Courageous Abortion Provider Dr. Willie Parker on Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice

November 20, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a Revolution Books staff person:

On Tuesday, November 14, an excited audience had the opportunity to hear and engage with Dr. Willie Parker, an outspoken, Christian reproductive justice advocate and abortion provider and one of the few doctors to provide abortion services to women in Mississippi and Alabama. Parker read from and discussed several parts of his new memoir, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, with the standing room only crowd.

People came from around the Bay Area—students from UC Berkeley and other colleges, the Director of UC Law’s Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice,  Chair of African-American Studies at UCB, a long time Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner from nearby El Cerrito, and medical students at UC San Francisco. One young woman said she decided to become an abortion doctor after learning about Dr. Parker and his work. Most heard about the program because they had seen the signs up around the campus area. There was a small group of anti-abortion people in the audience, and Dr. Parker was certainly capable of taking their questions. The fascists that have been harassing the bookstore did not show up.

After the reading people lined up, to get their books signed, and Revolution Books sold out of all the copies of his memoir. Others will have to come back soon to get their copy. The readings and the discussion of women’s reproduction, and the access and right to abortion care was tremendously lively and deep, striking people on a profound level and inspiring an enthusiasm to further engage.

Dr. Parker started out by saying he became an abortion doctor out of love and respect for women, and that his approach to his life’s work is based on science, and not religion. That facts are the correct objective criteria when discussing reproduction, and that the fact of reproduction is that babies come from women’s vaginas, not from Adam’s rib. With warmth, humor and science, he debunked any notion that a fetus is a baby. He argued that a woman’s right to abortion is based on her right to control her own body and denying a woman that right reduces her to an incubator, and a slave.

In reading from his memoir and in the discussion following, Dr. Parker said that while he as a person has many facets—a heterosexual Black man from the South who is a Christian and a doctor—he is first and foremost a human and this is what determines how he approaches the world. He spoke of the risks he faces all the time. Parker writes: “I could live with the awareness that someone might harm me. I am not so sure that I am brave enough to live with the awareness that I was too afraid to do what I knew to be right.” He recounted a decision he made as a student to stand aside from the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa because becoming involved might harm his career. He said that turning away from what we know to be the right thing to do can lead to a person becoming cold on the inside and when that happens, you’re dead—whether you live to be 35 or 80.

Questions to Dr. Parker were wide ranging. How did he learn to perform abortions if it wasn’t routinely taught in medical school? Why does he have to travel from state to state to perform abortions; how can people contribute financially to his work? How can he equate a woman’s denial of her right to abortion to slavery with all the lynchings, beatings, and the Middle Passage that characterized slavery in the U.S.? How do we as a society get rid of the whole rape culture? Is it really true that if you turn away from what you know is the right thing to do, you will die inside? Won’t you get another chance? Parker made clear that life is not so black and white and you can’t say for certain that another chance won’t come up. It did for him when he decided he had to become an abortion doctor. But you can’t keep turning away from what you know to be true and right. And you can’t deny there are risks involved in doing the right thing.

Dr. Parker’s appearance at Revolution Books, in the current situation where misogyny and patriarchy are being spewed by those in power, was powerful, provocative and profound.


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