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RIP: Dr. Jack Willke

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I was driving through a snowstorm today when I learned that Dr. Jack Willke, a towering figure in the formation and growth of the Pro-Life Movement, had died. I checked several sources to be sure the sad news was true. How could it be true? Jack, although 89, was like the Rock of Gibraltar, only sturdier.

Along with Barbara, his wife of seemingly forever, Jack provided the Movement with some of its earliest and most persuasive educational materials. Barb, who was also instrumental in the founding of Cincinnati Right to Life, passed away in April 2013.

He was president of NRLC for almost the entire decade of the 1980s and was pivotal in the expansion of the Washington office of the nation’s preeminent grassroots pro-life organization. I first met Jack in the summer of 1981 when I interviewed for the job of editor of National Right to Life News.

But in a sense, like countless others, I already “knew” Jack. For those of us whose involvement extends back to the early days, none of us went to any speaking engagement without “the Willke slides.” And had any of us learned the ABCs of abortion without having devoured the Willkes’ “Handbook on Abortion”?

During the ten years as NRLC President (1980-1983 and 1984-1991), he appeared on countless radio and television programs and went abroad many, many times as a good will ambassador for our Movement.

When NRLC presented “The Henry Hyde Award for Lifetime Achievement” to the Willkes, we published a short summary of what the Godfather and Godmother of our Movement accomplished in the NRLC Convention Yearbook: co-authoring 12 books on abortion and human sexuality; speaking in 64 different countries; and creating audio and visual materials used around the world and translated into 30 languages on five continents.

Paula Westwood, executive director of the Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, beautifully encapsulated Jack’s contribution in a statement released following Jack’s death on Friday.

“Dr. Willke was the leading statesman addressing the second civil rights struggle of our nation. He met with presidents and popes and crossed the globe, but his passion was always to ensure the right to life for helpless unborn children and other vulnerable people.”

Thank you, Jack and Barbara, for all you did. Your legacy will live on forever.

In the realm of pro-life advocacy, one name stands out as a beacon of unwavering dedication and passion: Dr. Jack Willke. With his recent passing, the world mourns the loss of a true pioneer whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the movement. Dr. Willke’s legacy extends far beyond his medical practice; it encompasses decades of tireless advocacy, education, and compassionate care for the unborn.

Born in 1925, Dr. Willke was a visionary who recognized the inherent value and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. As a physician, he witnessed firsthand the miracle of life and the devastating consequences of abortion. Motivated by his experiences, he dedicated himself to advocating for the rights of the unborn and providing support to expectant mothers facing difficult circumstances.

One of Dr. Willke’s most notable contributions to the pro-life movement was his role as the co-founder of the International Right to Life Federation. Through this organization, he worked tirelessly to promote a culture of life worldwide, advocating for legislative reforms, educational initiatives, and grassroots activism. His efforts helped to galvanize support for the pro-life cause and bring attention to the sanctity of human life on a global scale.

In addition to his advocacy work, Dr. Willke was a prolific author and speaker, spreading his message of life-affirming principles to audiences around the world. His books, including “Handbook on Abortion” and “Why Can’t We Love Them Both,” became essential resources for pro-life activists and educators, providing clear and compelling arguments against abortion and euthanasia.

Dr. Willke’s impact on the pro-life movement cannot be overstated. His unwavering commitment to defending the most vulnerable members of society inspired countless individuals to join the cause and work towards a future where every life is cherished and protected. His legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of those who continue to fight for the rights of the unborn and advocate for a culture of life.

As we mourn the passing of Dr. Jack Willke, let us also celebrate his remarkable life and legacy. May his passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life continue to inspire future generations of pro-life advocates to carry on the fight for justice and dignity for all. Dr. Willke may be gone, but his spirit lives on in the movement he helped to shape and define.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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