Part of Pittsburgh City Paper's month-long celebration of Black History Month
The country still desperately needs people to fight for reproductive rights, and who understand that, fundamentally, abortion is a type of healthcare like any other medical procedure. The doctors who commit to performing abortions do so at their own peril, as they are often subject to harassment, threats, and violence.
Dr. Willie Parker was raised in a Christian household in Alabama. As a teenager, he converted to a more fundamentalist sect of Christianity. Earlier in his career as a physician, Parker did not perform abortions because he believed they conflicted with his religion; He later concluded that true Christianity meant having compassion for women’s health.
Parker gave up his job as a doctor living in a penthouse in Hawaii and committed to a career as an abortion provider, traveling around the country to the places where it is most needed, where there are few doctors, and where the pro-life movement has made it near impossible to get an abortion. For years, he provided abortions at the single clinic in Mississippi. Currently, he provides abortions in Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
Parker’s memoir, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, explores his personal journey as a Christian and as a physician, but also outlines why it is so critical for women to have access to abortions and autonomy over their own bodies.
“Once I understood that the faithful approach to a woman in need is to help her and not to judge her or to impose upon her any restriction, penalty, or shame, I had to change my life,” he writes. Parker is also featured in the documentary Trapped, which follows several abortion providers navigating the irrational restrictions of the law.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Parker elaborated on the idea that women should be trusted to take care of their own bodies while talking about the possibility of medication abortion. “We trust women when to take aspirin for a headache, but we don’t trust them to take a drug that’s safer?” he says. “The same notions of moral fitness and intellectual capability were asked of black people, when they were once enslaved. So I find strong parallels to the very paternalistic thinking of, women can’t be trusted.”
Parker is also active on Twitter, vocalizing his thoughts on reproductive rights as well as well as an array of social justice issues, from the Covington Catholic Students to rapper Future’s comments about “being a man.”
For more information on Dr. Parker's life and work, visit his personal website.