Freedom Rider from Texas plans documentary film


Leslie Palma-Simoncek


When Susan Parker read about Priests for Life’s plans for Pro-Life Freedom Rides, she started emailing everyone she knows.


“We need to get on board with this,” the member of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign told her friends. “This is huge. We don’t get this kind of opportunity very often, to do something on a national scale like this.”


A massage therapist who lives in Austin, Tex., Ms. Parker arranged her vacation to coincide with the first ride, from Birmingham to Atlanta, on July 24. She dragged out an old camera and planned to document the trip in still photos and a journal. But, she said, God had bigger plans. She started seeing the potential for a documentary film.


“God has literally taken this and expanded it,” she said.


By chance, she met a photojournalist who “got the whole concept right away, of civil rights for unborn children.” The woman has become her mentor, and suggested she put an ad on Craigslist for a videographer – one who would agree to work for no pay. Fredrich Leight responded, describing himself as an involved Catholic and an independent filmmaker looking for new projects. He got on board, agreeing to work for free if Ms. Parker pays his travel expenses and provides him a copy of the film.


Ms. Parker also started a blog, “susan4life” at to help document this unexpected but welcome journey she’s found herself on.


“God’s hand is in this whole thing,” Ms. Parker said. “Jesus has always had His hand on me. Now I have to speak out.”


Ms. Parker said she looks forward to meeting and interviewing Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


“I loved Martin Luther King. He was one of my heroes,” she said. “I think he was a saint.”


Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., Ms. Parker lived in Chicago as a teenager. A self-described “activist in my liberal days,” she joined protests against the Vietnam War and was even tear-gassed.


When she became pregnant at 23, “nobody told me I had any choice” except abortion. “I didn’t know about its heartbeat or fingernails or its uniqueness. I didn’t know anything about my own uniqueness,” she said. She had several more abortions.


“I started, in the 1980s, to acknowledge the loss of my children and what I had done,” she recalled. Although she always “knew that Jesus was real,” she found herself “walking in and out of churches looking for Him.” She was baptized Catholic in 1991 and sees the Pro-Life Freedom Rides as an important step in her journey as she approaches her 20th anniversary in the Church.


“I have a burden now to tell the truth,” she said. “I know I am forgiven and now I want to help. I want to educate people about the value of human life.  Innocent children are being murdered. Innocent babies are paying for promiscuity. They are paying for selfishness.”