THE PINK HOUSE
Dr. Willie Parker is one of two doctors who performs abortions at the only women’s health clinic in Mississippi where abortions are performed.
Dr. Willie Parker is one helluva man, one brave man...and even one good Christian.
Dr. Willie Parker knows there are people who want him dead.
Dr. Willie Parker in an interview at Here and Now says,
Life is dangerous work. I know that Doctor Gunn was killed, I know that George Tiller was killed. What I know that we all have in common, is that we all die. That’s not a statement of bravado. In accepting the fact that we’re all gonna leave here somehow and the inevitability of that, I’ve simply chosen in my life to focus on how I live. Its very important to me to live a life of principle, one of compassion.
Dr. Willie Parker understands why women seek abortion counseling. In that same interview he says,
Women are beaten up pretty bad by the time they get to me. They’re wrestling with their own thoughts, they’re wrestling with what they ought to do, they’re wrestling with what the people who fancy themselves as street counselors are telling them that they should do or what they shouldn’t do. My goal is to turn off all those other voices and just let them hear their own thoughts. I trust women to make good decisions for themselves. There are women who leave that room who don’t have an abortion because they decided that it wasn’t for them. What we have done is we’ve made sure that they had the opportunity to make that decision.
During the first twelve years of his medical practice, Dr. Parker was not comfortable doing abortions and he didn't do them. What made him change his mind? He says it was his faith. He explained this to the New Jersey Ledger back in 2012,
I wrestled with the morality of it. I grew up in the South and in fundamentalist Protestantism, I was taught that abortion is wrong.
Yet as I pursued my career as an OB/GYN, I saw the dilemmas that women found themselves in. And I could no longer weigh the life of a pre-viable or lethally flawed fetus equally with the life of the woman sitting before me.
In listening to a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, I came to a deeper understanding of my spirituality, which places a higher value on compassion. King said what made the good Samaritan “good” is that instead of focusing on would happen to him by stopping to help the traveler, he was more concerned about what would happen to the traveler if he didn’t stop to help.
I became more concerned about what would happen to these women if I, as an obstetrician, did not help them.
He also told the Ledger why he believes it is often women in their second trimester who have the most compelling need for abortion services,
They lack access to health care or don’t have an understanding of their body changes, and often figure out later that they’re pregnant. Or they find out early enough that they’re pregnant, but their lack of access to health care or volatile, dysfunctional relationships delay seeking help.
The women most likely to be in those situations are trapped in poverty, often women of color or poor socioeconomic backgrounds, less education, and women and girls at the extremes of reproductive age. Women beyond the age where they think they can become pregnant, or young girls who have infrequent and irregular sexual activity and aren’t conscious of it.
Starting with those women as the ones you’d cut off is kind of ironic, because they have the most compelling reasons to consider abortion in the first place.
He further told the Ledger just what he thinks about those who argue that abortion targets black and brown babies,
That’s a very cynical manipulation of the reality that the abortion rate is higher in the African-American and Latino communities because their unplanned pregnancy rates are higher and the availability of modern contraception is lower.
And in the same breath of feigning concern about black women and black babies, abortion opponents are limiting access to contraception and defunding health care and child care programs, and all the other things that would be even more necessary if more of the unplanned, unwanted pregnancies were carried to term.
Dr. Parker, on July 15, 2014 gave a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hearing on S. 1696, The Women’s Health Protection Act Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights. Here is part of what he said,
Proponents of these laws can argue that they are "protecting" the health of women, but the truth would suggest otherwise. Here are the facts in Mississippi: there are high teen and unintended pregnancy rates, high infant mortality rates, high maternal mortality rates, and too many Mississippians living in astronomical poverty. These realities confront every woman in the state who has an undesired pregnancy, or a wanted but fatally flawed one. Their need for safe, compassionate, medical care is urgent. Because of that, I made the moral decision to provide care in this state.
Now, invariably, I field questions regarding that decision, with the most often asked being: Why? The short answer is: Because if I don’t, who will? If women can find a way travel from all over the state of Mississippi and beyond under hostile circumstances to access abortion care at the clinic, I want to ensure there will be someone there for them.
Some people ask if I am concerned about my own safety. Of course I am. But I am less concerned for my safety than for what will happen to women if I am not there to provide the care they need and deserve.
One patient I think of often was a pregnant woman with five children, the youngest who had died just the year before from cancer. She found herself pregnant and knew that she could not care for another child financially or emotionally. She had traveled some distance for her first state- mandated counseling visit. Even though she was resolute, and knew what was best for her family, her procedure was required to be delayed for political reasons that had nothing to do with her medical care.
Other women I saw that day were returning for their procedure following a second trip from hours away. These women come to the clinic despite distance, work considerations, childcare obligations, and increased travel costs. They typify the hardships that Mississippi women, and in fact many women across the country, endure due to present laws.
Every patient is unique. Every woman is different. Each one of them is grappling with a personal dilemma. I define a dilemma as a situation in which one has to decide between nondesirable options without the luxury of forgoing the decision. While their stories might differ, what all women I see have in common is the increasing difficulty in abortion access.
So, as I said, people will ask, “Why do you do it?”
The answer is, I want for women what I want for myself: a life of dignity, health, self- determination, and the opportunity to excel and contribute. We know that when women have access to abortion, contraception, and medically accurate sex education, they thrive. It should be the same for all women, no matter where they live. The ability to live the life you imagine should not be limited by your zip code.
We who provide abortions do so because our patients need us, and that’s what we are supposed to do: respond to the needs of our patients. It has become a conviction of compassion in a spiritual sense for me to provide abortion care. It is the deepest level of love that you can have for another person, that you can have compassion for their suffering and you can act to relieve it.
The world could use a whole lot more people like Dr. Willie Parker.
The first post below is from my friend Bill Berkowitz and is featured at BuzzFlash. The second, much longer piece, is from Esquire.