SW: What finally caused your change of heart about what you were doing throughout residency?
JB: In the middle of my second year of residency, in January 1990, I (somewhat reluctantly) accompanied my mother to Medjugorje. And that’s where I had a full-out conversion. I did not want to go there. I was sceptical about the whole apparition thing and did not want to face the visionaries, but then miraculous things started to happen. I climbed up the Hill of the Crosses and saw the miracle of the sun. Then a Belgian woman approached me. She explained that she was on a pilgrimage there for the pro-life cause and told me Our Lady asked her to give me a message. I humored her by taking out my notebook and started writing. Although she could speak only French (as I was surprised to discover the following day when I tried to introduce her to my mother), I heard her speaking in English. She told me 40-50 things Our Lady wanted me to hear along these lines:
And interiorly, I heard Our Lady saying some of the very words she’d said centuries before to Juan Diego, but I could now see that they have great relevance to medical practice: “Johnny, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Are you not underneath this tilma? Johnny, is there anything else you need? All of heaven is alive and available.” I didn’t need anything further to be convinced.
But, just in case I might waver, when we got back to New Jersey after the trip to Medjugorje, a man I didn’t know came up to me and said the same 40-50 things that the Belgian woman had just told me.
When I returned to the Jones Institute, I told my professors that I could no longer dispense contraceptives or sterilize women or perform abortions or create and destroy embryos. They didn’t agree with my newfound "religious scruples," but were very willing to accommodate them.
SW:Did you also look for ways to become a pro-life adovcate at that time?
JB: I didn’t have to look. Word got out immediately that a doctor who had performed abortions was now pro-life and I was asked to speak at a local college. I happily agreed. Only it turned out to be a debate with Faye Wattleton, then the President of Planned Parenthood, and I was not prepared for such a confrontation. I thought afterward that I’d failed to convince anyone. But in the audience, there happened to be the son of a Catholic OB-GYN who practiced in Maryland and he told me that his father would be glad to offer me a job when I finished residency.
That’s a perfect example of how Our Lady has been guiding me in the dark all these years. She provided the general outlines and I’ve had to trust and say "yes," not knowing clearly how things would work out. I said "yes" to a college pro-life talk and she arranged for my first job after residency. Given my unwillingness to violate the teachings of "her Son’s Church," I would have had a very tough time getting hired by any OB-GYN practice.
In the meantime, I studied all the various methods of natural family planning and trained in NaPro Technology, which helps couples achieve pregnancy by identifying the underlying cause of their fertility problem and, where possible, removing that obstacle through hormones, medication, surgery, or supplements and diet, whatever is needed to restore health and fertility.
SW: At what point did you decide to leave a solidly Catholic OB-GYN practice in Maryland and start your own practice?
JB: Although we were practicing medicine in a way that was consistent with the teachings of the Church, at least as to the Gospel of Life, there was a part of Our Lady’s message to me that was still missing, a part she had told me about through the Belgian woman in Medjugorje: serving the poor, seeing the poor in my daily work.