to see her before she even walked through the door. It was a long time to fruition but it was worth it.” Dr. Pepe also said, “I believe that there is a great need for this service as we have experienced with regional referrals from other states. … My goal is to stabilize the program by adding more providers and then expand it. Eventually, I would like to take it on the road and demonstrate to others that they can do this too in their community hospital.”