This post is not primarily about abortion, but rather about how a compassionate and intelligent human being can be so self-deceived that his compassion can provide cover for acts of evil, while believing he is really doing good. Even more, this is about the human mechanisms of self deception. How many of these do you fall into? Willie Parker’s quotes are taken from an interview he gave to a magazine called Jezebel (how appropriate is that!). There is so much to tackle here that I will intersperse my comments in italics with his quotes.
“It was not lost on me, an African-American man from Birmingham, Alabama, descended from slaves, that new legislation aimed at telling women what they might and might not do with their own physical bodies looked a whole lot like men owning women’s bodies,” he writes in his memoir. Parker then “decided to exercise Christian compassion not by proxy but with my own capable hands.” One of the foundations of self deception is personalization of non equivalent situations. He is saying that legislation removing government funding for women to kill their babies is the same as enslaving women, which is really an extension of the slavery his ancestors experienced. There is so much wrong with that argument I would need pages to deal with it all, so I will address only the most glaring error in the next paragraph.
Notice the next mechanism of deception, false framing. He is saying the issue is what a woman “can do with her own physical body”, but the truth is that once a woman is pregnant, the changes start occurring in her body make it clear there is also another body involved. Which body is initiating those hormonal changes, the mother’s or the baby’s? Since the presence of a baby is responsible for the hormonal changes, true framing is to acknowledge that the decision to abort the baby is not just about her but about another life. To those who insist there is only the mother’s life involved, I ask you “can one body have two different blood types, be male and female simultaneously, have two unique sets of fingerprints?”
Countering those who invoke Christianity and God as their principle argument against abortion, he writes, “A pregnancy that intimates a baby is not more sacred than abortion. To Parker, what’s sacred‚ what’s most Godlike, is a woman’s agency—“the part that makes a choice.” The third mechanism of deception, and probably the most common (most people do it automatically), is nominalization, turning a verb or adverb into a noun. It is a corruption of language that allows us to avoid responsibility for an action. The nominalizations here are “abortion” and “pregnancy.” Neither is a noun, yet they are used as if they were. The correct terms are aborting and becoming pregnant. Saying “I am going to abort my fetus” carries far more responsibility than saying “I am getting an abortion.” The latter is like getting groceries.
Even worse is his saying “what’s sacred is a woman’s agency”, which is exactly the same argument the serpent in the Garden of Eden used to get Eve to eat of the fruit that God forbade. “You will be like God…” Far be it from me to say who really is a Christian, but he is literally saying it’s good to be Godlike. Nope, God is not self deceived and we are not God, period!!! His next set of quotes is more of the same.
“If you fancy that that fetus has rights, and you call that fetus a person and a baby, I don’t agree with that from a scientific or even from a religious standpoint.” Okay then, if that “fetus” was left alone to grow, what would it become? An aarkvark? A grown up ‘product of conception?’ You don’t agree that it would become a human being? I thought you were a doctor, but thank you for showing how deeply self-deception cuts.
“But we can debate about whether or not a fetus is a person. But there’s no question that a woman is a person. And so the question is: At what point is a woman not a person? At what point does a woman lose her right to be self-governing and to have bodily integrity? Does pregnancy trump the rights of a woman to be entitled to decisions about her health and her body? Here is another example of false framing: Saying that the federal government not funding aborting is akin to declaring women non-persons. He also says, accurately, that the word ‘abortion’ is not mentioned in the Bible. While that’s true, it is also deceptive, because the Bible does explicitly say that God formed us well before we were ever born. Psalm 139, verse 13, says,
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Clearly, leaving out the word abortion does not tacitly condone that act.
He goes on to say, “It’s interesting that you would frame abortion as black genocide and allege that you care about the birth of babies while at the same time cutting off all of the vital aid that would be necessary to raise a black baby.” Here he is contradicting his own reality. He was one of those “black babies“, who supposedly couldn’t be raised without ‘vital aid’, whatever that was, yet this is how he describes his own history: “A colored boy from Birmingham,” Alabama, as his 1962, pre-Civil Rights Act birth certificate described him, Parker grew up in abject poverty, fourth of six children, raised by a fierce single mother. Against all of the obstacles his country stacked against poor, African-American boys and young men, he became a doctor. Parker progressively expanded the horizon of his dreams and ambitions. First, he aimed to get any education at all. Then he made it to college, summer school at Harvard, and eventually onto med school.
“I’m pro-life and I’m pro-abortion. But pro-abortion doesn’t mean the promotion of abortion. The relationship that I have with abortion is the same relationship that a cardiothoracic surgeon has with heart transplants. Cardiothoracic surgeons don’t promote heart transplants, but they want to make sure that somebody with cardiac disease can get a heart transplant if they need one. I feel the same way about women having access to abortion. Abortion’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s a biological reality. And I’m in favor of making sure that women have access to the things they need to thrive and to be healthy.” Is he really saying that women need to be allowed to kill their babies (while in the womb) in order to thrive and be healthy? What about the false equivalence between heart surgery and aborting?
Here is an example of how his self-deception gives cover to enemies of truth, some excerpts of a review of his book on Quartz: Parker’s book provides a tight moral and religious case in favor of choice. It has the potential to speak to an audience far beyond those who are pro-choice. As a doctor and as an advocate (Parker chairs Physicians for Reproductive Health), Parker debunks the myths around abortion with scientific precision and moral clarity, stripping away political interests, social prejudice and religious misconceptions to show it exactly for what it is, a medical procedure that offers women control over their own bodies. His self-deception debunks the myths? It provides a tight moral case for choice? It does neither, but rather gives cover to the same invalid arguments traditionally used to justify aborting babies. Euphemisms are another element of deception. Choice is a euphemism for you know what. So was the “final solution.” When the truth is really ugly, euphemisms are invented to make the reality more palatable. I will leave it to Dr. Parker to condemn himself as his words reveal what he really stands for:
For Parker, the moral and religious arguments against abortion are misguided at best: “The will of God,” he says, “manifests itself in human’s free will. That extends to the freedom to choose whether or not to take part in the reproductive process, a divine freedom accorded to women as it is to men, regardless of their biologies.”