Meet: Dr. Jack Willke, part 2
Part two: A communicator from the first
Understanding Dr. Jack Willke’s switch from Right to Life’s most successful president ever to founding Life Issues Institute takes no stretch of imagination. From the first, he and his wife Barbara have been communicators, and over the years they’ve conveyed their prolife message through every medium available.
They started in the 1960s, publishing a book on sex education after speaking on the subject at schools and churches. No publisher was interested, so the Willkes had the pages of The Wonder of Sex typed (“There was no money for typesetting,” Dr. Willke remembers) and paid to have the minimum 5,000 copies printed.
“They were gone in 60 days,” Dr. Willke says. The book, eventually typeset and professionally designed, sold 300,000 copies in the next few years. “That paid off the mortgage!” he says with a laugh. Their next book, Sex — Should We Wait? was for college students. Based on a popular lecture Dr. Willke delivered at UC, it was in print for more than 20 years.
So when the abortion debate heated up, the Willkes were already professional authors and speakers. Their 1971 book Handbook on Abortion (now Abortion: Questions & Answers) sold 1 million copies the first year, and has been revised, reprinted, and translated continually. Now available in 20 languages, the book also increased demand for appearances by the Willkes until there were far too many for a busy family practician and the stay-at-home mother of six to accommodate.
So the book was soon followed by a do-it-yourself presentation on fetal development and what happened during an abortion. Each kit included slides (diagrams of the procedures and photos of aborted children) and a tape recorded by Dr. Willke.
From that developed other books, pamphlets, tapes, videos and weekly radio broadcasts — “five, one-and-a-half-page messages per week for 20 years,” Dr. Willke says. There was only one Catholic radio station in the country at the time, but plenty of evangelical Christian stations. So for three years, until he was established, he didn’t tell any of the stations he was Catholic.
After seven years of producing the spots, he collected 62 and had a CD made and sent out to 1000 Christian stations that didn’t carry his segment, with the offer to play the daily messages without charge. “Eighty percent of them played it,” he says. “And then we started getting the phone calls: You are going to make another one, aren’t you?” A second, one-minute radio spot, Life Jewels, was carried on 1000 English and Spanish radio stations around the world. Over the years, Dr. and Mrs. Willke have spoken in 85 different countries.
Life Issues Institute, Inc., continues and expands the Willkes’s mission to educate people about abortion and other related issues (Dr. Willke’s last book, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Past and Present, addresses yet another troubling instance of doctors killing rather than healing). Dr. Willke founded it in 1991 with Bradley Mattes, who now records the radio spots (online here) — as well as podcasts, DVDs, and television programs (watch online here). Life Issues Institute produces print and multimedia materials about a variety of issues regarding human dignity, operates a speakers bureau, and sponsors a ministry that Dr. Willke has particularly strong feelings about: Protecting Black Life.
Run from the Life Issues Institute offices by Rev. Arnold Culbreath, Protecting Black Life is dedicated to telling African-American people the abortion industry’s best-kept secret: that abortion kills a far higher percentage of black babies than white babies, and has become the number one cause of death for African Americans. “The black community has been targeted,” Dr. Willke says. “People are guided by a misguided sense of compassion when they look at a pregnant black girl and say, ‘She deserves a shot at a decent life, get her an abortion.’ Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was a bitter racist. She was totally convinced that black people must be eliminated. And that’s what’s happening.”
Every year the country is becoming more prolife, Dr. Willke says. The rise of black prolife organizations, the ever-growing numbers at the annual March for Life, the decline in abortion rates among younger people, and many other signs confirm the polls. Much of that change is due to the Willkes’s tireless fight and commitment to using every medium possible to teach people that “it’s a human being from the start.”
We know more each year about life in the womb, Dr. Willke says. “Be optimistic! Nature is on our side. We are ultimately going to protect unborn babies.”
Read part one here.
Read Legatus Magazine’s 2009 cover story on the Willkes here.