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The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker
August 1, 2014 4:27 PM   Subscribe

"The protesters say they're opposed to abortion because they're Christian," Parker says. "It's hard for them to accept that I *do* abortions because I'm a Christian."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus (48 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite

American hero. For reals.

Now I gotta go because there's something in my eye.
posted by Kitteh at 4:45 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]

"Parker's beaming again, grinning wide. If this happened to men, he says, abortion would be free and they'd pass out free Super Bowl tickets and have public ceremonies to celebrate our brothers who went through the tough decision. He wishes more women had her righteous indignation instead of shame"

For real.
posted by sio42 at 4:47 PM on August 1 [14 favorites]

"My belief in God tells me that the most important thing you can do for another human being is help them in their time of need."

The man's a Saint.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:52 PM on August 1 [31 favorites]

"But what bothers him the most, he continues, is the argument that abortion is a secret plot to kill black babies. At a time when African Americans are suffering tremendous amounts of economic disparity and human suffering, the Antis want to compound the suffering by making people feel conflicted about controlling the size of their families—like that nursing student this morning who had to juggle her abortion with her finals next week. "The people who talk about black genocide are the same people who defund Head Start and food stamps and are now trying to dismantle public education by encouraging voucher systems—all of the systems that need to be in place to take care of those black babies. It's diabolical.""

I'm conflicted with wanting him for public office because then he wouldn't have time to be there for these women. This is like the most sane guy ever in the face of insanity.
posted by sio42 at 4:54 PM on August 1 [61 favorites]

He's amazing.

And just a moment of support for that nurse holding that woman's hand. Her patient may forget the nurse's face, but she will remember that hand forever.
posted by mochapickle at 4:56 PM on August 1 [18 favorites]

Parker continues, spending more time on this issue than on anything else. One in three women will have an abortion by the time she's forty-five, he tells them. "Y'all talk about your shoes, you talk about where you work, where you bought your dress, but y'all ain't going to say, 'Oh girl, when did you have your abortion?' So I'm saying that if you are sitting in a room full of women, the only person you can really be sure about having an abortion is you. And you got to be comfortable with you."

What a mensch.
posted by rtha at 5:01 PM on August 1 [10 favorites]

Rachel Maddow profiled a doctor the other night who is 74 years old, and still performing abortions because her community is in need of competent doctors who will help the women there who need these services. The doctor said sometimes she finds protestors on her own porch.

These doctors are all heroes.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:06 PM on August 1 [16 favorites]

Wasn't this a subplot in the novel The Cider House Rules? A doctor is performing abortions under the radar for #REASONS?

I would prefer that women have access to medical procedures than back alley methods. They are always going to seek ways to terminate an undesired pregnancy. Let's make it all as safe as possible.
posted by hippybear at 5:08 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]

Also, Mississippi has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the US (10 per 1000 live births). Our nation's capital is first.
posted by rtha at 5:08 PM on August 1

A scientific brain, an empathetic heart, and a willingness to risk his person to help his fellow humans. People like Dr. Parker give me hope, and for that I am grateful.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:25 PM on August 1 [10 favorites]

rtha: "Our nation's capital is first"

Depends on when you got your data, and is extremely subject to a sampling bias (and a small sample size -- DC only has about 14,000 live births each year). The rates in other large cities are comparable or worse.

Not that this is defending the status quo -- it should go without saying that infant mortality is a bad thing. But the statistics are hard to interpret in some cases...
posted by schmod at 5:32 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]

He decided to do this work the day Dr. Tiller was murdered. What a champion he is for all of us. Nina Simone says.
posted by Anitanola at 5:33 PM on August 1 [11 favorites]

It's true that it's unfair to compare DC's numbers to those of entire states.

Doesn't change the horrendous numbers for Mississippi, though.
posted by rtha at 5:34 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]

Great article, thanks for posting. And the fact that this article was run by a men's magazine, Esquire, is a sign that this issue matters to men too.
posted by John Cohen at 5:40 PM on August 1 [12 favorites]

It's a damn shame we can't clone him. That's a brave man.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:57 PM on August 1

the horrendous numbers for Mississippi...

...closely followed by Alabama and Louisiana, as always. It seems the definition of infant means from birth up to one year of age, so infant mortality presumably includes those infants who fail to thrive due to poverty or for whatever reason, and includes crib deaths, deaths due to illness and accidental deaths. Does anyone know if this is the case? I believe extreme poverty might be a factor in these statistics.

The other part of the picture is the difficulty of maintaining birth control for some women who live in rural or even urban poverty.
posted by Anitanola at 5:58 PM on August 1

Bless him and his work, what a good, kind, amazing man.
posted by lydhre at 6:16 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]

Another complains that her doctor refused to treat her vaginal infection because the drugs could cause a birth defect, even though she told him she was planning to end the pregnancy.

My first reaction was anger, and now I feel sort of numb. It's hard for me to find the words to say just how disgustingly cruel that is.

Dr. Parker is a saint for doing the work he does.
posted by supermassive at 6:26 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]

Hey look, a Christian doing the Lord's work
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:28 PM on August 1 [51 favorites]

I can't believe that the state that has had the highest child poverty rate would try to end all abortion clinics.

Oh wait, it makes total sense for people who would rather uphold their current unexamined ideology than actually create policies and services that ensure child welfare.
posted by xarnop at 6:38 PM on August 1 [6 favorites]

This article moved me to tears.
I didn't expect that.
Thank you.
I hope it makes a tiny crack in someone's rigid ideology.
posted by the_royal_we at 8:24 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]

May God bless and keep Dr. Parker always.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:40 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]

I start nursing clinicals next month. I went back to school at 35 because I wanted to be able to provide people with safe abortion care in this handmaid's tale of a world.

Right now, today, I don't know. I can't tell you if I'd go to medical school or eventually become a nurse practitioner. But I was the girl who told her friend how to take an overdose of birth control pills in high school when the condom broke. I was the one who held her hair back while she threw up, too. (This was mid nineties, long before Plan B. That friend is now a pharmaceutical chemist with two planned and wanted children.) I am the person who volunteered at Planned Parenthood just out of high school, who got comfy in a bulletproof vest and held so many hands during the procedure itself that my left hand will not really ever be the same. I am the worst sort of agnostic, and yet I describe myself as "evangelical" when it comes to IUDs, and who always described Planned Parenthood as being staffed with people "who are doing God's work".

I'm such a late bloomer. It's taken me an awfully long time. No little girl says that she wants to be an abortionist when she grows up. But if I truly do have a calling in this life, then this is it. I read all these articles, all of them. Every one steels my resolve. I need to stop feeling sheepish about what I want to do. Dr. Parker is a hero, and I'd be honored to be in his company.
posted by Athene at 8:53 PM on August 1 [123 favorites]

Typing on my phone through tears. I wish the doctor and staff at the only clinic I could get to had been half as empathic and caring and well, kind as this doctor and his staff.
posted by MuChao at 10:33 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]

@Athene: Do you know about the organization Medical Students for Choice?
posted by Anitanola at 11:16 PM on August 1

How dare an American try to help the poor or downtrodden in Jesus's name
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:48 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]

One in three women will have an abortion by the time she's forty-five, he tells them.

Is this an accurate number? This is the first time I've seen such a high ratio quoted.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:06 AM on August 2


"At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and at 2008 abortion rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45." from the Guttmacher Institute, with supporting studies linked
posted by hollyholly at 4:10 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]

Two of my sisters had abortions: fortunately both were shortly after Roe vs. Wade, when it became legal. One was medically recommended, as in if you have an abortion, the fetus will die; if you don't have an abortion, both you and the fetus will die. The other was by choice: she was a 17-year-old high schooler, and basically the minute she found out she was pregnant her loving 'fiance' abandoned her at warp speed, followed by her finding out he wasn't 20 & single, he was 24 & married with two kids. Neither ever felt guilty about their abortions: they had them for good, solid practical reasons; both went on to raise families.

The point is, my sisters had --- and they exercised --- their choice. Their bodies, their choice: not the choice of someone who wouldn't have to go through the very real medical risks of pregnancy, not the choice of someone who didn't have to try getting child support from an unwilling father, not the choice of someone who didn't have to think about childcare and food and shelter while stuck in minimum-wage hell. Their bodies, their choice: it's as simple as that.

God bless Dr. Parker.
posted by easily confused at 5:41 AM on August 2 [18 favorites]

Great article, thanks for posting. My heart goes out to women in the US, especially those who need an abortion. They're making things so hard for y'all.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:07 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]

There are some very good people in this world.
Very good people, indeed.

This man is one of them.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:47 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]

It makes me so so so happy to see this posted on Metafilter. Dr. Parker is a truly amazing person. I have the privilege of getting to work with him through my organization* and he's as real and warm in person as he is in this profile.

One way to show support for his work is to donate to Wake Up Mississippi and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is currently representing Jackson Women's in court.

*Not sure if linking to our site would be considered self-linking so I won't.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:09 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]

Oh, and Athene, I'm sure you're already familiar with Nursing Students for Choice, but if you're not, you might want to see if there's a chapter at your school.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:27 AM on August 2

Public service announcement: self-links in comments are fine, when they're on-topic. I self-linked above and forgot to disclose, though, so I'll do that now - I work for the place that produces the but I don't work in the policy or analysis side.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]

It occurs to me that he's treating women as individual, full-status humans whose lives and goals are worth as much as anyone else's. He's truly there to help them, not to lecture or pity or bully or save or (necessarily) tranquilize them. That feels to me like a rare thing. Which makes me sad.
posted by GrammarMoses at 9:37 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]

If it's cool with the mods, then, this is the organization I work for. Here's a blog post from a few weeks ago when Dr. Parker testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Women's Health Protection Act.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:40 AM on August 2 [6 favorites]

One in three women will have an abortion by the time she's forty-five, he tells them.

Is this an accurate number? This is the first time I've seen such a high ratio quoted.

That's the same statistic I've seen. Even if you could find a lower statistic, it's surely underreported. Some people who say they haven't had one must be lying. You expect some false answers with any self-reporting about any behavior — especially with such a sensitive and stigmatized matter. And it's hard to see why anyone would falsely say she has had an abortion.
posted by John Cohen at 10:21 AM on August 2

This guy is awesome. I'm in the "Something In My Eye" club for sure.
posted by brundlefly at 11:00 AM on August 2

I wish I could feel as certain as everyone else here. I am not a Christian. I believe in no personal gods at all. But, I do believe in science. Science still has a mighty argument over life - when it begins, even when it ends, and who can and should be able to end it. It's conflicting. Though I always come down on the side of choice, I also cannot deny my sometimes confused thoughts scientifically. One thing I know, for me, it's not ever something we should take lightly and just accept as a form of birth control. Though, I respect all opinions on this, I cannot pretend I don't grapple with these issues.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 1:39 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]

Science still has a mighty argument over life - when it begins, even when it ends, and who can should be able to end it.

Science is pretty clear that life began 3.5 billion years ago and has continued ever since. The arguments you are talking about are among people--some scientists, some not--not "science", and those people are asking questions that science can't answer because the words you're using--"life" and "death"--are human constructions that different people will always define differently and not absolute truths.

And by bringing up the same tired arguments that have been had a billion times before, you are distracting from the fact that Dr. Parker is a great man who is helping women who an entire state government would rather died in back allies.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:58 PM on August 2 [11 favorites]

it's not ever something we should take lightly and just accept as a form of birth control.

I've never met anyone who has taken the decision to have an abortion lightly. If I woke up tomorrow and discovered I was pregnant, I would have no moral or ethical problems at all with having an abortion, and to the casual observer that decision might look like I'm taking it lightly. But the thing is, I've had to ponder the issue ever since puberty, what with the onset of menstruation and the constant reminders from the world around me that I could get pregnant at any time and ruin my promising young life. I'm pretty damn sure that most women who seek out abortions are a lot like me, in that they're aware that they are women and that they could someday be pregnant, and they might need to make a decision about that. What looks cavalier to an outsider is almost never that way to the person actually having the experience.
posted by palomar at 2:14 PM on August 2 [30 favorites]

I dislike the link in the middle of this story to download "Esquire for iPad" that features this image of a sexy Cameron Diaz. It feels inappropriate somehow.
posted by limeonaire at 4:59 PM on August 2

That's the Esquire experience. It has its downsides as well as its ups. Cf. excellent interviews in Playboy magazine 20-30 years ago.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:26 PM on August 2

Looking to science to answer the question misses the entire point (although understandable, since the framing we see is generally about "life"). People have a right to control their own bodies, someone else's need doesn't negate that. We don't expect science to tell us when to force people to donate blood or organs.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:59 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]

The abortion I had when I was in my early twenties was very sad for me and my future husband, but I cannot imagine that those two newly recovering alcoholics, one of them still yellow from liver damage, would have made good parents (nothing like we were seven years later when our daughter was born, still poor but much more responsible). I was very grateful that abortion was legal, local, and in a safe and clean facility, and I tell people I'm a one-issue voter. Planned Parenthood is my main charity.
posted by Peach at 7:03 PM on August 2 [20 favorites]

From the article: "One day, he was listening to a sermon by Dr. King on the theme of what made the Good Samaritan good. A member of his own community passed the injured traveler by, King said, because they asked, "What would happen to me if I stopped to help this guy?" The Good Samaritan was good because he reversed the question: "What would happen to this guy if I don't stop to help him?" So Parker looked in his soul and asked himself, "What happens to these women when abortion is not available?"

Funny how so many people never ask this question at all.
posted by dilettante at 9:32 AM on August 3 [13 favorites]

dilettante: "So Parker looked in his soul and asked himself, "What happens to these women when abortion is not available?"

Funny how so many people never ask this question at all.

I actually believe the bleak truth is that many anti-abortion activists *do* ask this question, and have decided they are willing to have a certain number of women die as collateral damage in their war to save the unborn. Most, they are hoping, will opt to give the child up for adoption rather than risk dying at the hands of an alley abortionist. And if some do, they are gambling that the number will be lower than the the number of babies "saved".

Frankly I believe this is the unavoidable sickness of the anti-choice movement. That it is basically impossible to be completely anti-choice without also being anti-life. Similarly, even assuming the woman keeps the baby to term and the baby is healthy, will that unwanted baby experience a life worth living? Will that baby displace another baby the mother might have had a few years later when she was ready to be a good mother?
posted by Deathalicious at 10:04 PM on August 4

ghost phoneme: Looking to science to answer the question misses the entire point (although understandable, since the framing we see is generally about "life"). People have a right to control their own bodies, someone else's need doesn't negate that. We don't expect science to tell us when to force people to donate blood or organs.

To expand on this: up to 24-25 weeks, the cells growing in a woman that might eventually develop into a person cannot live without outside the woman. At that point, fetal viability gets more likely, and that is when the discussion (for me) get murky, but then you get into concerns for infant mortality.

Which is not discussed outside of family planning and abortion clinics, because that means the protestors actually care about the future of the possible child.

Thanks for this article, it was great, and posed new ideas for me.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 AM on August 8

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