Dr. John Willke, a pioneer in the pro-life movement, died Friday evening, February 20, 2015. He was 89 years old.
Known as a great defender of the preborn, Dr. Willke and his wife Barbara, a nurse who predeceased him in 2013, worked tirelessly against abortion.
In the early 1970s the couple founded Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati as well as Ohio Right to Life, and lobbied against Roe v. Wade – which made abortion legal in 1973. Dr. Willke was a busy obstetrician but he eventually stopped delivering babies in order to focus more time on ending abortion. In 1988 he left his practice for good in order focus solely on protesting abortion, educating others, and testifying at congressional hearings regarding the matter.
Together, the Willkes authored ten books, including Abortion, Questions and Answers: Why Can’t We Love Them Both; Handbook on Abortion; Abortion and Slavery, History Repeats; and Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia, Past & Present.
“Dr. Willke was the leading statesman addressing the second civil rights struggle of our nation,” said Paula Westwood, Executive Director, Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. “He met with presidents and popes and crossed the globe, but his passion was always to ensure the right to life for helpless unborn children and other vulnerable people.”
Dr. Willke also hosted a daily five-minute radio program which was broadcast on nearly 400 radio stations around the world for 18 years. Last month, his and his wife’s final book, an autobiography called Abortion and the Pro-Life Movement: An Inside View, was published.
In an interview with The Cincinatti Enquirer in 2000, Dr. Willke made a prediction about abortion saying:
This [late-term or partial-birth abortion] is the high-water mark for abortion. We have moved beyond abortion to killing children who are entirely born. As this becomes more known to the average citizen […] it will ignite a slowly increasing outrage.
Until recently, Dr. Willke served as president of the national Life Issues Institute. He also served for ten years as president of the U.S. National Right to Life Committee, in addition to helping start the International Right to Life Federation. He is survived by his three daughters, three sons, 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“Dr. Willke was a true giant in the pro-life movement, yet always warm, always humble, a mentor and a friend,” said Jack Hart, President, Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. “We can never replace him. We can only do our best to carry on his legacy, and redouble our efforts to create the culture of life that he worked so hard and so well to bring about.”