The Gospel of Reproductive Justice – #SFS17 Day 1

Dr. Willie Parker Devin Hunt Photography for NARAL Pro-Choice America


At a table on the quiet side of the room, five black women are talking. Sex. Helping a friend buy her first vibrator. Midwifery. Crunk Feminist Collective. Sexual health education. A sexual health education session in an AME church.

The girls asked the sex educator questions. “If I have sex, will I go to hell?” How does this educator, who doesn’t educate on morality, answer such a question?

A few hours later, we’re all watching Trapped. A young black woman–I can’t tell her age, but she’s wearing an Alabama State U t-shirt and looks like she might be a first year student–is in a clinic in Alabama. She wears a hospital gown over her shirt. She is preparing to get an abortion. A nurse at the clinic, an older black woman, lays hands on the young woman and prays over her, for her. It is the kind of prayer you ask of an old black woman who must surely have a direct connection to heaven. The nurse does not ask God to forgive the younger woman for what she is about to do. Her prayer assures love.

In another scene, the young woman tells the interviewer that she wonders, “What if I never get married, never have a daughter, don’t get to see my mother [in heaven] … as payback for having an abortion? … I’m having trouble forgiving myself.”

She breaks my heart. Payback. That thing we call a bitch, that we do to each other in hurt and anger, when we’ve lost self control. When someone deserves it. Would God do that? And I wonder what would happen, how her life would change, if she thought of God differently. If we thought of God differently.

After the film, Dr. Willie Parker says he remembers growing up in the church, seeing unmarried, pregnant women be sat down from ministry in church, them coming before the church to apologize for their behavior. Dr. Parker says Jesus never shamed women.

Dr. Parker says that as a Christian, he had to work through his thoughts about abortion. He says that by not providing abortions, by having a moral conflict about it, he wasn’t being Christ like. By using Christianity as his defense, “I had been observing merely patriarchal custom. I wasn’t being moral. I was being cowardly. … Immoral was to observe patriarchal custom that said women did not have the same agency as men. … What patriarchy, sexism, and racism costs men is their humanity,” says Dr. Willie Parker.

I am typing as fast as I can because I want to preserve every word. I want to clone the doctor. I want every man to think this way, to recognize patriarchal custom, to realize how it’s robbed them of their humanity.

A black woman to my left has waved her hand, slapped the air, and risen from her seat. She stands next to the front row now, leans on a chair, taps her foot fast like fire is shut up in her bones.

She has heard the gospel tonight.

I’m at the Woodhull Foundation Sexual Freedom Summit this week. I’m here on a blogger’s scholarship, so I’m making time to write short insights/happenings from each day. Follow more of the conference with the hashtag #SFS17.

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