FAIRFAX, Virginia — Around the Washington metropolitan area, Tepeyac OB-GYN in Fairfax is known as a pro-life center.
The medical professionals there provide abortion-pill reversals and prenatal care. They’re knowledgeable about natural family planning and can treat infertility. They provide a range of gynecological services to women of all ages, and offer financial assistance to patients in need.
Tepeyac is not a run-of-the-mill medical center, but it’s not the only one with a life-affirming vision at its core.
On the eve of the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, medical professionals from around the country gathered to announce the creation of Pro-Women’s Healthcare Centers, or PWHC, which is a consortium of medical centers that adheres to a set of standards and values. Its mission is to provide its patients comprehensive, convenient, compassionate, high-quality medical services and access to social services.
“The idea of bringing together little pockets of incredibly great care under a common standard has been a dream and something that the pro-life movement absolutely needs, especially now,” said Dr. John Bruchalski, founder of Tepeyac OB-GYN and Divine Mercy Care, the education and fundraising side of the practice.
Each individual medical center can keep its name, mission and business model, but will be certified by the consortium. It’s sort of like a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for the pro-life medical community, explained Chaney Mullins, development coordinator of Divine Mercy Care in Fairfax and operations manager for PWHC, which will have its headquarters there.
The Pro-Women’s Healthcare Centers’ lengthy list of standards combines certain medical requirements with supportive measures that care for women beyond their medical needs.
For example, all health care centers in the consortium must be able to refer women directly to adoption services, mental health counseling and material goods such as clothing and food. PWHC centers must be open a certain number of hours, provide aid to pregnant women in need and maintain “beautiful welcoming spaces.”
Medically, among other things, centers must have a lactation follow-up and depression screening for post-partum women. If a woman comes in for a pregnancy checkup and no heartbeat is detected, she is given a miscarriage kit, which allows her to catch the unborn child as it leaves her body.
During the Jan. 18 event, Bruchalski and Mullins, Will Waldron, executive director of Divine Mercy, and three women sat on the panel introducing Pro-Women’s Healthcare Centers: Christine Accurso, practice administrator of Morning Star OB/GYN in Gilbert, Arizona; Dede Chism, co-founder/executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood, Colorado; and Leah Jacobson, founder/CEO of the Guiding Star Project in Ironton, Minnesota.
Currently, three health care centers have been PWHC-certified, four are in the process of being certified and 20 are on the list, said Accurso. While some already met all the standards, the board hopes to work with clinics or medical pregnancy resource centers who may need support and guidance to reach the goal of certification.
Several panelists shared stories about how the philosophy of their centers has impacted their patients. Chism said that one patient who came frequently for STD screenings said that the compassionate treatment she received made her visits the best part of her day.
Bruchalski shared that a father threatened to sue Tepeyac because his wife decided to give birth to their terminally ill child. Later, he wrote a letter thanking Bruchalski for giving him the chance to meet his son.
Jacobson talked about the many young women she sees who believe their bodies are broken. She feels that millennial women are beginning to realize the poor medical treatment they’ve received, especially with regard to artificial birth control.
“They’re recognizing that what’s been sold to them has been chaos, and they want something that’s ordered and speaks to the truth and goodness of their bodies. I think that the services we put together point to the health of (a woman’s) body,” she said.
Maraist is a staff writer at the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.