A Moral Argument for Choice
by Dr. Willie Parker
This is a book with heart. It is a short book; I wanted it to go on forever, but I wanted it to end so I could sit here and write about it. I want to take each one of you by the hand and bring you to the library to check out your own copy of it. I want to read it out loud to you. I know I am unable to describe it to my own satisfaction, to the point where you can't wait to read it yourself. But I will try.
Dr. Willie Parker begins his story by talking about "The Women." It is the women, us, to which he has devoted his life's work. He is a man of faith, African American, raised in the South, in poverty. He acknowledges his hard work and intellect, but appreciates the support of family and educators that brought him to the work he now does.
He is a physician who performs abortions, visiting clinics where there are no other abortion doctors, in states where legislatures have chipped away at women's right to choose to have an abortion. He is an activist, serving on boards from Planned Parenthood to the Center for Reproductive Rights, traveling to D.C. and throughout the country to give testimony in support of women's reproductive rights.
In Life's Work, Dr. Parker takes us through the changes in his life's philosophy, in which he went from being an Ob/Gyn who avoided abortion to becoming one of the nation's foremost advocates and front-line abortion doctors. He speaks from a personal perspective, telling how he began to question the rigid moralism of the scripture, and how he became a "born again born again" Christian. He also speaks clearly from a medical point of view, describing the aspects of the abortion procedure, because he knows that too much myth and distortion controls the conversation. He tells us to speak out, speak to one another, speak without fear.
Speak without fear. Dr. Parker has lived, since he has made his decision to work in the service of women who seek abortion, with the knowledge of the risk he is taking. Each and every day that he walks into one of the clinics in which he works, he has to walk the gauntlet of antis carrying signs and yelling to the women who are merely seeking to live their lives freely.
He calls them "antis." He does not give them any more title than that. He writes about and debunks the lies that have been perpetuated, that doctors have been forced by legislators to tell. He talks about the TRAP laws, those laws that are created under the pretense of protecting the safety of women, but which sole purpose is to close clinics and to make abortion inaccessible.
He tells us about the women and girls who come to the clinics, and those who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term because clinics have closed down or rules about waiting periods run out the legal timeline. He tells about how doctors have been threatened, how laws have made it harder to practice. He tells about the terrorists who threaten and who have killed. And he talks about people who use their religious beliefs to intimidate and to control, and of the people of faith who have stepped up to help provide access to abortions to women who seek them.
Dr. Parker describes the changes in language on the left, wherein sincere abortion rights proponents tried to compromise with the antis, by talking about how abortion was a bad but necessary option, and how we need to make abortion safe, accessible and rare. And how this reframing actually worked to fuel the antis. He states with medical authority that abortion is not a "bad" thing; it is a medical procedure, a simple and safe one. It does not have the essence of evil with which the religious right has attempted to imbue it.
In 2014, in PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Katha Pollitt began the conversation we needed to be having. We needed to hear that we have no need to feel guilt or shame, we have the right to medical privacy and medical choices. The government needs to get the hell out of our reproductive lives. And, as borne out during the Women's March, we women (and men) are beginning to wake up from that deluded sleep that since Roe v. Wade led us to think we would no longer have to fight.
And now, Dr. Willie Parker has added another strong voice to our fight.
I hope you will take the time to give this book a read. It is not just an important book, it is inspirational.