Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice

3 of 18
Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice
224 pages; Atria / 37 INK
"Alleviating needless suffering is a Christian's sacred responsibility. If God is in everything, and everyone, then God is as much in the woman making a decision to terminate a pregnancy as in her Bible," writes Willie Parker, MD, in his imperative memoir, Life's Work. As a devout Christian and one of the only physicians performing the procedure in the Deep South, Parker refuses to cede the moral high ground, making an impassioned case rooted in science, history, and theology for the sanctity of a woman's autonomy over her own body.

     

Born in poverty in Alabama, Parker became a successful ob-gyn who didn't offer abortions due to his faith. But when he studied the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and other progressive Christians to find answers to ethical dilemmas in his practice, he had an epiphany. He left the faculty of the University of Hawaii to learn more about family planning, eventually relocating to the South. Now he regularly drives hundreds of miles to abortion clinics in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, where only one remains, to offer the surgery without judgment, often to the poorest women.

     

By committing to reproductive justice, Parker has become a general in the so-called abortion wars, in which anti-choice extremists have harassed patients, bombed clinics, and killed providers such as Parker's exemplar, Dr. George Tiller, who was shot in the Kansas church where he was an usher.

     

It's been estimated that about one in three American women from every race, region, and tax bracket will have had an abortion by age 45. Many have needed to scrape together the money and journey great distances for help, and Parker is there to support them. "The procedure room in an abortion clinic is as sacred as any other space to me," he says, describing the end of a patient's politicized ordeal, "because that's where I am privileged to honor your choice. In this moment, where you need something that I am trained to give you, God is meeting both of us where we are."

— Natalie Beach