A great interview with Dr. Willie Parker just went up on Jezebel.com. I encourage you all to read it. He gets at the core of a lot of the abortion and female rights debate by addressing human need. He is also a Christian, which adds an intersectional element most people want to ignore or say isn’t valid in this age. His thoughts are introspective and researched. I applaud him!
Here are some pull quotes:
In your book, you write about how the religious right has hijacked moral authority over the abortion debate and that the left has failed to come up with a similar moral argument. What moral argument should the left present?
The left has failed to come up with an argument because the left has conceded on the basis of, what I think, is an intellectual arrogance. They think that the facts will speak for themselves and they think that religion is so antiquated—some people even think that we live in a post-religious world; that nobody really believes in God or prayer. That has opened a space that the people who are opposed to abortion have been more than willing to fill with misinformation and encroachment of other peoples’ ability to make their decisions.
The argument that I have, with regard to abortion being a moral issue (and not necessarily a religious one) is that I believe that men and women are equal in their agency. If women have moral agency and autonomy, that means that all processes that occur in their body should be governed only by that woman’s decision-making. So what that means is that people should not be able to have laws that will allow them to be preoccupied with the well-being of a fetus that a woman’s carrying than they are with the woman. You can’t care more about the fetus that a woman’s carrying than you do about the woman who’s carrying it.
Can you talk about how you went from being a fundamentalist Christian who may have once opposed to abortion to becoming somebody who advocates for it now?
I was never opposed to abortion. I never questioned a woman’s right to make that decision. I was simply morally conflicted about what it meant to me to provide abortions given that I had not thought critically about what it meant to be an abortion provider, which I didn’t have to think about until I became a physician and chose to become an OB/GYN and had women presented to me on a regular basis with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies.
My breakthrough finally came when I listened to a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about what made the Good Samaritan good. The sermon that you know as the “Mountaintop Sermon,” the very last sermon that he preached on the night that he was assassinated—within that sermon, he described the very familiar story of the Good Samaritan who stopped to help someone who had been robbed and injured. Everybody passed that person by and refused to help. The Samaritan stopped and helped, and Dr. King said what made the Good Samaritan good was that person reversed the question of concern, whereas everybody else said, ‘What will happen to me if I stopped to help this person?’ The Samaritan asked, ‘What will happen to this person if I don’t stop to help him?’
As a doctor, you make it clear that you don’t really bring religion into the room with the patient. But in other conversations you have with people, especially people who are Christian who completely disagree with you—what are those conversations like, and have you ever convinced anybody who identified as Christian but believed the opposite of what you believed on abortion?
I think part of the problem is the issues are framed in such a polarizing way and with such a false equivalence, you can’t have honest disagreement. I’m pro-life as somebody who provides abortion and you’re telling me that I can’t be, because when you say pro-life, what you actually mean is that you’re pro-fetus and anti-abortion. I’m pro-life and I’m pro-abortion. But pro-abortion doesn’t mean the promotion of abortion. The relationship that I have with abortion is the same relationship that a cardiothoracic surgeon has with heart transplants. Cardiothoracic surgeons don’t promote heart transplants, but they want to make sure that somebody with cardiac disease can get a heart transplant if they need one. I feel the same way about women having access to abortion. Abortion’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s a biological reality. And I’m in favor of making sure that women have access to the things they need to thrive and to be healthy.
Read the full interview here.