Sexcapades reviews Dr. Willis Parker’s Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, followed by a discussion on abortion.
Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice is a memoir outlining Dr. Willie Parker’s journey to becoming an abortion doctor and reproductive activist. Seamlessly blending his strong Christian beliefs, love for medical science and the philosophy that a woman’s body is her own, Dr. Parker eloquently encompasses what it means to be a Good Samaritan.
As an African American growing up in the Deep South during the height of Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Parker’s words strongly imitate those of Dr. Martin Luther Kings—a role model of his. Dr. Parker’s rise from adversities like poverty, racism, and being raised by a single mother was extremely moving. His tenacity radiated throughout every word, sentence and chapter. There was not a time in reading this book where I did not feel moved or was awed in some way.
As I mentioned, Dr. Parker has faced a lot of adversities. He grew up in Wylam, Alabama in a small, impoverish neighborhood. Many people who grow up in communities like his do not see a way out. While, Dr. Parker had a lot of role models to look up to but he also faced a multitude of racism and community doubt that he would succeed. For example, Dr. Parker was told by a guidance counselor to become a carpenter because he said he liked to work with his hands. Despite his doubtful environment, Dr. Parker was consistently dedicated to his religion and education. He has graduated from Brea College in Kentucky and has received degrees from the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan.
I was initially intrigued by how Dr. Parker’s Christian faith would factor into his profession and activism.
To be honest, before reading the book I thought Dr. Parker would completely abandon his faith when he began his practice of abortions and activism. I scolded myself after reading the book because that is a very ignorant ideology. Dr. Parker’s religion is not separate from his line of work and activism. It fuels and empowers it. Dr. Parker and his book showed me how he uses Christianity to empower women, their sexuality and dreams. His interpretation of his religion is beautiful, eye-opening and definitely differs from the way ‘pro-lifers,’ or antis as he calls them, use Christianity to push their controlling and hatred agenda.
What I loved a lot about the book is Dr. Parker’s inclusion of stories of women he has encounter in his line of work. It is what I found to be the most de-stigmatizing of the entire book. These women have dreams to be successful too. According to Dr. Parker’s book, most women who are seeking abortions are women who come from a low socioeconomic background. These are the women who have to scrape every penny together to have an abortion. Their limited access to safe abortions is because they have limited access to good health care and insurance. Some women are likely to have no insurance at all, some have other children at home, some are beaten by their husbands and some are teenagers. What all of these women have in common is that they have dreams too, they have hopes, desires and realities.
Dr. Parker’s book puts it in perspective how detrimental restrictive abortion laws are to women who need them.
Dr. Parker calls out how unconstitutional U.S policies are on abortion and how lawmakers are shutting down abortion clinics making it harder for women to seek them out. Twenty-seven states in America have imposed waiting periods between twenty-four and seventy-two hours for women to get abortions. This waiting period is between the initial visit for counseling and consultation and the actual abortion appointment. Every minute a woman delays her abortion the price increases because she moves farther along in her pregnancy. Dr. Parker says policies like the waiting period is financially disabling women who may already be living under or around the poverty line. The book cites calculations from ThinkProgress that if a woman in Wisconsin wants to terminate a first trimester pregnancy after you factor in gas, taking off of work, child care expenses (if she has children at home), and the waiting period that it would cost her over one thousand dollars.
Financial instability causes a huge issue because some states may only allow first trimester abortions, thus, making it harder for women to receive an abortion. Due to the harsher and stricter policies being enacted by states some women are forced to bring a pregnancy to full term. These laws are robbing women of their reproductive freedom and possibly making them more financially unstable than they were before:
“According to data from Planned Parenthood, more than one third of women having abortions in the second trimester said they delayed because they needed time to raise the money.”Dr. Willis Parker (102)
Mississippi has a ban on second trimester abortions, Dr. Parker tells a story of a young woman who was thirteen weeks pregnant and needed time to scrape together extra money. By the time he saw her again the gestational age of the fetus was sixteen weeks and one day. Dr. Parker was not able to perform an abortion because she was now in the second trimester of her pregnancy. The best he can do for women in this situation is inform them of other clinics that are allowed to second trimester abortions but sometimes they way over state lines.
A consequence of harsh restrictive laws are the dwindling number of abortion clinics in the United States.
In the states where abortion clinics are disappearing and there are more restrictive policies, surveys found that Google searches in DIY abortions spiked. For example, in Texas between 2012-2015 the number of abortion clinics has decreased from forty-one to seventeen. DIY abortions are extremely dangerous because these women may take illegal medications, homeopathic remedies and even worse trying to perform their own abortion with household items like a coat hanger. Dr. Parker says women who take illegal pills put themselves at extreme risks, especially if it doesn’t work. Dr. Parker says these laws force women into corners and then ultimately make the decision for them by making it a very public and political battle.
“It is extremely dangerous for anyone to take unidentifiable pills for any reason, and if one woman was brave enough to enter my office having pursued that course, then there are many others who are not.”Dr. Parker Willis (105)
As a feminist and a person that stands on the “pro-choice” side of the abortion argument, I believe that if a woman does not wish to be pregnant it is ultimately her choice to terminate it. I chose this book because I wanted to hear a perspective from an OB-GYN who perform abortions. Reading Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice has changed my life and increased my beliefs that a woman reproductive choices are entirely up to her. Dr. Willie Parker is an inspiration and truly embodies what it means to be a Good Samaritan. I would totally recommend this book to everyone, even if you are not ‘pro-choice,’ it puts abortion in the perspective about it can empower and help women in our society. I believe because advocates like Dr. Willie Parker the stigmatization of abortions can be greatly reduced.