Dr. Willie Parker, an OB-GYN from the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi will visit Mississippi State University at 6 p.m. tonight in the Old Main Academic Center.

He will present his speech “Abortion and the Christian Case for Choice,” as part of the Gender Studies department event series, Women’s History Month.

Parker’s visit concerns some pro-life groups on and off campus. Some are upset the Office of the Provost, MSU President Mark E. Keenum’s office and the Department of Gender Studies have officially endorsed Parker as a speaker on campus. Some view the lack of an immediate speaker to counter Dr. Parker’s view to be preferential treatment from the university.

Keenum issued a statement Feb. 28 on how academic freedom is crucial for a successful university.

“While some may view this program as objectionable, other members of our campus community would argue that in support of academic freedom, differing opinions on topics of national debate should be heard. I believe an objective look at the overall lineup of speakers and events at MSU would be judged fair and balanced with regard to the pro-choice, pro-life debate.”

Keenum assured no taxpayer money was going toward either Bennett’s or Parker’s lecture, and noted pro-life groups have been “very active over the past couple of years, leading over 30 meetings, events and initiatives on the MSU campus.”

Annaliese Gill, president of the MSU Students for Life organization, plans to attend Parker’s event in order to see the other perspective, and urges others to do the same. She was troubled by the fact Parker was invited by a university department, rather than a student organization.

Students for Life is hosting Christina Bennett, a pro-life activist from Connecticut, the Tuesday following Parker’s event, and while Students for Life is not a religious organization, they are holding a prayer service prior to Parker’s speech.

“We are not a religious group,” Gill said. “We accept people of any faith or no faith, but since Dr. Parker is making a religious argument, we are addressing it religiously.”

Kimberly Kelly, director of the Department of Gender Studies and associate professor of Sociology, organized the Parker's event to provide a new perspective on pro-choice in the South. She notes, more than half of all pregnancies in Mississippi are unplanned, and one in three women across the U.S. will have an abortion in their lifetime. Parker, Kelly argues, is the perfect speaker for MSU.

“Dr. Parker, I felt, had a great deal of legitimacy to speak on this issue, as a lifelong Southerner, as a lifelong Christian, and as someone whose Christian faith initially led him to reject the pro-choice perspective, but eventually over time, his medical practice with the patients he was seeing and the problems they were facing, in combination with his Christian faith, led him to change his mind and begin performing abortions,” Kelly said.

Kelly said she understands why some people could be upset by the idea the program is being put on by her department, but challenges the criticism by saying the event has significant academic value, so the program is not just the department or university making a political statement. She also confirms no taxpayers’ funds were used to pay for Parker’s lecture. 

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