Board Chair Willie J. Parker, MD, MPH, MSc

WillieP-061516-037 final (uncropped)Willie J. Parker, MD, MPH, MSc, is a reproductive justice advocate who travels as an abortion provider in Alabama and Georgia. He holds a BA from Berea College in Kentucky, an MD from the University of Iowa, a Masters of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, and a Master of Science from the University of Michigan. He completed residencies in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and was an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Parker served as assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii prior to completing a fellowship in Family Planning at the University of Michigan in 2008. He is both board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and trained in preventive medicine. Dr. Parker’s more recent work has focused on violence against women, sexual assault, and reproductive rights and justice through advocacy and provision of contraceptive and abortion services. Most notably Dr. Parker is a recipient of the 2013 Physicians for Reproductive Health Dr. George Tiller Provider Award, the 2015 Helen Rodriguez-Trias Social Justice Award from the American Public Health Association, and the 2016 Dr. David Gunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Abortion Care Network.  He also was recently honored by the United Nations Office of Human Rights as one of 12 Women’s Human Rights Defenders on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women. He is also a recipient of Planned Parenthood’s 2015 Margaret Sanger Award. Dr. Parker is a 2007-2008 Leadership Training Initiative Fellow. He joined the Physicians for Reproductive Health board in November 2007 and is the current Chair.

DR. PARKER IN THE NEWS:

Gorsuch Is Not Fit to Serve on the Supreme Court

In response to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health Dr. Willie Parker issued the following statement:

In the 44 years since the Roe v. Wade decision established a legal right to abortion, millions of women have benefited from access to abortion. Any prospective Supreme Court nominee must uphold this settled law about a woman’s ability to make her own reproductive health decisions.

President Trump has repeatedly promised that any judge he nominates will overturn Roe v. Wade, while for the last several years, states have been chipping away at Roe to create onerous burdens for patients trying to access safe and legal abortion care. The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is a direct threat to the ability of women to choose their own reproductive destinies.

Judge Gorsuch has a record of undermining health care access for women. As one of the 10th Circuit Court judges who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, Judge Gorsuch ruled in favor of allowing employers to interfere with private medical decisions about contraception. Gorsuch also joined a dissent in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell arguing that making an employer fill out a form was more burdensome than violating an employee’s right to health insurance that meets all of her health care needs.

Placing politics over medicine has disastrous results for the health of Americans. We know that criminalizing abortion does not prevent abortion. The doctors who founded Physicians for Reproductive Health witnessed incredible suffering when abortion was illegal. Today, far too many women still face incredible difficulty in accessing legal abortion care. When abortion is restricted it is the patients who already face barriers to health care who are hurt even more.

Should Roe be overturned, women, especially women without resources, would once again be forced to take matters into their own hands. Doctors do not want to see that again. While very few issues are important enough to stand on their own, access to safe and legal abortion—a service vital to women’s health—is one of them.

Roe v. Wade must be upheld. Gorsuch is not fit to serve on the Supreme Court if he won’t support women’s constitutional rights to abortion. We urge the Senate to reject Judge Gorsuch. Women’s lives in this country depend on it. 

The Bill to Repeal the ACA Is a Direct Attack on Many Americans’ Access to Health Care

In response to the congressional bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Dr. Willie Parker issued the following statement:

“The bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a direct attack on many Americans’ access to health care and is especially devastating to women’s health. The repeal removes assistance that makes health care more affordable for families, puts a target on abortion coverage through private insurance, and blocks access for millions of women with Medicaid to vital preventive care through Planned Parenthood health centers.

Already, I see too many women who are denied abortion care because of their income and how that directly affects their well-being. This bill would chip away at many women’s ability to have insurance coverage for their medical needs and is the opposite of what my patients need for themselves and their families.

Many communities rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, and other vital preventive care. For people who rely on Medicaid coverage—including people of color, people with low incomes, and those who live in rural areas—and already face obstacles to getting health care, removing Planned Parenthood as an option would put essential health services further out of reach.

Every day, my colleagues and I see how the Affordable Care Act has improved our patients’ lives. To take away the assistance that the ACA provides is reprehensible, and it will be particularly damaging for patients from low- and moderate-income families. Repealing affordable care is to, in many ways, place care beyond the reach of people who can least afford to be without it. Our patients deserve better from Congress.” 

Statement on the passage of H.J.Res. 43

Today, the House of Representatives voted to overturn a rule President Obama put into place last year that clarified the qualifications for funding Title X family planning services. This critical rule reinforced the longstanding requirement that health care providers may not be excluded from the program for reasons unrelated to their qualifications to perform Title X-funded services. In overturning the rule, states may be emboldened to discriminate against health centers like Planned Parenthood and prevent them from receiving Title X funds. In response, Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Dr. Willie Parker issued the following statement:

“Rolling back the rule on qualifications for Title X is dangerous—it could prevent millions of people across the country from getting the health care they need. Where I practice in the South, many of my patients, their families, and their communities rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, and other vital preventive care. Planned Parenthood is the only way some of my patients can stay healthy. The people who rely on Title X funding—including people of color, people with low incomes, and those who live in rural areas—already face obstacles to getting health care. If budgets are moral documents, then so are funding criteria. Nothing says more clearly to our most vulnerable citizens “you don’t matter” like restricting access to what they need to be healthy. The federal government’s priority should be improving Americans’ access to health care, not eliminating options.” 

Statement on the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General

In response to the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, Dr. Willie Parker, Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued the following statement:

“As a physician from Alabama who provides abortions, I have seen firsthand how Jeff Sessions’ brand of politics endangers the health and safety of women and families. His extreme record of hostility towards reproductive rights stands in the way of his ability to protect the constitutional right to abortion and the safety of patients and providers. This is unacceptable for any officeholder, but especially worrisome for someone who is now the chief law enforcement official of our great country.

As proponents of quality reproductive health care, we are dedicated to helping women and men exercise their right to lives of autonomy, dignity, self-determination, and opportunity. Not only has Senator Sessions voted against protecting reproductive health care providers and their patients from clinic violence and harassment, Senator Sessions has a record that is marred by racism. He has also made troubling comments about sexual assault victims, and he has voted against protections for the LGBT community. These are not the actions of someone who will protect our citizens or their fundamental rights.

Despite the challenges that Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General will pose, we must remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘The time is always ripe to do right.’ It is now more important than ever that physicians continue to fight for the right to safe, comprehensive reproductive health care.”