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Willie Parker’s “Abortion Ministry”

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It is no coincidence that John Richardson’s story in Esquire magazine is titled, “The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker.” Richardson’s profile is a futile attempt to make a kind of saint out of a man who flies into Mississippi twice a month and performs as many as 45 abortions a day. (And, yes, that quantity does bring to mind the charges brought last year by two nurses who once worked at the Wilmington, Delaware Planned Parenthood clinic–that the clinic performed ‘meat-market style assembly-line abortions.”)

The story is built around the interactions Parker has with the women intended to reassure them abortion is safe, safe, safe; that the only opinion that matters is hers; that anyone who disagrees is a hypocritical Christian; and that aborting women is just an extension of the ethos that undergirded the Civil Rights Movement. (And, yes, the latter does remind you of Kermit Gosnell’s similar delusionary argument.)

Indeed we are told over and over that Parker is a Christian (“I do abortions because I am a Christian.”) Both Parker and Richardson use that as a defense/justification/explanation for why he aborts and aborts and aborts some more.

Richardson extends the allusion. Referring to the information abortionists are required to pass onto women (which Parker then mocks and distorts), Richardson writes, “In an almost priestly cadence, he builds a sermon around the word required.”

Later, “In all these interactions, even if it has nothing to do with abortion, Parker never misses a chance to offer comfort. This seems to be his version of absolution, often delivered with a moral.”

It would not be unfair to conclude Parker does see himself as a theologian dispensing his own kind of balm, which he calls “verbicaine.”

The story is very long, so here are a few summary points.

#1. You would easily conclude reading Richardson’s piece that Parker does not do abortions past the 16th week at all, not just in Mississippi. In fact, Sarah Kliff, then of the Washington Post, began a highly sympathetic 2012 interview with Parker, describing him as “a doctor who has performed late-term abortions.” If you read other stories, Parker freely acknowledges performing abortions at 24 weeks, 6 days, and beyond.

#2. As noted above, Parker recites information that is important to women considering abortion, but then immediately makes mash of it. But Parker’s willingness to bend—actually mutilate—the truth came out in that interview with Kliff. Here’s just one of the examples NRLC addressed in responding.

“In his interview with Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, Dr. Willie Parker estimated that 1 percent of abortions occur after the first trimester. This is a gross underestimate. Indeed, in a printed statement opposing the bill that he posted on the internet, dated May 17, Dr. Parker himself wrote that ‘roughly 12% of abortions occur at or after 13 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period,’ citing figures cited by the CDC. This is 12 times the figure he cited in the interview.”

#3. Women who’ve had chemical abortions often are brutally honest about what an RU-486 abortion entails. In comparing chemical to surgical abortions, Parker says only that the “minus” of the former is “heavy bleeding” and “a return visit in two weeks.” Compare that no-big-deal summary with the stories of women who’d bleed for weeks, who can barely straggle out of bed, who experience pain they could not even image, “blood clots the size of golf balls,” and “debilitating, convulsing cramps.”

#4. Opposition to abortion, ultimately, “comes back to the early Judeo-Christian narratives that say the fall of man was caused by a woman, Parker says. ‘That’s woven into our culture, and it has to be deconstructed at every level.’” So at the end of Richardson’s story when Parker matter-of-factly points out the aborted baby’s skull and eyes and the beginnings of a spinal cord, your and my nausea at this ultimate act of dehumanization is actually a reflection of how we blame Eve for everything?

Two other points.

#5. Parker’s “verbicaine” is intended to enable many women to keep submerged a central truth in their lives that keeps trying to surface: what they are about to do violates something at their very core. The most revealing passage in this piece cuts through the nonsense that Richardson, Parker, and the women hide behind:

A woman named Monique asks if she gets a wish. Sure, Parker says.

“Please tell me that you can’t find it.”

“If only we could wish it away,” he says.

Another woman tries to explain—she just got a promotion; she can’t have a baby now.

“I hear ya. Life is full of those kinds of decisions.”

One scan causes him to pause. “Do you want to know if there is more than one?” he asks.

The woman starts to cry. “No.” She wipes away tears with both hands.

When she leaves, he points to the screen. Triplets. He’s seen lots of twins but never triplets. Some women think multiples are more special, so they get more upset.

Yes, I’m sure, “some women” do. Finally

#6. The crux of Parker’s self-delusion—or is it just indifference?—is captured in the conclusion of Richardson’s story:

But here’s the vital question: Is it a person? Not by the standards of the law, he says. Is it viable outside the womb? It is not. So this piece of life—and remember, sperm is alive, eggs are alive, it’s all life—is still totally dependent on a woman. And that dependence puts it in the domain of her choice. “That’s what I embrace,” he says.

But it’s hard not to look at those tiny fingers, no bigger than the tip of a toothpick.

Does that ever disturb him?

“When I recognize whole fetal parts? No. Because I’m not deluded about what this whole process is.”

And what does examining this tissue tell him? Does this satisfy another state regulation?

“It tells me her uterus is empty and she is no longer pregnant.”


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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