November 18, 2015 — Willie Parker, chair-elect of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health, explains why he offers abortion care, writing in a New York Times opinion piece, "In public health, you go where the crisis is. If there is an outbreak and you have the ability to relieve suffering, you rush to the site of the need. This is why, a year and a half ago, I returned to my hometown, Birmingham, Ala., to provide abortions."
Noting that he previously opposed abortion rights, Parker writes that he began offering abortion care after 12 years of working as an ob-gyn because he "grew increasingly uncomfortable turning away women who needed help." He explains, "I realized that if I were to show compassion, I would have to act on behalf of those women." He writes, "Invariably I field questions regarding my decision, with the most often asked being: Why? The short answer is: Because I can. And: Because if I don't, who will?"
Naming the South as "one of the centers of the abortion crisis," Parker continues, "While women across the country are losing the ability to make private health care decisions because states have passed hundreds of laws chipping away at that right, the South is the most restrictive." He notes that "it took a court ruling to prevent the closure of the last Mississippi abortion clinic" in 2014, and "something similar occurred recently in Alabama." Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a lawsuit over several antiabortion-rights restrictions in Texas, he writes, adding, "The outcome will affect not only Texas but also any state where these restrictive laws have been passed, including Mississippi," which "could become the first state with no abortion clinic."
Parker cites research that "found that 97 percent of obstetrician/gynecologists nationwide had encountered a patient seeking abortion care, but only 14 percent of them provided this service." Parker also dismisses claims that antiabortion-rights restrictions aim to protect women's health, noting, "Legal, properly administered abortion care holds an enviable record in medicine with a 99 percent safety rate and a less than 1 percent complication rate. Laws that restrict access to abortion do nothing to make it safer, only less accessible."
He writes, "We who provide abortions do so because our patients need us, and that's what we are supposed to do: respond to our patients' needs." He concludes, "It is the deepest level of love that you can have for another person, that you can have compassion for their suffering and you can act to relieve it. That, simply put, is why I provide abortion care" (Parker, New York Times, 11/18).