Willie Parker - Changing the Reproductive Rights Narrative with "Life's Work"

April 3, 2017 - Willie Parker 04/03/2017 Views: 14,449

Dr. Willie Parker, the author of "Life's Work," discusses the barriers faced by women seeking abortions and the religious beliefs that inform his pro-choice stance. (6:52)

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Please welcome,Dr. Willie Parker!

(cheering and applause)

Welcome, Doctor.

Before we get into, really,everything that's in the book,

just give somebodywho has no clue

what is it like for a woman

who is trying to havean abortion in the Deep South,

you know, places like Alabama,Georgia, Mississippi.

If you're not familiarwith all of the barriers

that are in place,uh, the laws

that have been put into place,

even though abortion remainslegal based on the Roe decision,

uh, there have been lotsof hurdles p-placed

-in the path of women, um,-Right.

things like waiting periods.

In Alabama,it's a 48-hour waiting period.

Once you decide to havean abortion in Louisiana,

it's 72 hours.

Uh, in Mississippi, 24.

So there arelong waiting periods.

There are financial barriers.

Uh, those are justthe institutionalized things.

There's the stigmaand the shame.

Women are made to feel, um,

that they are doing somethingimmoral by choosing their lives

over the ambitionsthat other people have for them.

If someone were to counterand say,

"Why are you in such a hurry?

"Why not have a waiting period?

"Why not have 24 hoursor 48 or 72 hours

or any amount of timeto wait on?"

What would your response beto those people?

Well, it sounds good.Like, uh... it's a common...

It passes the common sense test,

but it's not informedby the reality.

Uh, there's not a womanthat I know who doesn't say

that when she peeson that stick and it's positive,

she says,"I'm pregnant, oh, great,"

or "I'm pregnant, oh, (bleep)."

And so, as a result, uh,

women have to...

uh, being forced to wait,

uh, to indulge somebody else'ssensitivities, um,

is to saythat we don't trust women

with their important decisions.

-And I just beg to differ.-(applause)


you talk about, in your book,how it took you 13 years,

coming froma very religious background,

to change how you vieweda woman's right to choose.

Why and how did you changeyour mind?

Well, uh, I've always been, uh,

uh, pro-life

but-- what I mean by pro-life--pro-life of the woman.

Uh, I've never been, uh, opposedto a woman making that decision,

but I was conflicted,because I wasn't clear

about what it meant to mepersonally to provide that care.

-Right. -So I had to think aboutmy religious understanding

and my religious convictiona little bit differently.

So, um, I-I think "pro-life"is a misnomer

for peoplewho are against abortion.

People who are opposedto abortion are pro-fetus.

Uh, I'm pro-life.I'm pro-life of the woman,

and you can't have moreof an interest in a pregnancy

that a woman's carrying thanyou have in the woman herself.


In-in the past six years,

there have beenover 300 abortion restrictions

that have been enactedby states.

This year alone, there have been

at least 46 anti-abortion billsthat have been introduced

or are pendingin about 14 states.

What's really interestingis you have compared this,

the control over women's bodies,

to slaveries,which, to many people,

would be a bombastic term.

Why would you say that?

I think if you've never livedwith your back to the wall,

it would be really, um,hard for you to understand

what it's like to have the mostessential aspect of your being,

the ability to make decisionsabout your lives... your life,

to have hopes and aspirationsand dreams,

-and to have that controlledby someone else. -Right.

Uh, I, as a man, will never facean unplanned pregnancy,

but I feel likeI'm in the same position

that Abraham Lincoln was

when someone asked him,"Why did you free the slaves?"

There are many reasonsthe Civil War was fought,

but I like it when he said that,

"As I would not be a slave,so I will not be a master."

As a man, I refuseto participate in a system

that would deny women the sameagency and the same right

to make decisions about theirlives that I have as a man.



You obviously face a lot ofopposition taking this stance.

Um, you know, traveling around,

helping women who don'thave access to abortions,

women who are forcedto travel to other states.

The president said,if a woman under Roe,

or if they change the laws,

is in a statewhere they don't allow abortion,

then she can just travelto another state.

Why is this such a big issue?

Well, the problemwith that is that, uh,

people in this countryunder our constitution,

everyone should haveequal access

and equal protectionunder the law.

So that meansthat one state is not free

to impose its responsibility

to ensure the health ofits citizens to another state.

-Mm-hmm. -The bottom line is,nobody's health

or aspirations should dependon their zip code.

And if you say that a woman canjust simply go to another state,

that sounds nice, but it's notinformed by the reality

that many women face hurdles,

and if the clinic's500 miles away,

it might as well bea million miles away.

Or if a woman doesn't havethe resources to travel...

Many women don't have theresources to travel in state,

let alone goingto another state.

So, I thinkit's a very callous statement

to say that, uh...

It's almost likeMarie Antoinette.

"Just let them eat cake."It's callous.

It's callous, and it doesn'ttake into account

the realities of the situationthat many women are in.

You spoke earlier todayabout why, on a day like today,

and this day every single year

has significant importanceto you.

Why is that?

Well, it occurred to me, Trevor,that this is April 3,

the day before my book launch,and when I was told

that the book would be launchingon April 4,

there's a tab set in my heart

around the factthat that was the day

that Dr. Martin Luther Kingwas assassinated.

So, it struck me that tonight,49 years ago,

was Dr. King'slast night on earth.

For me, what that means isthat I like to imagine

that I was the little kidliving in Alabama

who he had hopesand aspirations for

that my dreamswouldn't be determined

by the color of my skin.

And so, this book,

my career is reallya recognition

of the vitality of the movementthat he gave his life for.

-(applause)-You, uh...

tell an amazing story.

It is a beautiful book.

Thank you so muchfor being on the show.

-Thank you. Thank you.-(applause and cheering)

Life's Work will be availableApril 4.

Dr. Willie Parker.

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