Mississippi's 'Good Samaritan' abortion doc

by Patrick Flanagan

Responding to Tuesday's federal appeals court decision to save Mississippi's lone abortion clinic, Esquire magazine profiles the unique story behind one of the doctors working at the clinic in Jackson.

Dr. Willie Parker

Responding to Tuesday's ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to save Mississippi's lone abortion clinic, Esquire released an early, online version of an article slated for the magazine's print edition by John H. Richardson that profiles the unique story behind one of the doctors working at the Jackson-based clinic.

It's a fascinating piece, and shows just how complex the issue really is by telling the story of Dr. Willie Parker, who lives in Chicago, but flies down twice a month to Jackson to fill a void created by the refusal of Mississippi's homegrown doctors to provide abortions. Parker is a Christian, and approaches his job as a chance to give women an opportunity for treatment without judgment. In the profile, Richardson tails Parker at the clinic for several days, observing his ability to overcome an overwhelming backlog of patients - sometimes seeing as many as 45 in one day - to give each woman a chance to be heard as well as a reassurance that what they're doing is OK.

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

Here's an excerpt from the profile:

Finally, he had his come to Jesus' moment and the bell rang. This would be his civil-rights struggle. He would serve the women in their darkest moment of need. The protestors say they're opposed to abortion because they're Christian,' Parker says. It's hard for them to accept that I do abortions because I'm a Christian.' He gave up obstetrics to become a full-time abortionist on the day, five years ago, that George Tiller was murdered in church.

His 'come to Jesus' moment occurred in Hawaii. He was teaching at the university when a fundamentalist administrator began trying to ban abortions in the school clinic, throwing students with an unwanted pregnancy into a panic. One day, he was listening to a sermon by Dr. King on the theme of what made the Good Samaritan good. A member of his own community passed the injured traveler by, King said, because they asked, 'What would happen to me if I stopped to help this guy?' The Good Samaritan was good because he reversed the question: 'What would happen to this guy if I don't stop to help him?' So Parker looked in his soul and asked himself, 'What happens to these women when abortion is not available?'

He knew the answer.

In light of the looming closure of all but two of Louisiana's clinics in September - both located in the state's northwestern corner - Parker's story is definitely worth a read, especially considering Jackson's proximity to South Louisiana is much closer than Shreveport.

To read this story in its entirety, click here.