The recent Esquire article, “The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker,” is troubling in many parts, horrendous in others, and heartbreaking throughout. There is so much to highlight within its disturbing narrative that it is impossible to discuss everything in just one piece, so this will be the first in a series of exclusive articles for BarbWire, commenting on the illuminating picture of the abortion industry as seen through the eyes of writer John H. Richardson.
Richardson profiles abortion doctor Willie Parker, who travels to different states to provide abortions. They met at the abortion clinic in Mississippi called “The Pink House.” “[N]o doctor in Mississippi is willing to provide such a service,” writes Richardson. This should not be surprising, since most doctors join the distinguished profession to save lives, not to end them, but he tries to portray Parker as a hero.
At this he fails miserably. He gives his best shot at putting a positive spin on the whole experience, but any reasonable person will feel only sadness reading his piece. The conclusion must be that abortion is a sad, dark, undesirable experience for anyone and everyone involved: for the baby, of course, for the women, for their families, and even for Dr. Parker himself.
I want to focus this first piece in the series on Dr. Parker’s contempt for the law. He rages against abortion clinic regulations, yet the story presented makes the case that more oversight is needed. There is one thing in which I wholeheartedly agree with the author: This is Dr. Parker’s ministry. He is an abortion zealot; a true abortion “evangelist.” He is no doctor. In his zealotry, he betrays the oath of a doctor, and he may be breaking the law. He is certainly circumventing it.
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His abortion pitch is very persuasive by Richardson’s account, and he repeats it “almost word for word” to group after group of vulnerable women. “There’s some things that the state requires me to tell you,” he is quoted as saying. “Some of the information I’m required to give you is designed to discourage you or to scare you about the decision you’re making, so I’m going to tell you the things that I have to tell you by law, but I’m also going to tell you what in my best medical opinion is more important for you to know.” The women should decide what is important, but he doesn’t want them to think for themselves.
He will tell them what the law requires, while pleading with them not to listen to any of it and to go through with the abortion. He tells them about possible complications, but says, “Those are all the exact same risks that go with having a baby.” He says that if they are having an abortion for financial reasons (and virtually all of the examples presented had a financial component, something we’ll discuss in an upcoming piece) then “the person you are pregnant by could be required to provide you with financial assistance.” One woman laughed at this, and Dr. Parker moved on. He is required to give a brochure, but he merely “point[ed] to a stack of pamphlets,” and said, “We are required to offer it to you, but you don’t have to take it.” And surprise, surprise, no one takes it.
Is not Parker violating Mississippi law with his approach? Imagine a police officer, who is required by law to read Miranda rights to a suspect, saying, “You have the right to remain silent, but don’t listen to that, in my professional experience, you better talk fast.” That sort of tactic would not withstand scrutiny in a court of law. It should not be allowed here, either.
Finally, Parker is required by law to tell the women that “having an abortion increases your risk for breast cancer,” but he tells them “there is no scientific or medical evidence that supports that.” Again, how is that not a violation of the law? He can disagree with what the legislature has found, but he cannot say there is no evidence for it. State legislatures look at evidence when enacting laws, and they make that determination. In fact, the doctor himself admits it a bit later saying, “The overwhelming majority of the studies show that that’s not the case.” Well, “the overwhelming majority” is not “there is no evidence.” It is supported in at least a minority of the studies.
But this type of shell game shows what is really at play here. Dr. Parker doesn’t provide abortion services; he sells them. He is not giving information to women and allowing them to make an informed decision; he is pushing them to go through with it. “Abortions actually protect your health,” he finally says. Wow. Perhaps we should require all women to go through them in order to protect their health. He sells abortion like it’s a vitamin.
Worse, he offers it like “salvation.” The author describes him as using a “Priestly cadence” as he “builds a sermon.” He talks about women who are Christians and feeling guilty about what they are about to do and, instead of encouraging them to take some time and think through a decision that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives, he blames everyone around them and encourages them to actually do the opposite − don’t think about it. Here is the exact language he used: “I address this because if those people are getting inside your head and you’re feeling conflicted, if you are not comfortable with what you’re doing, you may be processing this far longer than you need to.”
While the state focuses on giving women information so that they can make the best decision for themselves, Dr. Parker does everything in his power to convince the women to ignore that information and to encourage them to go through with the abortion. He should be investigated in every state in which he practices.
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