The Minnesota Choice Coalition was honored to welcome Dr. Willie Parker, OB/GYN, as its guest speaker in commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Roe on January 23, 2013 in Minneapolis. Below is an excerpt from remarks he gave to the capacity crowd.
Today we mark the 40th anniversary of the Roe decision. I don’t need to remind you that with this decision the estimated 5,000 women who died annually in this country fell almost immediately to 0. It has meant that in my 23 years in medicine that I have not seen a single death related to an illegal abortion. While this alone is cause to celebrate, I submit to you that there is another reason to take note on this date. On July 4, 1852, the Rochester Women’s Anti-Slavery Society invited the prominent and renowned speaker Frederick Douglass to make an address in celebration of American Independence. His remarks became one of his most famous orations ever – “What is the Fourth of July to the Slave?” In his speech he startled his audience by rather than celebrating the accolades of a newfound nation, he spoke from the viewpoint of those for whom the promise had yet to deliver.”
My viewpoint is that of a health care provider who performs abortions for the women fortunate enough to make it to my care, but am I daily aware of the women who never make it to me or another provider due to the many barriers that have been created since the passage of Roe. Like Fredrick Douglass asked of his audience in 1852, I ask of you my audience today: What is the Anniversary of the Roe decision to a woman in America in 2013 with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy? Does it mark 40 years of access to self determination, bodily integrity, dignity, and safety? Or does it represent the ever-present threat of the loss of the aforementioned with the unrelenting assault of anti abortion ideologues who are convinced that the only appropriate abortion is one that never occurs?
Dr. Willie Parker is an OB/GYN currently providing services in Philadelphia, PA, Montgomery, AL, and the lone remaining abortion care clinic in Jackson, MS. His most recent work has focused on violence against women, sexual assault and women’s reproductive health rights through advocacy. More information on Dr. Parker can be found here.
Collectively, in order for this society to grow great, we must continue to plant trees under which some of us will never sit.
-by Alison, Minnesota Public Affairs Manager, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund