Abortionist Willie Parker, in his latest book, “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice,” recapitulates the traditional arguments for abortion advocacy with a novel layer. Armed with his background as a fundamentalist Christian and teenage conversion to Christianity, Parker urges those who affirm abortion to proselytize.
While he most often calls this proselytization “activism,” Parker clearly understands abortion as a moral and spiritual absolute that must be “preached” to survive. He ultimately aims to retain his “deep Christian identity” while promoting abortion.
As with popular works such as “The Shack,” Parker offers a theological treatise, in fact a manifesto, for those who seek to maintain abortion as a constitutional right. For Parker, it is not enough to merely make the scientific, legal, and logical arguments of old. In his mind, those arguments are a given. This new “civil rights movement” must “convert” the “antis.” To put the matter simply, Parker argues that abortion is not only a moral absolute, it is an absolute that must be promulgated en masse.
It’s Okay to Kill to Achieve Your Dreams
Parker presupposes that life does not begin at conception. From there, he adds that women with unwanted pregnancies have sacred dreams and hopes their society must protect. In chapter four of the book, entitled “Dreams,” Parker asserts, “I see women…all the time (who want abortions)…shouldering the shame that their culture places on them. As a Christian, I feel it is my job to offer a counter narrative. That God gave every woman gifts and the agency to realize those gifts and that nothing about choosing to terminate a pregnancy or delay childbearing, puts a woman outside of God’s love.”
Thus, Parker considers it a Christian and moral imperative to not only keep abortion legal but also to make it easily accessible to all women. Curtailing this important service, including with social stigma, effectively denies a fundamental civil and religious right. Because of this, it is the duty of all with proper thinking on the matter to persuade those who are unconvinced of the virtues of abortion and fight to defeat those who seek to deprive women of this right.
From this syllogism, Parker quite effectively makes the case that not only is it a Christian virtue to affirm, advocate, and indeed celebrate abortion, it is singularly un-Christian to oppose abortion rights. To him, opposing abortion rights is as much a grievous sin as opposing the civil rights movement inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.
The “antis,” as he labels them, are comparable to the 1960s deep South Klu Klux Klan. Only now, instead of openly lynching and murdering blacks, the antis slowly put poor minority women to death by robbing their futures and forcing them to carry pregnancies to term.
According to Parker, “Their goal…is not actually to curtail abortion. It’s to limit access to abortion for…especially white women. Because the thing all too many white, anti-abortion activists really want…is for white women to have more babies in order to push back against the ‘browning’ of America…for the white, racist legislators in the ‘Red States,’ nothing is more threatening than a majority brown country. The white men who are still in charge believe that they, the white patriarchs, are going to become obsolete.”
Parker Uses Strongly Religious Overtones and Metaphors
Now, if a person is inclined to quip, “Ah. This just the old ‘the baby is not a baby, it’s a fetus’ and ‘women have rights over their own body’ argument,” not so fast. To be sure, in its bare essence, that’s the argument, but he craftily couches all this in religious, particularly Christian language. Indeed, the final chapter of the book is entitled, “A New Theology of Abortion,” and Parker refers to murdered abortionist George Tiller as “Saint George.”
Parker speaks of his change of heart on abortion as a “conversion.” He previously refused to perform abortions and now advocates for them. Parker frequently references his days as a fundamentalist Christian, when he went door to door preaching and handing out gospel tracts, as something that helped him stand for “reproductive rights” in the face of adversity.
Parker also refers to his work as an abortionist as a “calling” on par with that of the Apostle Paul in the Bible: “I have purchased cooking pots and a double bass for the leisure I imagine but do not possess. Instead I fill the gaps in my schedule with my other vocation – speaking engagements and board meetings; traveling the country like a 21st century St. Paul; preaching the truth about reproductive rights.”
For Parker, women’s reproductive rights are a “religion” and abortion is that religion’s “gospel.” Parker is one of that religion’s “ministers,” charged with the sacred duties of performing abortions and acting assertively so this “religion’s gospel” is not silenced nor abolished. More specifically, he is convinced that abortion is the “savior” of minority and impoverished women. In the preface of the book, Parker proclaims, “I remain a follower of Jesus and I believe that as an abortion provider, I am doing God’s work.” Parker is persuaded that if only women of color and poor means could gain ready and inexpensive access to abortions, many of the plights that face inner-city America would melt away.
‘The Part of You That Is Like God’ Chooses Abortion
To be sure, Parker’s arguments don’t aim to convince anyone who might oppose abortion. Certainly some may be lulled asleep by his shrewd attempts to frame the murder of unborn children as mere medical procedures similar to a surgeon removing a tumor from a cancer patient. Yet what is most striking is that at long last one of the most ardent advocates of abortion has admitted that the entire industry is a religion and must be treated as such to survive. It is a belief system that needs converts.
Toward that end, Parker makes this impassioned plea in the final chapter of the book:
the miracle of life is not some ordinary meeting of sperm and ovum; a morally neutral, purely biological event; but the agency and responsibility…to participate with God in a creative process. God made the world and sexual reproduction is a part of a collaborative process between a male and a female and between God and humans. If you look at it that way…then the whole business is sacred. A pregnancy that intimates a baby is not more sacred than an abortion. You don’t become sacred like Mary just because you’ve conceived and the termination of a pregnancy is not the resolution of an error. It is merely one of the reproductive outcomes. The God part is in your agency. The trust, the divine trust is that you have an opportunity to participate in the population of the planet. And you have an opportunity not to participate. Is God vested one way or another in whether you as an individual become pregnant? No. Is a pregnancy sacred because there will be a baby ultimately…? No. The part of you that is like God is the part that makes a choice. That says, ‘I choose to’ or ‘I choose not to’; that’s what’s sacred. That’s the part of you that’s like God to me. The procedure room in an abortion clinic is as sacred as any other space to me because that’s where I’m privileged to honor your choice. In this moment… God is meeting both of us, where we are.
Every religion identifies a deep problem and offers its solution. For Parker, this world’s problem is that unwanted pregnancies stifle the potential of impoverished, minority women. Fighting to provide free access to abortion will solve this problem.
Now where would Parker gain such a notion, especially to posit it squarely within Christianity? Put simply, how could he possibly come to understand abortion as a Christian virtue? That notion comes from none other than the deconstructionist, postmodern theologians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Parker specifically names Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Søren Kierkegaard as fundamental to his thinking.
To put it simply, this approach to such matters takes on this basic form: 1) study the worldviews and truth claims of the past; 2) question each; 3) determine through reason what portions of each worldview should be retained and discarded given current circumstances; (points 2 and 3 are commonly referred to as “deconstruction”); 4) replace deficient portions of these worldviews with modern solutions (For example: since the ancients didn’t have safe forms of abortion, it was illegal and considered immoral. Now that we can perform reasonably safe abortions, the practice should be legalized and the old “truth” jettisoned.); 5) gain community consensus on the findings; 6) provisionally implement the findings upon the community 7) repeat continually.
Parker is an intelligent and studied man. Based on his vast life experience and ability to reason, he has concluded that abortion, while stigmatized, must be embraced in the modern era. Thus, women, particularly minority and impoverished women, need abortions to be freed from oppression. Clearly this has gained consensus from the highest authorities of the American community.
In “Life’s Work,” Parker finds that the older argument from Justice Harry Blackmun’s “trimester paradigm” needs to be deconstructed and improved upon. His solution is to transform abortion into a religion complete with a “gospel,” “apostles,” and “saints,” and furthermore to call that religion “Christianity.”