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I want to tell you about a very unusual woman. She is an MD and a lifelong devout Catholic. She is also an outspoken advocate of family planning, a common euphemism for abortion and contraception programs. A rather unusual combination, but you might not think that qualifies her for the title of this piece. I will explain why I think it is justified, but first I must tell you that I will not give you her name, or where she lives because I think she is already in great danger of being attacked and even murdered for her views. I will not even tell you where I read about her, but if you happen to have read the same article, please, please do not disclose her name or whereabouts. It will only increase the danger. Now you see why I say she is strong and brave.

The country she lives in has a sizeable Catholic population, and a local Bishop who has threatened to excommunicate her. Her response will tell you a lot about her. She laughed, and waved it away.  ”They can’t excommunicate me because I am not going anywhere. I was born as a Catholic and I will die as a Catholic.”

Her mother describes her as a “cradle Catholic”, saying “We baptized her two weeks after she was born.” And yet, she is actively defying one of the Vatican’s fundamental doctrines that condemns and adamantly opposes any method of directly preventing conception.

For her advocacy of contraception, one priest called her “the Antichrist” even though Christ never said a word about contraception. They even spread a rumor that she has no children, and is therefore envious of women who do. In fact, has three adult daughters aged 21, 24 and 31. She is 55 years old.

She doesn’t seem worried about the disapproval from the Church. She laughs and says she thinks “God must have a sense of humor to let me do these things.”

Most people who have this kind of fundamental disagreement with their religion probably quit, either changing to a different sect or abandoning religious faith altogether. But that is not where she is. She has a personal relationship with her imagined God, and she does not necessarily accept the doctrine of her church hierarchy. Quite a different and refreshing response to the dictatorial teachings of the Catholic Church, and many other organized religions.

There is a lot more about her that shows her courage. The country she lives in, with its strong religious traditions, has the usual misogynistic attitudes about women who are smart and ambitious. When she was in high school, her male classmates were outraged when she outperformed them. “If you happen to beat the boys in math and physics and get the prizes, then you become a ‘witch’ Men don’t take it lightly when women are excelling,” she says.

With her academic achievements, she had no trouble getting into higher education. She earned a scholarship to study medicine in what was then the Soviet Union. In hospital visits, she found that the happiest place was the maternity ward. “It was flowers and laughter. It was joy. You could see that these babies were surrounded by love and happiness.” She decided to become a gynecologist, but when she returned to her country, she experienced “The rudest shock of my life. Babies were born and their fathers wouldn’t even come.” The mothers were abandoned, and when the babies came back months after delivery, they were malnourished.

The fertility rate in her country is so high that population growth is out-of-control. She decided to change her specialty from gynecology to public health. She went back to school and got a Masters degree in public health, and became the health director for a large district. She continued her education, receiving a doctorate in public health, conducting research in long-acting reversible contraceptives. She has risen through the ranks, and is now executive director of the National Population Council, the agency responsible for advising the government on all matters of population.

It’s a remarkable success story for a talented and ambitious individual who wants to help her country.

Considering the horrifying dangers that humanity faces, we desperately need a lot more people with this kind of courage, capability and commitment!




Bert Bigelow is a trained engineer who pursued a career in software design. Now retired, he enjoys writing short essays on many subjects but mainly focuses on politics and religion and the intersection...

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