In late August, we learned that Drs. Milroy and Mervyn Samuels, the father-son abortion team at Complete Healthcare for Women (CHW) were quitting the abortion industry. After decades of performing abortions at 5888 Cleveland Avenue (and seven years of 40 Days for Life campaigns), the news was astonishing. There was little notice from the doctors, but their website was changed to remove all references to surgical and medical abortions. In a bit of disbelief, I called their office and spoke to a receptionist (I’ll never forget—her name was Faith), who confirmed that the doctors were no longer performing surgical abortions at the office. I asked her if they were moving locations or referring to a different practice locally, and she indicated no. I asked her if they were continuing to provide medical abortions (aka the pill or a shot of hormones), and she said “no.” I thanked her and hung up. After sitting there in stunned silence for a few moments, I said a prayer of Thanksgiving and started reaching out to other prolife leaders, volunteers, and supporters to share the good news. For a few days, everyone was ecstatic. But then, little by little, doubt started to creep into people’s voices. Suddenly my email and my voicemail were overrun by people who just were not sure that they could trust in this good news.
It started out simply enough – by its definition, “unbelievable news” is news you simply do not believe can possibly be true. A few people wondered if it could be a trick. Then someone wondered if perhaps they were simply switching from surgical abortions to medical ones (medical abortions are those abortions induced by medicine – a pill like the RU486 combination or a shot). Another person looked up medical license information and realized they had an Ambulatory Surgical Facility license for their aesthetics practice. Suddenly, much of the hope and thankfulness that the Drs. Samuel had undergone a change of heart on the matter of abortion was eroded through distrust of their motives and the regulatory system. My inbox went from “hallelujah” to “We don’t think this can be real. These men are evil. How can you say this is true?”
Suddenly, I found myself in a very odd predicament. Many of these questions were based on speculations and unfamiliarity with the actual laws and regulations in place. Others were based on a worldview with which I cannot agree – namely that there is no hope of redemption for these men. In responding to these questions, I strongly wanted to defend the truth and give voice to the greatness of the grace of God. Instead, it came out sounding an awful lot like a defense of Mervyn and Milroy Samuel. After much thought and good counsel, I realized I am not standing in defense of the Drs. Samuel. I am here to defend the truth, and it is up to each of us to determine which side we are on.
The wounds of abortion are very deep. We realize that they impact women who regret their abortions. There are thousands of men who regret lost fatherhood. Others carry the burden of being an accomplice – perhaps by encouraging the procedure, lending money to finance it, or driving a friend to the clinic on the day of her abortion. Still others face the guilt of the bystander - letting their apathy and silence rule while evil flourishes. We also understand that the abortionist and clinic staff suffer damage to their souls each time they destroy – or assist in the destruction of, a human life. These we know and talk about and understand, but I’m not sure we fully understand the wounds of the prolife faithful: the wounds that come from confronting the evil of abortion, the spiritual heaviness of seeing woman after woman choose abortion, the fear that the rare victories buoying our hope will turn out to be false, and that general sense of despair that seeps out of the walls of the abortion clinic. The Drs. Samuel have left a lot of wounds in central Ohio – those who were directly touched by abortion, those who were accomplices AND those who have fought for so many years. With so much suffering at the hands of abortion, it is not really a surprise that so many are responding in ways that range from cautiously optimistic to suspicious and unbelieving. With that in mind, I am not here to defend the doctors or assure you that they are firmly on the side of life. I can, however, share my thoughts and experiences with you. Augustine told us that, “the truth is like a lion: you don’t have to defend it, just let it loose and it will defend itself.”
So, in that spirit, here is what we do know. We know that the Complete Healthcare for Women website was revised to remove medical and surgical abortions from the services provided. We know that staff at the clinic have confirmed to various individuals and members of the media that they are no longer providing those services (and I caution any would-be sleuths from continually calling to ask about abortions for fear of creating the appearance of false demand!). We know that abortion advocacy organizations have decried the Samuels’ decision to stop aborting babies. We also know that the Samuels were operating a legal and profitable abortion business. We know that Ohio has some of the nation’s strongest regulations for abortions that require them to be done in a hospital or ambulatory surgical facility (statewide, there were 89 abortions performed outside of an ambulatory surgical facility last year. Each of these 89 was performed in a hospital). We know that Ohio has additional regulations on the distribution of RU-486. Lastly, we know that any abortion performed must be reported to the Ohio Department of Health. We know that unlike so many other clinics in Ohio, the latest health inspections for Complete Healthcare for Women found no infractions of Ohio law, and it appears that the decision was voluntary on the part of the doctors. We know that thousands of us in Central Ohio have prayed for a reversal of their hearts, and we know that prayer is a very powerful thing. In fact, it was seven years ago that we held the first 40 Days for Life vigil at Complete Healthcare for Women. That year, abortions went down by twenty percent in central Ohio.
With this in mind, it seems a bit of a stretch to believe that the Drs. Samuel would trade a legal and profitable abortion business for one that is illegal or unadvertised. However, because they have not indicated publicly why they’ve changed course, we cannot know for sure what is behind their actions. Whether it was a realization of the humanity of the unborn or a calculated business decision, we will not know until (and if) they decide to speak up. If they are out of the abortion business for good, if they restart their practice, or if they provide services at another clinic – we cannot know just yet. But, the truth does not stay hidden for long. There are just some things that only time will tell.
So, what is the truth with respect to Complete Healthcare for Women? It is ok to ask that question. To be honest, I don’t know. St. Thomas Aquinas argued that truth cannot be determined solely by human reason, but that our human reasoning relies upon truth. We may never know, to our complete human satisfaction, the reasons that Complete Healthcare for Women got out of the abortion business. Some of us may never be able to trust its permanency. All reason points to the understanding that they are currently out of the abortion business, and it is reasonable to believe that if they get back into the abortion business we will find out and respond appropriately. We do know two things: We see that there appears to be an uptick in business at both Planned Parenthood and Founders in light of CHW closing, and if all those who speculate about the true situation at Complete Healthcare for Women were to join us once a week or once a month in prayer, we would be able to help even more women turn away from their abortions. Secondly, we know that the wounds of abortion are deep and painful for all involved. Just as we need to continue to pray for post abortive women and direct them to local healing resources, we need to continue to pray for Mervyn and Milroy Samuel. A true victory is not measured by their quitting the abortion business, but by one day meeting them in heaven as brothers. In that same light, we also know that the wounds of the prolife faithful, hidden though they may be, must still be laid at the foot of the Cross. So pray for the prolife faithful with the same fervor for which you pray for the unborn. We need it too.
PS: Dr. Samuel – if this should ever happen across your desk and you’d like to share your story, we are here and ready to listen. Please keep choosing life.