Featuring an interview with Dr. John Bruchalski, MD
We live in a culture that champions “choice” while our scientific institutions produce the finest array of medical personnel to aid women in making “informed decisions” regarding pregnancy. Even so, it is nigh impossible to find obstetrics care that fosters respect for life in all its stages. While some obstetricians refuse to perform abortions, many are still willing to perform sterilizations, distribute contraceptives, and create artificial embryos. For a woman seeking healthcare from pro-life doctors, nurses, and midwives, her search may seem in vain.
Finding an oasis
However, several years ago, when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I discovered Tepeyac Family Center, an unequivocally pro-life, full-service obstetrics clinic in Northern Virginia. Its mission statement is a breath of fresh air amidst the wasteland of modern obstetrics:
Our Mission is the restoration of the integration of the human person by combining the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ. All people are welcome here.
Patients are always treated as individuals with bodies, souls, and spirits. The fostering of families is integral to the treatment of patients, because one builds on the other and this is healthy for society.
Fertility is cooperated with because it is viewed as a natural, healthy function and not a disease to be repressed. Women are educated about the language of their bodies. Children are gifts, and therefore joys, not burdens.
Tepeyac Family Center’s special charism is its dedication to the poor, underprivileged, and those who are experiencing crisis pregnancies—these patients are “especially welcomed.” The center strives to be an instrument of the healing power of God’s mercy and love, in order that a deeper respect for all human life may be nurtured.
In a recent interview with Tepeyac’s founder, Dr. John Bruchalski, he told me both his and the Tepeyac Family Center’s story. We met in the labor and delivery ward of Fair Oaks Hospital, where he ushered me into an unoccupied delivery room. Once inside the dim delivery room, Dr. Bruchalski, with his open and friendly manner, unraveled his amazing history and the latest news about Tepeyacs’s ongoing mission.
John Bruchalski was raised in northern New Jersey and attended medical school at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. Although he was always drawn to medicine as a means of helping people, medical school instilled in him that his duty was to help women “overcome the burdens of fertility.”
Later on, at the Eastern Virginia Medical Center and the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk, Virginia, a major contraceptive resource center, Dr. Bruchalski witnessed up close what this really entailed. “There I saw first-hand the horrors of the contraceptive mentality, whether it was broken relationships, sleeping with multiple people, ectopic pregnancies, abortions, STDs, chlamydia, or HIV. It was all because of this ‘I can have sex without babies’ attitude,” Bruchalski said.
After several years of performing abortions, sterilizations, and distributing contraceptives, Bruchalski felt that he was called to “a higher standard.” The seeds of his conversion were planted in 1987 while on a trip to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Dr. Bruchalski recalls, “I thought I felt something internally that said, ‘Why are you hurting me?’” This incident made a serious impression, and further reflection made it clear to Bruchalski that he was to cease working for the culture of death.
Over the course of nine months, he slowly stopped performing abortions, then later ceased sterilizing his patients and stopped distributing contraceptives and prescribing pills. By the end of 1991, Bruchalski had decreased the number of abortions performed in the hospital where he was the resident doctor by 90 percent. Soon afterward, he moved to a pro-life practice in Silver Spring, Maryland, though he was still living in Virginia.
Finally, motivated by a desire to help women in crisis pregnancies, and those in Northern Virginia, he opened the Tepeyac Family Center in February of 1994. Bruchalski now wanted to aid women in cherishing and respecting their fertility rather than viewing it as a burden to be overcome and suppressed.
The center is named after the mountain in Mexico where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego as a pregnant Aztec maiden. “The name ‘Tepeyac’ was chosen,” Bruchalski says, “to be a constant reminder of why I am doing this, because the pressures are always there.”
Serving Christ in others
Tepeyac serves a broad spectrum of society with an equally broad array of health services. Twenty-one percent of its patients are well under the poverty line and receive care with little or no charge. Services in the clinic range from general obstetrics, natural childbirth, breast feeding and natural family planning, to tubal reannastomosis (reversal of tubal ligation), infertility treatment, and healing prayer.
“It is imperative that the patient be treated as a body, soul, and spirit, nothing less,” says Bruchalski. This personal approach to obstetric care draws him to care especially for victims of dehumanization and women in crisis pregnancy. Now he feels the situation for these women has become much worse: “Many crisis pregnancy centers are being challenged with lawsuits. Yes, we have better technology with 4D sonograms, but the reality is that most people would rather have an abortion than give the baby up for adoption. That’s the most common thing we see here. Therefore, I feel that the language and the rationale is very much entrenched in our society. But just like communism fell from within, I think that this anti-life culture of death will also fall from within.”
“People keep looking to the courts and the president to make the changes,” Bruchalski continues, “and I don’t think that the answer is political, although it certainly has that end. I think prayer and fasting are the only way that we are ever going to change things. If you want physicians in our area to change, pray and fast for them specifically. Obviously there has to be some activist and political ends, but in reality it is the prayer and fasting.”
Weathering the storm
The Tepeyac Family Center has certainly been an example of what a difference even one pro-life clinic can make. The center has continued to expand. In 1997, Dr. Marie Anderson joined the clinic, and more recently the practice has been joined by Drs. Daniel Fisk and Joylin S. Martin.
However, in January of 2004, the center faced one of its greatest challenges thus far: Coupled with the addition of two more physicians to the clinic, the malpractice insurance premiums for the clinic were raised from $30,000 to $95,000 per year per doctor. The center’s physicians had no pending cases against them, nor had they ever lost a malpractice suit; nevertheless, the malpractice premiums were tripled. This meant that the clinic needed to raise over $400,000 just to keep the doors open. “There was a huge miracle in the office the first week of January. From December 29 through January 2, four emails went out through four friends who took it upon themselves to spread the message, and we sat in the office and received Visa and MasterCard payments. We raised over $200,000 in a week. This was all tithed. This is how severe it is.”
The malpractice premiums crisis has made Dr. Bruchalski and his affiliates decide to go nonprofit in the near future, starting an umbrella organization called “Divine Mercy Care” so that they might continue their work with those below the poverty line. While Tepeyac will continue to offer obstetric care to women of all income brackets, Divine Mercy Care will broaden to offer more pro-life services to the poor. “This organization will be here to create a culture of life in Virginia and hopefully throughout the country. We will actively seek to acquire maternity homes and build elderly care facilities throughout the area while supporting other culture of life causes,” says Bruchalski.
Bruchalski hopes to bring under this umbrella several pro-life apostolates, keeping at the forefront his dedication to work with the underprivileged in society. “People who mix faith and medicine are frowned upon for not offering the ‘full range of reproductive services.’ And yet, I know this is where the Lord has us, because we are in the vineyard. And if you stick to serving the poor and serving women in crisis pregnancies—if you do that—God will honor you. Period.”
For more information on the Tepeyac Family Center, please call (703) 273-9440, or visit its website at tepeyacfamilycenter.com.
The Tepeyac Family Center is named for a hill outside Mexico City where, over 460 years ago, an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego was stopped by a woman identifying herself as the ever-virgin Mary, mother of the true God who gives life and maintains it. She asked Juan to tell the local bishop that she desired a church built on Tepeyac Hill, which had once been the site of an Aztec temple, where thousands of humans were sacrificed.
On December 12, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary directed Juan to cut a group of Castilian roses growing on Tepeyac Hill. She arranged the roses in Juan’s tilma, or cloak, prior to his visit to the bishop. When Juan arrived, the roses fell to the ground in the bishop’s presence, revealing an image left on the inside of Juan’s tilma—a heavenly portrait of the mother of God with beautiful and delicate Indian features. This image, commonly referred to as the “Guadalupe Image,” is now enshrined at the basilica of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill.
The “Tepeyac” reminds us continually that Jesus Christ wants to give us His abundant life in body, soul ,and spirit, and that Mary, as mother of Jesus, wants to tell us how thoroughly and totally her Son’s love heals.