Dr. Willie Parker - "Life's Work" - Dr. Melissa Gilliam

Dr. Willie Parker discusses Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. He will be joined in conversation by Dr. Melissa Gilliam.

At 57th Street Books

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About the book: In Life’s Work, an outspoken, Christian reproductive justice advocate and abortion provider (one of the few doctors to provide such services to women in Mississippi and Alabama) pulls from his personal and professional journeys as well as the scientific training he received as a doctor to reveal how he came to believe, unequivocally, that helping women in need, without judgment, is precisely the Christian thing to do.

Dr. Willie Parker grew up in the Deep South, lived in a Christian household, and converted to an even more fundamentalist form of Christianity as a young man. But upon reading an interpretation of the Good Samaritan in a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he realized that in order to be a true Christian, he must show compassion for all women regardless of their needs. In 2009, he stopped practicing obstetrics to focus entirely on providing safe abortions for the women who need help the most—often women in poverty and women of color—and in the hot bed of the pro-choice debate: the South. He soon thereafter traded in his private practice and his penthouse apartment in Hawaii for the life of an itinerant abortion provider, focusing most recently on women in the Deep South.

In Life’s Work, Dr. Willie Parker tells a deeply personal and thought-provoking narrative that illuminates the complex societal, political, religious, and personal realities of abortion in the United States from the unique perspective of someone who performs them and defends the right to do so every day. He also looks at how a new wave of anti-abortion activism, aimed at making incremental changes in laws and regulations state by state, are slowly chipping away at the rights of women to control their own lives. In revealing his daily battle against mandatory waiting periods and bogus rules governing the width of hallways, Dr. Parker uncovers the growing number of strings attached to the right to choose and makes a powerful Christian case for championing reproductive rights.

About the author: Dr. Willie Parker sits on the board of institutions at the forefront of the fight for reproductive justice, including as the chair-elect of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He is the recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award, an honor also bestowed upon Hillary Clinton and Jane Fonda, and appeared on Ebony’s Power 100 list. He has been featured widely for his work, including in Slate, Jezebel, Cosmopolitan, NPR’s Morning Edition, Salon, and more. While a fascinating profile on Dr. Parker in Esquire sparked national interest in 2014, he is now the subject of Trapped (Trilogy Films), a documentary about the legal battle to keep abortion clinics in the South open.

About the interlocutor: An expert in pediatric and adolescent gynecology, Dr. Melissa Gilliam helps children, teens and women age 25 and younger who have complex gynecologic problems or need routine care. Dr. Gilliam specializes in managing common problems such as bleeding, painful periods, breasts cysts and abnormal pap smears and complex problems requiring pelvic surgery. She has expertise in providing preventive care and providing contraception to adolescents with other medical problems. Dr. Gilliam focuses on providing a youth-friendly atmosphere for girls and young women. She works closely with other specialists across the University.

An active researcher, Dr. Gilliam's research focuses on contraception, family planning, youth development, and sexually transmitted infections. Specifically, she focuses on contraceptive use among teens and women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy.

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E. 57th St.
Chicago 60637