Photo credit: Anna Levinzon via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Dr. Willke Dead at 89


WaPo reports that Dr. John Willke, one of the many physicians who proved faithful to his Hippocratic Oath and opposed the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision giving mothers and doctors the right to kill unborn humans, has died in Ohio at the age of 89:

A son and grandson of physicians, Willke was a general practitioner who delivered babies, among other services, before turning to advocacy work in the late 1960s. He helped found anti-abortion organizations in Ohio before advancing to the national stage, where he served as president of the National Right to Life Committee for a decade before retiring in 1991.

Dr. Willke often wrote and spoke in tandem with his wife, Barbara, a nurse. Together they became prominent figures in the community of abortion opponents that was galvanized by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that effectively legalized the practice nationwide.

A 1971 primer written by the Willkes, “Handbook on Abortion,” sold 1.5 million copies, according to The Associated Press, and was perhaps the most widely circulated text among anti-abortion advocates. “No single English-language volume has serviced the antiabortion movement quite like Jack and Barbara Willke’s book,” The Washington Post reported in 1990.

The handbook — which was translated into other languages — laid out the essential belief, held by Willke and his supporters, that life begins at conception and that abortion is therefore tantamount to killing.

“This is a unique being, containing within itself a genetic package, completely programmed for and actively moving toward adult human existence,” the Willkes wrote. “It has, by any standard, a life of its own and in no way is part of the mother or father.”

The giants are passing. May we be renewed in our own dedication to the basic American principle that all human lives are equally sacred. May he rest in peace.

Maggie Gallagher is the editor of

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

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