Reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations across the United States are grappling with recent allegations of sexual misconduct made against Dr. Willie Parker, a prominent abortion rights advocate and provider.
Candice Russell, an abortion rights advocate, in a Sunday post on Medium described Parker as having committed “inappropriate and predatory behavior” toward her.
Dr. Willie Parker, chair of the Board of Physicians for Reproductive Health, denied the allegations, saying in a response post on Medium that he has “never had sex with anyone without obtaining their consent or giving mine.”
Some reproductive health, rights, and justice groups responded to the allegations, standing with Russell.
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“Every person in the abortion access movement holds responsibility for fostering an ethical environment, free from harassment, violence, and improper or unprofessional conduct, sexual and otherwise,” the National Network of Abortion Funds’ board of directors said in its statement. “We all hold this responsibility, whether we are an abortion funder, provider, volunteer, employee, or supporter. When one of us is accused of failing to live up to these standards, it is all of our responsibility to make space for victims to speak or be silent as they choose, and with values of autonomy, compassion, intersectionality, and collective power, move through accountability and restorative justice towards healing.”
The board of directors reiterated it would continue to merge its two abortion funds, known as the Dr. Willie Parker Fund and the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Fund, and rename the fund “honoring people who have abortions.”
Shaunna Thomas, executive director of UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy organization, on Tuesday said in a statement that “we unequivocally believe Candice Russell.”
“Sexual violence is an epidemic that pervades all parts of our society, including movements for social justice,” Thomas said. “Demanding accountability from leaders in our movement only makes us stronger. Now that Candice Russell has done just that, it is on us to model what justice really looks like. We stand with her and thank her for her bravery.”
Darshan Khalsa, board chair for Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), where Parker served on the board until 2016, said in a post-publication statement that the organization “had no complaints and has had no knowledge of any allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse during the time Dr. Parker served on our Board, although we know that does not address the current circumstances.”
“We are here to listen to members of the URGE community who may have been affected by the actions of any current or former Board members,” Khalsa said. “We commit to strengthening our vetting processes for potential Board members and examining and if necessary enhancing our accountability structures. We at URGE are committed to living our values and holding ourselves and our movement accountable.”
In another post-publication statement, the Abortion Care Network (ACN), a national association for independent abortion care providers, said:
It is difficult, if not impossible, to create a perfect public statement to address an imperfect situation that involves human beings, trauma, and pain. Sexual misconduct is pervasive and we have long lived in a world that suppresses, disbelieves, and destroys survivors, and we have a responsibility to disrupt this cycle of violence.
We also live in a world that seeks to annihilate both abortion providers and people of color, and Abortion Care Network is committed to interrupting all systems of oppression. Fear, anti-abortion distortion, and omnipresent racism make this conversation complex and emotional. ACN strives to show up with integrity, vulnerability, and honesty; we commit to listening, analyzing power, and embracing an intersectional analysis.
The network further noted that it is “working to assess what it means to hold ourselves, our colleagues, our members, and communities accountable to each other. Throughout this process, we are deeply grateful to be able to look to our values to guide us, to take time to respond thoughtfully, and to center the people who deserve respect when dealing with this incident and our communications going forward.”
This is a developing story. Rewire.News will continue to report as more information emerges.