DALLAS—Medical student Monique Taylor founded an organization this year that she thinks should not have to exist.

A second-year student at the University of Texas’ Southwestern Medical School, Taylor formed Physicians for Life to affirm the life-preserving principles of the medical profession. Despite doctors’ noble goals of improving human health and life, she said, they have become the source of the greatest attacks on human life through legalized abortion on demand and, increasingly, euthanasia.

“It floors me that we need this group — doctors preserve life,” said Taylor, 24, whose mission is to “inform medical students, physicians and staff about various attacks on the dignity of human life.”

She said she realized last summer she needed to do something when she returned to school in the fall to counteract the presence of an active “Medical Students for Choice” organization. Her initial efforts have included showing a 30-minute real-time video of a fetus in the womb at the school's organization fair, a seminar attended by 50 students and some of the school's deans.

Symposium on Life

Humanae Vitae expert Janet Smith spoke to the students about the doctor-patient relationship, natural law and the contraception-abortion connection, and gave a symposium on post-abortion effects in which two women shared their own abortion experiences. Taylor's next project is to provide an educational seminar on euthanasia.

“It's not that it's that active, but it's a presence that has an impact,” said Taylor, who like her 800 fellow Southwestern students has a full schedule even without volunteer activities. She has adopted Mother Teresa as a patroness in the hopes that “miracles will happen and we will speed along her canonization process,” she said.

By changing the name of her organization from Medical Students for Life, to Physicians for Life, Taylor hopes to broaden its scope and involve more practicing physicians in her efforts.

Though for now the group consists of a few loosely organized student members, Robert Best, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Culture of Life Foundation, announced in January plans to help students like Taylor link up on the Internet with one another and with physicians to provide a network of help and information.

Already online is Medical Students Supporting Life, a group based in Charlottesville, Va. Among its aims, it tries to provide a discussion forum “for nonviolent, collegiate discussion of abortion issues in an effort to establish common ground,” to educate about the societal impact of abortion, and “to reframe the abortion discussion in a moral context.”

Along with current articles on life issues, the Web site includes the wording of the Hippocratic oath, formerly the standard for doctors, which explicitly prohibits assisted Suicide and abortion: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, now will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman a remedy for an abortion.”

The Opposition

Medical Students for Choice, a national organization that claims more than 4,000 members, is opposition for its pro-life counterpart.

The group, whose director was away on summer vacation when the Register called, said in a statement that it matches its convictions with a practical mission: “In order for reproductive choice to be a reality, future physicians need to be well trained to provide all reproductive health services, including abortion.”

The organization said its goals are to include abortion information in medical school curricula, give students clinical opportunities in abortion, push legislators for more abortion training, and provide a support network for “tomorrow's abortion providers.”

Pro-life students, for their part, concentrate first on changing hearts. Some medical students are taking an evangelistic rather than the intellectual approach to reach fellow students.

One such pro-lifer is Michael Moloney, a family practice physician who is currently in a residency program in preventive medicine at the University of Texas in Houston. He leads a lectionary-based Bible study for between three and 15 medical and dental students and five professors in the city's internationally known medical district.

“I think our goal is to preserve the faith of those who are Catholic in health care, but also to win back Catholics who are going to the Baptist and evangelical Bible studies,” said Moloney, who himself had been “won over” by evangelicals before returning to his Catholic upbringing. Moloney also participates in a group of about 10 residents who read moral theology and discuss life issues, he said.

“I would suggest that Scripture is the way to bring people's faith alive,” he said. “It's very difficult to get people to obey when it's just following a lot of rules. Meeting Christ has to happen first. Getting [to a pro-life position] is a process.

“The problem when you do life ministry, especially on campus, is that people will polarize you and assume you're trying to do something political. Once you get into the moral and ethical debate, all you do is get the other side upset, and they don't want to mess with you anymore.”

Taylor of Dallas said she has received one e-mail from a fellow student asking to be removed from Taylor's campus mailing list, which she uses only to advertise her seminars. She saw it as an opportunity for dialogue.

“She wrote that ‘I found it very offensive to restrict a woman's right,’” said Taylor. “I wrote back … that abortion becomes not a freedom, but a bondage” and encouraged her to find out more at the post-abortion seminar.

Moloney, who has been in practice for 15 years, said he is seeing a new generation more open to a pro-life message. Recently he presented a symposium on natural family planning at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, which he said drew several thoughtful questions and considerable interest by the chief resident.

“I think there's more hope now than in the last 30 years,” he said.

Ellen Rossini writes from Dallas.