Mildred Fay Jefferson: One Doctor’s Prescription for Life

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By John Stonestreet

It’s good for us to remember the heroic faith of those who’ve gone before us. And then to go and do likewise.

Glenn Sunshine is at it again: helping us remember heroes of our Christian faith long forgotten. As I’ve said before on BreakPoint, remembering is vital to the life of the Church.

It’s why the author of Hebrews in chapter 11 of his epistle extolled the faith of figures like Noah and Abraham and Joseph and even Rahab the prostitute. By the time we get to chapter 12, we’re ready to accept the challenge: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

That’s the power of remembering God’s servants who have gone before us. And that’s why Dr. Glenn Sunshine writes his “Christians Who Changed Their World” columns, which are available at our now re-designed BreakPoint.org website.

But Glenn doesn’t focus in on the big names. Instead he introduces us to lesser known but equally significant heroes of the faith.

She graduated from the local segregated high school at age 15, enrolled in a small black college and eventually made it to Harvard Medical School. In 1951, she became the first African American woman to graduate from that esteemed institution. Then get this: She became the first woman to intern at Boston City Hospital and the first female surgeon at the Boston University Medical Center. She eventually became a professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School.

As Glenn writes, “Coming from the segregated South in an era of intense racism, Dr. Jefferson’s accomplishments as a pioneer for women and blacks in medicine would be cause enough to celebrate her life. Yet today she is most remembered for her tireless work opposing abortion, both as a physician in the Hippocratic tradition and as a Christian.”

It was in 1970 when the American Medical Association proclaimed that it was ethical for doctors to perform abortions wherever it was legal. Dr. Jefferson was outraged by this assault on the Hippocratic Oath and on Judeo-Christian values: “I’m opposed to abortion as a doctor and also because I know it is morally wrong,” she said. “An individual never has the private right to choose to kill for whatever reasons, be they whim, convenience or compulsion. Because I know abortion is wrong, I will use every means available for free people in a free country to see that it is not perpetuated.”

And that’s exactly what she did, touring the country, speaking at public events and on the air, eventually becoming a board member and president of National Right to Life.

As Glenn relates, her passion for life was persuasive. In fact, one very well-known politician, a governor who once signed an abortion bill in his state, wrote to her after hearing her on the radio.

“No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching,” he wrote to Dr. Jefferson. “I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed. You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you.”

That letter was signed “Ronald Reagan.”

I do hope you’ll come to BreakPoint.org and read about this amazing woman of faith and defender of life. Click on Glenn Sunshine’s article: “Christians Who Changed Their World: Mildred Fay Jefferson.”

One more thing:  Have you ever considered studying Christian worldview with the likes of a Dr. Glenn Sunshine, or Joni Eareckson Tada, or Bill Brown? Our 9-month Colson Fellows Program features reading, webinars, residencies, mentoring and fellowship in Christian worldview. Learn more at BreakPoint.org. Just click on the Colson Fellows link at the top.

First published at Break Point

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