School adds anti-abortion event after abortion doctor furor
Mar. 01, 2018
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State University is adding an anti-abortion speaker after a furor erupted over a university department sponsoring a speech by a physician known as one of the South's last abortion doctors.
Discontent among anti-abortion groups had been bubbling for more than a week over Thursday's scheduled appearance by Dr. Willie Parker, who practices at Mississippi's sole abortion clinic. While some accused the university of employing a double standard, Mississippi State President Mark Keenum responded that anti-abortion student groups have held more than 30 events in recent years, exposing students to both sides.
Keenum announced Wednesday that the university will support campus organizations' pro-life event next week, featuring Connecticut abortion opponent Christina Bennett. That event will be sponsored by MSU Students for Life and Catholic Campus Ministry. Keenum said neither event will be funded with taxpayer dollars.
"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," Keenum said in a statement. "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."
Parker is to present the Christian case for pro-choice views Thursday at an event sponsored by the university's gender studies program. He practices at the Jackson Women's Health Organization and has received national recognition for touting his Christian view in support of reproductive choice.
"I believe that as an abortion provider, I am doing God's work. I am protecting women's rights, their human right to decide their futures for themselves, and to live their lives as they see fit," Parker wrote in his memoir, "Life's Work."
Several anti-abortion groups, including the American Family Association and Pro-Life Mississippi, plan a rally Thursday to protest Parker's appearance.
Personhood Mississippi's Ashley Sigrest told the Clarion Ledger that she had been concerned that, with initial plans, the university had been employing a double standard with a university program sponsoring Parker. She said past anti-abortion speakers have been sponsored by organizations, not the university.
"It's not that we want to stop him," Sigrest said. "We believe in free speech, even if we don't agree with what he's saying. We just want the equal time."
University spokesman Sid Salter wouldn't say if the university would provide extra security for Thursday's event. A representative for Parker didn't return the newspaper's request for comment.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com