Abortion falls within the values of Christianity and women’s right to abortion should be protected, Christian OB-GYN and reproductive rights advocate Dr. Willie Parker said at a Lecture Fund event Wednesday.

Condemning reproductive choices like abortion is not intrinsic to mainstream religions, and the perception of abortion as an immoral act reflects a misconstrued understanding of religious teachings, Parker told students.

CHAD GRIFFITH | Christian OB-GYN and reproductive rights advocate Dr. Willie Parker reconciled Christianity and abortion at an event in the Healey Family Student Center.

As a devout Christian doctor, Parker said his sense of morality centers around supporting the patient’s wishes.

“I had a moral obligation and ethical obligation to respect the personhood and the autonomy and the bodily integrity of women,” Parker said. “As a practicing physician, I had an ethical obligation to practice beneficence.”

Parker’s visit came just a day after a panel hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life with the Office of Mission and Ministry that featured four anti-abortion activists who argued that abortion is anti-feminist.

The limited access to abortion services in many Southern states and his experience with racism and poverty growing up in Birmingham, Ala., motivated Parker to practice as a women’s health care provider in the South, he said Wednesday.

U.S. policymakers shy away from confronting abortion inaccessibility issues because they worry they might infringe upon religious freedom, according to Parker.

“Because of the deep-held value of religious freedom in our country, people back up and they throw their hands up,” Parker said. “How do you rebut or push back on somebody’s religious understanding?”

Parker provides abortion services to women in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois and Mississippi. These states represent some of those with the most restrictive abortion laws nationally, according to Parker’s website. He is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the state of Mississippi, attempting to prevent the closure of Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.

American views on abortion vary widely based on religious group, according to a 2014 Pew Research Study. Although a minority of Americans believe abortion should be criminalized, the study found that a majority of evangelical Christian respondents think abortion should be illegal.

Christians do not violate their religion’s ideas about morality by providing abortion services, Parker said. Parker serves on the boards of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and URGE and chairs the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Religion should not dictate reproductive policy as it has in the past, Parker said.

“The problem with religion influencing policy is that religion is too prolific in a nation where religious freedom is guaranteed,” Parker said. “Religious pluralism means that we cannot have policies that govern us all determined by something so subjective.”

Outside of political policies, religion should play a role in the debate about abortion, according to Parker.

“Science without morals and ethics is dangerous, and religion or sentimentality without evidence and scientific reality is dangerous,” Parker said.

Those who oppose the legality of abortion in the United States contradict the fundamental U.S. value of individual freedom, according to Parker.

“Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ and that was a rallying cry for the revolution that founded this country,” Parker said. “So I don’t know why it’s such a reach for us to understand why a woman’s willing to die trying to live on her own terms versus being forced to live on the terms of someone else.”

Parker’s lecture was cosponsored by pro-abortion rights student group H*yas For Choice and Georgetown University College Democrats. The event included reserved seating for members of both H*yas for Choice and anti-abortion student organization Georgetown Right to Life. Georgetown University Police Department officers checked the bags of all attendees and officers stood around the perimeter of the room during the event.

Parker addressed comments made by panelists at the Stand for Life event hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and the Office of Mission and Ministry. Parker rebuked the idea that abortion is a form of violence towards women in an interview with The Hoya, instead insisting abortion empowers women to protect their lives.

“To say abortion is anti-feminist is like saying black people opposing racism is racist. They can say that if they have a very narrow and rigid understanding of what is appropriate to women,” Parker said. “There is an internal inconsistency with saying that something that is so critical to the existence of women is anti-feminist.”

Parker addressed student activists in the room, commending H*yas for Choice’s advocacy for reproductive health despite a petition to ban its activities on campus. The group remains unrecognized by the university and does not receive financial support from Georgetown.

“The notion and the very idea of a group and an organization at Georgetown University called H*yas for Choice inspires me,” Parker said.

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