By Tim Von Dohlen


December 13, 2018

It was heartwarming seeing people across America saying prayers, paying respects and giving tributes during the service at the National Cathedral to the character, friendliness and love of family of George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States. It caused me to recall my personal experience with 41 in April 1981 when he was Vice-President and I was chairing the House Redistricting Committee. I received a call from a member of Governor Bill Clements staff asking if I would meet with the VP, to discuss the creation of a new Congressional District in Dallas.

I was for this new District, but I thought to myself, should I tell him of my support or let the VP come to Austin, get to meet him and then tell him. So, I told the Governor I would be honored to visit with the VP.

Two days later we met in Governor Clements’ office with VP Bush, Governor Clements, and a young staff member, Karl Rove. It was a memorable meeting and the VP’s dedication to public service and his sense of humor were very evident. I still enjoy the picture of that special meeting. Thank God for this dedicated public servant, George H. W. Bush, who in death still added to his legacy helping to heal our country and make it a kinder place again.

Pat and I are having a great start of the Christmas Season and Advent. We went to see and hear Handel’s Messiah – the music was beautiful, and we got to meet and visit with the four soloists; then with Amy Grant, well known Christian music singer. I was particularly taken by the words of one song – “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone!” Something for each of us to reflect on about family, friends and other aspects of our lives.

As we are waiting and preparing, which is the purpose of Advent, we are reading Advent reflections from Bishop Barron and Mathew Kelly’s Advent reflections from Turning Points that encourages each of us to do something small each day to help our preparation for the coming of Jesus.

Where do you find Jesus at Christmas time? We are applying the words of Bob Gass to this Advent, “Minutes invested in prayer will give you a greater return than hours spent in ceaseless activity.”

This has been a year of transition for us at the St. John Paul II Life Center. Pat and I continue our active involvement and leadership. After a nationwide search, the Board hired a wonderful man, Mark Fair, from right here in Austin. We had our best Life Is Beautiful Gala on November 13 with over 600 in attendance, which included an exciting live auction.

At the Center, we continue to grow the number of women served, babies lives saved, and women helped to become mothers after experiencing infertility for a number of years. Our two full-time Ob/Gyn physicians will start training selected medical residents at the Vitae Clinic and become a part of the medical school faculty in 2019.

We also completed collaboration with Sophia Institute for Teachers to produce an extremely well-written school curriculum supplement on Human Sexuality. This was particularly significant this year as it was the 50th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical on Human Vitae. – the Regulation of Birth.

We have been dealing with a situation of “uneven bargaining power” or “abuse of authority” wherein a medical resident is expected to be trained in abortion even when against the resident’s deeply held religious beliefs. Even if not “told” to take this training there is an intimidation factor by the instructors whose personal views are well known and the instructor holds the resident’s future in his or her hands for advancement to graduation and the resident’s future professional and personal livelihood. So, what is the law in this situation. The following is taken from a book written by Alliance Defending Freedom on Laws That Protect Conscience:

“An important federal amendment is the Coats-Snowe Amendment. This law broadly protects any healthcare entity or individual physician from being forced to perform, refer for, or even make arrangements to refer for an abortion. The Coats-Snowe Amendment applies to any government entity – federal, state, or local – that receives any federal financial assistance.

This law particularly adds protections for the pro-life beliefs of medical schools, residency programs, and medical residents. It was passed in part as a reaction to several private accrediting agencies that were taken over by pro-abortion doctors who tried to force medical schools and students to train on abortions. It is still commonly but incorrectly claimed today, in ignorance of this law, that medical schools and residencies must train participants on abortion. The Coats-Snowe Amendment prohibits governments from adopting such standards. As a result, the public education and licensing system cannot discriminate against pro-life healthcare professionals, schools, residency programs, and other entities.

Simply put, medical students and residents at government institutions cannot be required to be involved in abortions, and private medical institutions do not need to participate in abortion training or procedures.”

So, knowing what the law is, why are there not more medical residents that choose to opt-out of training on abortion?

It is because of the intimidation factor and lack of notice by the residency program to the medical resident of his or her rights not to participate in training on abortion. I have heard this expressed by physicians from numerous states in the US who interact with residency programs. Hopefully, knowledge of the Coats-Snowe Amendment will improve this situation in the future. Also, there is the Church Amendment (named for former Senator Frank Church of Idaho) which protects all individual rights when it comes to abortion. Whether someone chooses to perform abortions or not, each person is protected from discrimination under the Church Amendment. The combination of these laws should give confidence to all that do not want to be trained on abortion that they cannot be forced to take that training! As a Catholic business leader, please let others know they can follow their faith.

Now on to celebrating this Christmas Season we are in. As Father Michael Hurley says, “Joy is a state of mind not an emotion. Because God is in our heart nothing can separate us from joy if we have God with us.”

My prayer for you is that this Christmas Season and New Year is one filled with family, joy, happiness and love.



Timothy Von Dohlen is the founder and president of the John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic in Austin, Texas. ( For a more robust bio, click here. Mr. Von Dohlen may be reached at


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